That was everything we wanted to see out of an opener, other than A.J. Green. So, seeing as how I'm already a day or so late with this (combination of the holiday, a summer cold, and a couple of Comcast meltdowns), let's make it short and sweet, huh?
- Aaron Murray had about as well a day as could be expected. I think he put to rest a lot of the questions surrounding his arm strength, especially on the early incompletion to Logan in the end zone...that one went about 45-50 yards in the air, and he threw it on the run off his back foot, and it really should have been a touchdown.
He also showed off his running ability, which I think a lot of people were discounting. Watching his high school highlights, you could tell that he is extremely athletic, able to avoid the rush and "run to pass" as well as pick up yards on the ground, and he showed that ability Saturday. Now if he could just learn to slide rather than dive headfirst...
Couple of freshman mistakes, of course...that horrible throw into the endzone where he was trying to throw it away, and the much talked about decision to risk getting no points at all at the end of the first half by running the ball in with no time left. Both very correctable, and I'm not going to give him too much grief about the second one anyway...if it's a senior doing that, then we would probably just say he was a playmaker making a play, but since he's a freshman we chalk it up to bad decision making.
Great to see Hutson Mason get in and throw a touchdown pass to Logan (a truly great moment, and I was especially happy for Logan there)...but from then on out, Hutson showed why we REALLY need Aaron to stay healthy this season. I still say that (God forbid) Aaron goes out for any multiple-game type injuries I would rather see Logan get the call at QB, but that is appearing less and less likely. Let's hope it's not a decision that has to be made.
- I thought the wide receivers did a pretty nice job stepping up in the absence of A.J. and Tavarres King, especially Kris Durham. Man, it was great to see him back out on the field after a 707 day absence, and he made the most of it.
And we finally have signs of life from Marlon Brown...he had one egregious drop, but otherwise played well, and probably would have his first touchdown as a Dawg had he not slipped after catching a little curl on the five yard line.
Bottom line is that when A.J. and TK come back, this should be a very deep and dangerous group of receivers, especially when you factor in the tight ends.
Speaking of which...
- I think Orson Charles had a better day than the box score gives him credit for. Aaron missed him at least twice that I can remember when he was WIDE open, and I also think that if Aaron had waited about another second or so on that scramble at the end of the half, Orson was about to break open on the corner route into the end zone.
In general, we didn't use the tight ends as much as I thought we would, but I think that may have to do with how little of the playbook we chose to show against such an overmatched opponent.
- I was a little concerned that we weren't able to just line up and run whenever we wanted to. It's true that the O-line didn't get to practice together much during fall camp due to some injuries, but it's not like they've never played together before.
I'm going to chalk it up to those injuries, missing Washaun (although I though Carlton Thomas acquitted himself nicely, and most importantly did not fumble), and maybe an intentional lack of imagination with regards to playcalling....and hope and pray it gets better starting this week.
I know this...ULL was stacking 8-9 guys in the box consistently. That will be a much dicier situation for opposing defenses to put themselves into once we get Green and TK back.
Overall, I would give the offense a solid B+, and that is without three of our primary weapons. This offense has a chance to be REALLY good.
- Wow. That was TONS better than even I expected, and I am known to be overly optimistic most of the time.
NINE tackles for loss, three sacks, numerous QB pressures (all three of the INTs were due to the QB under duress), NO PENALTIES....really, everything we could have hoped for.
There was the one blown coverage, but we've been saying for months now that those are going to happen occasionally, especially early on. The hope is that the new scheme and attitude balance those blown plays out by MAKING some big plays of our own. One game in, the prognosis for that looks pretty good.
Yes, I know...it was Louisiana Lafayette. Things are going to get MUCH tougher starting this week. But I get the feeling that our players are having a blast running this defense, and I think that enthusiasm and intelligently aggressive attitude is going to be a refreshing change over what we've seen the last couple of years.
- Did you see my man T.J. Stripling out there in the second half? Not sure how much help he's going to be in run support until he puts on about 25 more pounds, but line him up outside and say, "See that QB? GO GET HIM!", and he is going to wreak havoc.
- Loved Coach Grantham holding the players accountable after the touchdown play. Not sure how many of you heard the postgame show, and I don't remember the exact quote, but when he was asked about the tirade he basically said that when you are dominating a team the way we were dominating, he doesn't want to give them ANYTHING...just step on their necks and finish them. He felt like we let up, and that was why he was angry.
- It was also nice to see that we were able to maintain the intensity and the execution even though we played a ton of people, especially on the defensive line.
- Great interception by Sanders Commings...maybe a sign of the new "play the ball, not the man" mentality we have heard about in practice? In years past, I don't know if that interception happens, or if instead we either get an interference call or the pass is completed because our defensive back never turns around and finds the ball.
Overall, I would give the defense an A...the only thing that kept it from an A+ is the one blown coverage.
- We have the best special teams unit in the nation...I defy you to come up with a better one. Blair Walsh kicked 100 yds worth of FG (on only two kicks) and continues to be perfect on PATs, Drew Butler is a true weapon at punter, Smith and Boykin both showed out, and there were some MASSIVE blocks thrown on punt return.
- What little punt coverage was needed was just fine...when you have a weapon at punter like Drew Butler, they don't often have to do much, and that was the case on Saturday.
- I do admit to one of my earliest hat-throwing incidents ever...when the Cajuns returned the first kickoff to midfield. But after that, the kickoff coverage was much better, and I expect the kicks to be deeper once Walsh is back in on every kick (he had some leg fatigue in the week leading up to the game, so Bogotay was in on about half the kickoffs).
Overall, a typical A performance out of the special teams.
Again, everything you could want out of an opener. Beautiful weather, great crowd (and LOUD, especially for a noon game against a lesser opponent), a very dominating win, and most importantly...NO INJURIES.
This week, we get Ealy, TK, A.J. (yep, I'm going to stick with it another week), Ogletree, and Sturdivant all back...time to go up to Columbia for a STATEMENT game!