Monday, October 19, 2009

Grading the 'Dogs (3-3, 2-1) vs. San Jose State (1-5, 0-2)

Quarterbacks: B-

Ryan Colburn didn't do anything spectacular but did throw for 2 TDs and more importantly had no picks for the second straight game. Colburn found the open receivers, and did what he needed to for a win, but also made some mistakes, such as a pass he floated toward the sideline near midfield that was nearly picked by a San Jose State safety. The 7 of 12 completion numbers need to be consistently higher. Ebahn Feathers entered in the third quarter and threw for his first-ever TD pass on an 4-yard scrambling, crossover to Marlon Moore. Feathers also had a 16-yard run. Derek Carr was 2 of 3 passing for 9 yards, and threw a beautiful pass on the run that was a smidgen out of reach for Darren Newborn.

Running Backs: A
As perfect as can be in the running game, but get docked a bit for lapses in pass blocking that led to Colburn being sacked. Averaged 7 yards per carry as a team. Ryan Mathews continues to look the part of the nation's most talented player, running for 233 yards (11.6 per carry) while dazzling with his speed and vision and delivering multiple stiff-arms (which are actually more like shoves to the ground in this case). Mathews added a 59-yard score, while Robbie Rouse scored another TD and Lonyae Miller ran for 49 yards on 7 carries.

Receivers: B
Welcome back Marlon Moore. An injury derailed Moore's hot start after a 90-yard TD catch in the season opener, but he bounced back with 2 TDs on Saturday, including a 23-yarder. Devon Wylie smoked a Spartans defensive back en route to a 27-yard TD before leaving the game with injury, and Seyi Ajirotutu had 4 catches for 61 yards. It was the first time all year Chastin West's presence wasn't felt.

Offensive Line: C+
Can't ask for anything more with this group's dominant run blocking, opening holes in the second level for Mathews, Rouse and Miller to burst free. But Colburn was sacked a season-high three times on plays where Spartans defenders were breaking through untouched.

Defensive Line: B-
Spartans did the best job of any opponent this season at stalling Chris Carter's havok, holding him to 3 tackles (1 for loss) and no sacks (which is an accomplishment). And lo and behold the 'Dogs finally got a sack from a defensive tackle in Logan Harrell. Still, the pass rush was missing in the first quarter and it led to the 'Dogs giving up a high percentage of completions to Spartans receivers underneath.

Linebackers: B
Linebackers share in the credit for holding a poor San Jose State running game to 4 yards per carry, and Ben Jacobs again made a play in pass coverage with a deflection. Still confused as to why the 'Dogs remain in three-linebacker sets so often in passing situations? Shawn Plummer saw a lot of playing time on third downs, and Travis Brown replaced injured Nico Herron before halftime. Plummer had 2 tackles, Brown had 1 in his most significant career action.

Defensive Backs: A-
The main negative was San Jose State starter Jordan La Secla's completion rate (17 of 27) -- which isn't horrible. But much kudos go out to Desia Dunn for his second straight lockdown performance. Dunn had 4 tackles and 2 deflections. Damion Owens had his most impressive game of the season with a heck of a pass breakup and tight coverage. Isaiah Green also wowed, breaking up a potentially big play near the Spartans' end zone. And can't forget Jermaine Thomas, with a fourth-quarter interception in his most extensive playing time. The Spartans stayed away from A.J. Jefferson most of the night, and credit the Bulldogs for not giving up a big play to Kevin Jurovich. Late 59-yard TD pass was against an all-reserve defense.

Special Teams: A
Gotta love the aggressiveness of Pat Hill when San Jose State punted just before halftime. Instead of having Moore return the punt, he called for Moore to come up and help go for the block. It worked as Ajirotutu knocked the punt down, leading to a Kevin Goessling field goal just before the half. Goessling was good from 40 and 46 yards on the night. Robert Malone booted a 69-yard punt, and Michael Harris and Owens each delivered crushing blows in kick coverage.

Coaching: A
Credit Hill and John Baxter with the special teams play, and credit Randy Stewart with adjusting the defense after a rough first quarter to boost pressure on the quarterback and get in more press and bump coverage with the defensive backs.
***Photo courtesy of Juan Villa.

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