Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Grading the 'Dogs (6-4, 5-2) at Nevada (7-3, 6-0)

Nevada 52, Fresno State 14

Short version:

Long version:
Quarterbacks: D+
Who cares if Ryan Colburn throws for a career-high 362 yards if he turns the ball over three times in critical game situations? Colburn again threw a pick at a crucial moment, trying to throw out of bounds near Darren Newborn but failing. The result was a 10-point halftime deficit, when the Bulldogs could have had a field goal and made it a one-score game at the half. Then Colburn fumbled near the 5-yard line on a keeper, and later again fumbled in the red zone under pressure. His turnovers made for as much as a 17-point swing in the outcome.

Running Backs: C
With national star Ryan Mathews leaving the game on a cart after a concussion in the second quarter, the running game was just average. Lonyae Miller had 5.5 yards per carry and 79 all-purpose yards, but Mathews finished with 8 carries for 32 yards, Robbie Rouse 5 for 19 yards and Anthony Harding 2 for 3 yards.

Receivers: B-
The Bulldogs' biggest advantage on the field was the wideouts vs. Nevada's secondary. But even with a prolific day on the stat line, Seyi Ajirotutu fumbled in the open field on a crucial possession -- a dagger in the team's collective heart. Jamel Hamler had the early 57-yard TD, Marlon Moore had a 61-yard grab and 103 yards on the day and Chastin West had 7 catches for 77 yards.

Offensive Line: F
What in the world? Who knew the 'Dogs o-line, which has been flatout dominant all year, was even capable of playing this poorly? Colburn was sacked 6 times and the running backs averaged a season-low 3.2 yards per carry. Losing star Andrew Jackson was obviously going to make an impact, but shouldn't be the difference in the unit falling from dominant to dominated. Might make sense to start Joey Bernardi at center and Matt Hunt at right guard this week.

Defensive Line: F
Another day at the park for Nevada rushing the ball down Fresno State's collective throat. 461 yards. Most of it up the middle. The d-line sure wasn't overpursuing, as the 'Dogs were more concerned with containing Colin Kaepernick than applying pass rush. So what gives? Why weren't more tackles made around the line of scrimmage? It's either a scheme problem or a personnel problem. Besides Chris Carter, no one seems to play with the all-out motor and tenacity needed at this position.

Linebackers: F
LBs racked up many more tackles than the front four, but were still caught not stuffing gaps throughout the day, and not making tackles on initial contact. Ben Jacobs led the team with 11 tackles, and Shawn Plummer had the team's only tackle for loss. Losing Kyle Knox to injury hurt bad, and this team needs Travis Brown and/or Daniel Salinas to step up and rip away a starting job quickly.

Defensive Backs: D
It's not that this unit played poorly in pass coverage. The Wolf Pack was held to 45 yards through the air. But despite Moses Harris and Lorne Bell getting 7 tackles apiece, even this unit wasn't there enough to support the tackling and assignment woes of the front seven. Credit Bell for bringing the physicality, but Harris had a subpar performance.

Special Teams: D
Not wanting to be left out, special teams also had to contribute to the woes. First, a block in the back negated a good A.J. Jefferson kick return and led to the Bulldogs' first punt, a wobbler by Robert Malone. Malone's only two bad punts of the year came in this game, as he averaged just 31 yards. Then, Jefferson fumbled away a later punt return.

Coaching: F
The coaching staff has done some great things this year with new wrinkles on offense and a more open, less predictable style of playcalling. Unfortunately, the defense is same ol', same ol' with a 4-3 scheme that is eaten up by Nevada and Boise State annually. Would it hurt to try something else? At least try it! Boise State was successful playing six guys near scrimmage against Nevada last year. Pat Hill said after last season's beatdown by the Wolf Pack, the 'Dogs needed to find a way to stop the pistol read-option. Umm...? And, then, to top it all off, the 'Dogs are being blown out in the third quarter and the starting quarterback turns the ball over three times and freshman phenom Derek Carr still doesn't come in to get some experience in a perfect passing situation? My head hurts from being scratched so much.

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