I’m feeling super hermit crabby today and I’m too impatient to wait for Brian’s UFR so I decided to use WD’s highlights (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xNoJwnGkVk) to break down where the redzone drives went wrong. Mods feel free to move this to the Diary section or delete it if it is stepping too hard on Brian’s toes, whatever you see fit. Also, I set out to do the whole game but got too tired/frustrated and only did the first half. If the response is positive I’ll do the second half tonight.
I don’t want to put the tl;dr here because I fear nobody will actually read the rest and blow this off as a hot take (and I’m acknowledging right now the out huuuuge sample size asterisk), but, here it is:
- The play-calling was very solid except for maybe one or two exceptions. Specifically, I thought the calls were good on 7.5/9 plays.
- Perry is a fantastic route runner and got open on almost every play.
- The pass protection was as bad as they looked live. Air Force called some great disguised blitzes that will probably make Don Brown nod in respect during film sessions, and our OL was devastated even though we had equal or sometimes more blockers than rushers on every play.
- We left a TE and RB on pass pro on 4/6 throws, but they still got pressure on 2 of those plays. Woof.
- The run blocking on the McDoom sweep cost us a TD.
- Speight was terrible. Yes, this is a teensy tiny sample size. Yes, the OL was relatively more terrible. But watching it live, I thought that the OL was so bad that it gave Speight no chance to make any plays. And it almost was. But on 6 pass plays, he missed a huge pass or read on 4/5 throws, and had 1 inexcusable fumble that almost cost us 3 points.
Redzone #1 (11:40 in the 1st quarter)
1st & 10 @ the 18: Air Force only rushes 4—and never shows blitz—but we leave Gentry and Isaac in for pass pro (woof). Protection is thankfully great given it’s 7v4. Perry runs a great sloping out route that shreds their zone D, gets open by a couple steps, but Speight misses the somewhat lengthy throw wide.
-1 Speight: missed throw
2nd & 10 @ the 18: Air Force has 7 in the box, we have 6 blockers. Shotgun inside hand-off to Higdon, Mckeon pulls to block inside (which looks by design), leaving an unblocked edge DE who makes the tackle after a 1-yard gain.
-1 Speight or coaching: needed to audible out of that run call
3rd & 9 @ the 17: We have 5 wide w/ 5 blockers. Air Force shows 6 rushers but drops the D tackle and one LB into underneath coverage after only mini rushes. This leaves Bredneson blocking air as the edge LB gets a free rush onto Speight from the blind side, hitting Speight as he throws. Speight misses a pretty well-covered Perry too high by a half-foot on a go route in the end zone.
-1 OL: blitz pick-up
Air Force won the RPS battle on each play, and shredded our OL on 2/3 plays. The first down route by Perry was still excellent and Speight flat missed him, which was a total drive-changer. The second down play was never going to work because it left DE unblocked, which was clear before the snap, so either Speight or the press-box needed to audible there. The third down play call was fine—if Speight has more time to throw that ball better, I think Perry can make that catch even though it was covered well. Air Force just had a great disguised blitz called and our OL didn’t pick it up.
Redzone #2 (12:40 in the 2st quarter)
1st & 10 @ the 9: Air Force has 7 in the box. We run-fake out of the gun to Higdon and leave in Gentry and Higdon to block. Air Force brings only 6 (but has 1 LB taken out by play fake/covering Higdon). However, Ulizio and Gentry both block the DE, leaving an unblocked rusher who gets into Speight’s face in a hurry. Speight sails a fade to totally covered Crawford out the back of the endzone. Speight is locked into Crawford the whole way, and while he doesn’t have any time to get through his progression given the free rusher, he has Tarik Black 1-on-1 on the opposite side of the field. If Speight reads this pre-snap, it’s an easy TD as Black easily gets inside leverage on his slant route.
-0.5 Speight: missed read
-1 OL: blitz pick-up
2nd & 10 @ the 9: McDoom sweep that gets blown up for no gain. This should have been a TD. We have 3 blockers for the 3 edge Air Force defenders who can possibly make this tackle. Bunting completely blows it here by not identifying who he is supposed to block as he inexplicably doubles the corner that McKeon is easily blocking, leaving Cole in no-man’s land to either fight a losing battle to block Bunting’s LB or get out to the safety. Cole chooses the safety (still not his fault, he couldn’t have made the block), leaving the LB free to get the stop for no gain. Very frustrating.
-1 Bunting run block
3rd & 10 @ the 9: Michigan is in the gun with Isaac. Air Force initially shows 5 rushers but then brings the corner and LB from the strong side late, dropping the weakside LB into coverage to make it 6v6. But our OL gets absolutely crushed. Cole blocks nobody as he was expecting the weakside LB blitz. Onwenu can’t decide which of 3 rushers to block and ultimately doesn’t block anyone. Speight does an incredible job of rolling out and getting free. Unfortunately, he is locked on Crawford because he has Perry breaking wiiiiiiiiiiiiiide open on a devastatingly beautiful post route in the back corner of the endzone and there is nobody even close to him. Easy, easy, easy TD if he sees him. Instead, he can’t decide between running or throwing to a completely covered Crawford and chooses to patty cake pass it for an incompletion.
-1 Speight: missed read
-1 OL: blitz pick-up
Each of these plays could have been TDs if our guys make plays. On the first, Speight missed a read on having Black with 1-on-1 who runs a great route to get separation inside. On the second, Bunting makes a terrible mental mistake and misses his blocking assignment, turning a probably TD into no gain. On the third, Speight makes a fantastic play to roll out of pressure but doesn’t keep his eyes downfield and misses Perry, who ran a beautiful route to get utterly wide open. This is even less excusable because Perry is clearly the #1 WR given that Speight is looking at him before the pocket collapses.
On both pass plays, the Air Force blitzes were as impressively designed as the blocking was atrocious. Still, the TDs were there for the taking.
Not technically redzone but close enough #3 (2:12 in the 2nd quarter)
1st & 10 @ the 24: I’m running out of steam and getting more frustrated. Perry is wide open on yet another great corner route which would have gone for ~11 yards in the air and, with a decent throw, he had enough separation to likely get in the endzone. Air Force has 7 in the box, but the corner on Perry shows blitz well before the snap, ends up being the only rusher as they send 5. We again leave Gentry and Isaac in for protection, and finally pick it up. Speight is looking towards the left at either Crawford or Perry (I’m praying it’s Crawford), and doesn’t see that Perry is wide wide wide wide open, and holds onto the ball until the pocket collapses and he scrambles out of bounds (rather than throw the ball away) for a loss of 4 yards that the ref bafflingly marks as only a loss of 1.
-1 Speight: missed read
14 11 @ the 25: Pass out of the gun as we leave Eubanks and Isaac in again for pass pro. Air Force threatens 7 but only sends 6 (with one guy neutralized b/c he’s playing man on Isaac who doesn’t run a route), so it’s 6v7. Ulizio doesn’t identify whom to block and misses his blitzing LB assignment. The LB has a free run at Speight for the sack. Speight doesn’t have time for for the play to develop, which showed promise, as Crawford was breaking free down the middle for a solid chunk play, and Perry also looked like he was again going to get open. As Speight is getting sacked, he makes the most inexcusable decision of the game of trying to throw it away while going to the ground. His arm hits Ulizio as he’s doing this and he fumbles. The ball miraculously falls in front of Eubanks who makes a heady play to snag it, but after losing 3 additional yards.
-1 OL: blitz pick-up
-1 Speight: terrible fumble
3rd & 21 @ the 35: Isaac draw play for 4 yards to make the FG easier. Hard to fault the play call given the poor play from the OL and Speight up to that point. Also lucky for Ace that the ref missed those 3 yards from Speight’s scramble to make it a 49 yarder rather than 52 yarder (because we all know MVP Wild Thin’ Quinn Nordin woulda knocked that baby in from 60.)
Speight again missed a wide-open Perry for a bare minimum 11 yarder that easily could have scored. He followed that up with his worst basic mental error by not taking the sack and almost costing us 3 points. Pass pro finally picked up a disguised blitz, only to follow it up with the worst blow of the game on a 6v7 rush as Ulizio failed to identiy his assignment.