Eleven Adjustments #7: Live A Little October 22, 2012
A quick refresher on this series. After the Michigan loss, I stated that the season was still salvageable. Not bowl salvageable, but not a complete loss, either. Strange as it may sound, my original season prediction of 5-6 going into the Northwestern game is still possible. Our first three Big Ten opponents are a combined 10-0 in conference. Our next three home opponents are a combined 0-9 in the Big Ten. There are still wins on the table.
But if we play like we’ve been playing, we’re headed for 2-10. Sure, those teams might be undefeated in conference, but we haven’t even been competitive. Louisiana Tech blew us out. Arizona State blew us out. We’ve only been competitive in the Wisconsin game, and even that game we lost by 17 points.
So I sat down and made a list of 11 things the coaches can do to improve this team during our bye week. I hope they’ve been listening. Because I’d like to beat Indiana on Saturday. And the seventh thing we can do to get there is this: live a little.
We had a couple fourth-and-shorts against Wisconsin – we punted away. Michigan we had, what, fourth and three from the 33? We tried the 50 yard field goal. I want us to live a little. I’d like to see us go for it more.
Please note that Point #7 is not “go for it on every fourth and three or fewer”. Point #7 is to simply live a little. Stop being so safe. Stop being so predictable on offense. Stop doing the expected thing on every play.
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like our play calls on both sides of the ball have been extremely stale and predictable. Third and more than 10? We’re going to try that screen play to Ferguson. Third and five on defense? We’re going to show blitz and then drop off. Short yardage situation on offense? Follow the tight end in motion – we’re running there. And don’t even think we’d roll that tight end into the flat – it’s fourth down, and we’re running. Guaranteed.
I want out of that rut. I want the full house backfield we show during short yardage situations to be used on second and long, and then a hard count while the defense is confused. I want a corner blitz on the first play from scrimmage to let the opposing offensive coordinator know we came to play. AND I want to go for it on fourth down every now and then.
Players respond to going for it on fourth and anything. Remember the game at Penn State in 2010? We had fourth and inches early in our own territory and went for it – we got it. Penn State had fourth and inches in nearly the same spot on their first series and they punted. The tone was set for the game, which we won handily.
I want to get back to winning games. That was fun. But if we’re going to do that, we’re going to have to live a little. I realize we’re putting in systems and we’ve had injuries and we just haven’t had the practice time to have the full offense ready to go. And when we started losing, we tried to simplify things and focus on the things we’ve already learned, which further hamstrings our ability to get creative. I get all of that.
But we just haven’t played loose at all. Sure, we’ve mixed in a few trick plays here and there, some that have worked (Josh Ferguson touchdown pass), some that haven’t (double reverse against Western Michigan), but for the most part, we’ve been predictable and then we’ve punted. And on defense we’ve been predictable and then scored upon. The more we do that, the more opposing coordinators are licking their chops to scheme against us.
So let’s live a little. Let’s mix up the defensive calls. Let’s go for it on fourth and two. Let’s throw deep on first down. Let’s do nothing the Indiana coaches are studying on film. Let’s add a few offensive wrinkles and maybe even a special teams surprise.
Let’s start having fun again and see what happens. Maybe we’ll even win a game.