Thoughts from the Arkansas Game

Most of you saw the game so there’s really no need to break down like I normally do.  Plus, my seats didn’t really allow me to see what was going on.  I was on the lower level at about the 5 yard line of the Texas A&M end zone.  I couldn’t see the whole field and watch plays develop like I could with my normal seats at Kyle.  I didn’t realize it was Barrera getting destroyed in the 2nd quarter until someone texted me.  They were on the other side of the 50 and Barrera was on the Arkansas bench side so I really couldn’t see him at all.  Just want to throw that out there that my analysis might not be as thorough as normal.

Also, I did update my prediction to 38-34 in favor of Arkansas on Thursday morning.  I did it on my blog but didn’t feel the need to e-mail all of you.

JerryWorld and the Atmosphere:

  • I wasn’t sure what to expect coming into the game.  I’d been in JerryWorld multiple times prior to the game so I was familiar with it but had never seen a game.
  • Outside the stadium was tremendous.  I started off at the pre-game party at Olenjack’s and then headed over to the stadium around 4:00ish.  The tailgating scene was outstanding.  So much so that I decided that it’s clearly worth it to pay for a tailgating spot if you have the set up to do it.  No one tailgates like the SEC so even though we lost, hopefully we get a few tailgating tips from the Arkansas fans.  They do need more porta-potties though.
  • We got to our seats about 15 minutes to kick and I have to say that the whole entire atmosphere was like a bowl game.  Half the stadium in one color and half the stadium in another with everyone making noise.  Clearly no home field advantage and its neat to see that.  I really liked that.
  • The best way to describe JerryWorld is that it’s an NBA atmosphere in a football sized venue.  The video board is way over the top in my mind.  I found myself watching it more than the game and it’s a distraction for a real football fan.  They keep the shot tight so it’s hard to see the entire play no matter where you’re sitting if you decide to watch it.  It really is like a damn amusement park in there and I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing.  I think in a few years it’s going to wind up being like the SkyDome in Toronto.
  • I’ve never been to OU/Texas but no way would I move it to JerryWorld I don’t think as I have to imagine Cotton Bowl Stadium is better now that they’ve redone it and it’s all about tradition at that place.
  • On the same lines, if the Cotton Bowl (game itself) can’t get into the BCS Championship rotation in a few years then they need to get a new committee leading that group.  That stadium is built for a BCS game.
  • I sat in the lower level club seats and wasn’t impressed with the set up for it.  To get to the seats you have to go through the main club level which is on the second level.  That’s a very impressive area but then you have to go down this star/tunnel to get to your seats.  That’s all fine and dandy but to get concessions you have to go back up to the main club level.  I never actually left my seat because I didn’t want to miss too much of the game.  The seats were very comfy but it just seemed strange that there’s no concessions on that level for fans.  I will say I would NEVER get seats in the end zone to have to deal with Party Plaza people.
  • It’s an amazing venue but it’ll be interesting to see what it’s like in 10 years.  Heinz Field is the best new football venue I’ve been to because it’s built for football and nothing else.  The focus is on the fan and its fun for football fans to go to.  Of course, it probably doesn’t make the money like JerryWorld does.
  • I’m not knocking the venue at all as it was a great experience and glad I went and see no reason to change anything in the interim except for ticket prices.  I didn’t spend $300 for my clubs seats but I can assure you I never would after my experience.  I might pay $125 but only if I knew those seats would between the 40s.  Wouldn’t pay $85 to be in the end zone.

Coach Sherman/Offense:

I’m grouping these two together since I really think they’re synonymous.  Like I said earlier I’m not going to break down position by position or player by player as you all saw the game.  I just want to hit on some points about what I saw in coaching the offense.

  • On the way to the game we heard Bob Davie talking about the game on ESPN Radio.  Davie’s comments were basically about not knowing how good A&M was but did know that Arkansas would be 3-0 had they played our schedule.  He also went on to say that Von Miller did look impressive but he thought the Arkansas DEs looked good and basically implied they would have a bigger night.  Dude nailed it.
  • Building on Davie’s comments, Von Miller had the quarter of his life in the 1st quarter.  In the end though it was the Arkansas DEs that stood out.  Why?  Arkansas schemed to slow down Von Miller while A&M didn’t do the same for the Arkansas DEs.  That’s getting out coached.  I still can’t fathom how Sherman CONTINUALLY let his OL get exposed by giving his true freshman LT ZERO help.  I feel bad for the kid.
  • RANT TIME – Let’s get over blaming Fran for the lack of talent on the offensive line.  True, he didn’t do a good job of recruiting for the position.  Wait, he did a HORRENDOUS job of recruiting for it but Sherman is in his 16th game and should know what he has and what he doesn’t have.  He’s supposed to be the offensive line guru and he’s now cycled through at least four people at LT by my count in games this season.  If you don’t have the talent then you have to scheme to help that area of weakness.  I equate his desire to leave his LT unassisted to him trying to run the freakin’ I formation last year with no fullback and a weak offensive line.  He’s being stubborn and it’s going to cost him.  A great coach recognizes that weakness and helps out just like the opposing coach is going to exploit it.  I don’t get why he can’t recognize the weakness that he has at LT and address it through help rather than sift through the talent that he has when it’s obvious it’s not there.  Why does he not get taken to task for this?  Everyone wants to point to him being a great OLine coach but I’m just not seeing it right now.  The OLine is not good but he’s not doing a DAMN thing to take the focus of it.
  • There is one thing that I’m not seeing talked about in this game that was an obvious difference than in his first three games.  We continued to run the no huddle but we didn’t push the tempo like we did in the first three games.  In the first three games we would quickly line up, get the play in, and then off we went.  Not only were we locking in the defensive personnel but we were pushing them on their heels.  In this game we did the no huddle where you lineup and then adjust the play call to the defensive alignment by looking to the sideline.  To me this gave the Arkansas defense a chance to regroup and apply pressure.  Not saying we win if we push the tempo but I just found it strange that Sherman decide to play cat and mouse trying to out scheme a defense with such a weak offensive line.  Let’s hope he comes out against OSU and tries to move the ball with a quick tempo, no huddle offense.  I really think slowing the tempo killed us once we got the lead.  I think Sherman got too comfortable and went all NFL trying to protect a lead and never recovered when that lead was lost.  If your OL is in shape (why wouldn’t they be if they’re so weak as that would be your only advantage) it gives them a unique advantage to just line up every time and fire off engaging someone that’s trying to catch their breath.  I really think Sherm needs to go back to this.
  • JJ is HORRIBLE at throwing to his right if he can’t set is feet.  Kid is crazy athletic but if he’s rolling to his right he sails his passes unless he can set.  As long as he can set his feet he’s fine but this was the first time I’ve ever seen him try to throw rolling right and he was sailing every ball.  I don’t think it was him trying to throw the ball away as it was relatively close for the receiver but still out of reach.  All of these were sideline passes.
  • Sherman should be strung up for running JJ out there with 15 seconds left in the game and attempting passes.  It was very Fran-esque to try and get some more passing in there in a blowout with only 15 seconds left.  Of course, JJ almost got decapitated so I hope Sherman NEVER does it again.  NEVER.  You don’t have to kneel it but run the damn ball and end the misery.
  • Christine Michael is not 100%.  Cyrus looked pretty good after I essentially bashed him last week.  He can flat out cut back and forth which looking at it might be the best style from here on out.  Not saying Christine shouldn’t be getting lots of touches but Cyrus might be better served than I originally thought.
  • The poor freshman WRs had a rude awakening playing someone with legit D1 talent.  Powder Puffs no more.  Not sure what else to say as no one stood out and I’m not covering the drop we all know about.
  • All in all, Sherman laid a real stinker in this game.  This is his biggest problem of not coming from the college ranks.  I don’t care that he “gets” A&M as I care more about getting the college game and winning games.  It was clear in that game that Petrino was the better coach.  His team was better prepared for four quarters meaning he picked up more in film than Sherman did to make in game adjustments and knew how to manage the entire game unlike Sherman.

Defense/Special Teams:

  • Won’t hit a ton here but good lord Joe Kines had this unit ready to go from the start.  THREE three and outs is DAMN impressive.  DAMN impressive.  Too bad this gets overlooked.  We knew Arkansas was going to score points but the defense did everything they could to let us get in out in front and control the game.  Unfortunately the offense didn’t oblige.
  • One VERY IMPORTANT turnover.  Once again, the turnover we got gets discounted as it should have been a game changer but the offense sputtered.  I commented when the defense was going out there that we needed a turnover now down by 4 points.  We get that gift and the offense does nothing with it.  Special teams then gets the ball back and the offense turns it over for a TD the other way.  Game, set, match.
  • Our defense is young and they’re going to get better but our offense HAS to help them.  The best defenses have an offense that gives them rest and keeps them in the game.  Our offense did actually win the TOP battle but they couldn’t score any points to force Arkansas into some offensive sets they didn’t want to be in but our offense didn’t do it.
  • Punting sucked.
  • Kick returns were decent but Arkansas actually forced Lionel Smith down the sideline they wanted by kicking short to his side.  Smith did a nice job returning but he was never going to bust one the way Arkansas was kicking to him.  Nice job of coaching by the Arkansas staff as a kick return could have been detrimental to them.  They felt comfortable that their defense had figured out the A&M offense so it looked like they were willing to give up yards on the kick to not have a big return.

Ryan Mallett:

  • Want to give this kid his own section because he’s that damn good.  He’s got to be the best pure passing QB I’ve ever seen in college.  He goes about 6’7” and has an effortless motion with zip.  In addition he has this unbelievably quick release.  He’s a Top 10 pick if he keeps this up.  I sorry that he pounded our ass but it was a real treat watching him sling it around.

Where to go from here:

There is no reason to NOT win 7 games.  That’s four wins over KSU, ISU, CU, and Baylor.  A good coach wins those four games based on what we’ve seen.  A great coach picks one out of OSU or Tech to win and go 8-4 on the season.

I think we win 7 but I don’t see Sherman winning 8 as he’s just not aggressive enough to try and take it to OSU or Tech.  He’ll do the EXACT same thing against OSU and Tech where we’ll come out and do pretty well but the other coaching staff will adjust after figuring out his game plan and Sherman will stick to what he thinks he can do and lose in the end.

I really think we have the talent to surprise OSU or Tech as I don’t think they’re as good as they’re made out to be but I don’t see Sherman rolling the dice.  He’s got too much NFL in him and he thinks he’s too smart in scheming four quarters and never making the in game adjustments.

In the end I think Sherman is going to turn out to be very Fran-esque winning 8 and 10 games a season but never more.  I know it’s only one game but we’ll just have to see.  I got blinded by one great game over UAB but that might have been his high point.  I hope not but we’ll see.  Sherman deserves no credit as to date he still hasn’t done anything at A&M when you really think about it.

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