Thoughts on the App State Game

I’ve struggled on where to begin with this game.  I’m not totally shocked by what happened.  There were some big questions after the Sam Houston State game. I am a little surprised the Aggies lost to App State. I didn’t expect it at all.

I really thought we’d win this game until about 5 minutes in the 4th quarter.  I really thought at some point our superior athletes would take over and our coaching staff would throw a wrinkle or two at App State they weren’t ready for.

Neither of those things happened an App State walked out of Kyle Field with a victory over a Top 10 team.  It’s been 15 years but they got another.  It’s what App State does.  App State is a decent enough football team but there was no reason for them to walk out of Kyle Field with a win.  Credit to them as they outcoached and DEFINITELY outplayed the Aggie squad.

So what happened?

Two things – No quarterback play and arrogant ignorant coaching.  They were pretty equal in my mind and actually worked hand in hand this game.  Haynes King didn’t make any plays but Jimbo arrogantly and ignorantly kept calling his regular plays over and over with no wrinkles.  He also completely ignored Max Johnson when it was clear Haynes King had nothing.

Before I go any further I feel like I need to state this – Jimbo ain’t going anywhere anytime soon.  Barring a massive collapse he’s going to be our coach for at least 2-3 more years.  Likely longer.  I’m actually okay with that as he can recruit and I think he’s a pretty good football coach.  His offensive coaching offers PLENTY of questions but I don’t know who we would replace him with.  There’s only one Nick Saban and he’s caused irrational coaching changes along with driving up coaching salaries.  I don’t want a coaching carousel as that’s not going to help anything.

Jimbo is the best overall football coach we’ve had since R.C. Slocum in the mid-90s.  I truly believe for running a big time college football program he’s easily in the Top 20 and likely Top 10 of coaches.  The dude loves to coach football and can run a big-time college football program.  Can we find someone better than him?  It’s possible but not very likely.  To me Jimbo is in that first tier of college coaches that aren’t named Nick Saban.

Ultimately the play calling falls on him and there’s plenty of questions there but I don’t think pulling the trigger on firing Jimbo is very prudent right now.  I’m not going to discuss that because I don’t think it’s productive.

If there’s one positive that came from this game it’s we got our question about Haynes King answered.  He ain’t the answer.  I know Jimbo locks onto his quarterbacks but we’ve seen enough of King.  I don’t know what Max Johnson gives us but it’s time to find out.

Hopefully this game serves like an alcoholic waking up staring in the mirror of a jail cell wondering how they got there.  Maybe Jimbo just goes back to King like an alcoholic to the bottle but hopefully Jimbo looks for some help.  He certainly needs it.

Tossing out the Prairie View game Jimbo hasn’t looked great as an offensive coordinator in his last 5 games.  This goes all the way back to Auburn when we didn’t score a single touchdown.  We then struggled offensively against Ole Miss and LSU to close out the season.

We scored 31 against Sam Houston but looking back that was thanks to busted coverage more than anything.  The Aggie offense certainly didn’t do anything impressive against Sam Houston.  We just had better athletes.

We saw what happened yesterday.  We basically had two great offensive plays against App State.  The long King scramble and then the Achane touchdown run.  That was it.  We didn’t even have 100 yards of passing or 100 yards rushing.  AGAINST APPALACHIN STATE!!!! 

Less.  Than.  200 Yards.  Of.  Offensive.

That’s shameful.

I’ll get to the defense in a bit as they certainly had some issues but let’s not lose sight of the most embarrassing stat from this game – We couldn’t even muster 200 yards of offense against App State.  Mack Brown’s UNC team put up 567 yards of offense the week before.  We couldn’t muster up 200 yards of offense at Kyle Field against a defense that gave up 567 yards of offense the week before.

If that doesn’t signal something is broken then I don’t know what will.  5 straight games of pitiful offensive output.

Jimbo’s in a prison cell looking in a mirror.  Does he see an alcoholic that’s been making bad decisions or does he see a guy that’s just had a string of bad luck?  We’ll find out against Miami.  It ain’t bad luck.  It’s bad decisions.

Coaching:

The biggest issue with the coaching in this game is Jimbo and his staff wanted to win a game against an inferior talent with no wrinkles.  I think the plan was to establish a base they could build from by just overpowering a lesser talented team.  It didn’t work and that’s on the coaching staff.

Meanwhile App State played and coached a perfect game.  They clearly knew what to do.  They simply played mistake free football and let A&M implode on itself.

On offense they simply took what the A&M defense gave them.  They rushed for 208 yards because the A&M defense let them.  We played a 3-man front for much of the first half and App State just chewed up yards and the clock.  I really thought our rotation of defensive lineman would help us out but App State just kept chewing yards and clock.

It wasn’t fancy or flashy but they just chewed up 3-4 yards a play.  Lots of patience and faith it would work out for them.  The App State coaching staff never panicked and it paid off.

The App State coaching staff obviously realized the Aggie offense was in a complete funk.  They smartly decided to limit touches so it couldn’t get on track.  It worked beautifully as App State ran 82 plays to A&M’s 38.

Read that again – 82 plays to 38.  How the hell did we only lose by 3?  That’s a testament to our talent on defense as a whole.  Schematically we were weak but we should have gotten stomped when their offense ran 44 additional plays against our defense.

As you can imagine time of possession went App State’s way by a LARGE margin.  They held the ball for 41:20 to A&M’s 18:31.  App State held the ball for twice as long as A&M.  Once again, it’s pretty remarkable we only lost by 3 points in looking at the number of plays and time of possession.

The A&M coaching staff completely lost this game.  I have to imagine the App State coaching staff was talking bewildered in their headsets.  The Aggies were letting them get away with a very vanilla game plan because they were just taking what the Aggie defense giving them while their defense did just enough to confuse the Aggie offense.  That ain’t hard to do if you look at our last 5 games.

Just run some basic twists, stunts and delayed blitzes.  It’ll confuse our offensive line and quarterback.  Mostly our quarterback.

The App State coaching staff just called a game to let the Aggie team implode.  It worked perfectly.

I’m going to get to Haynes King next but this game is COMPLETELY on Jimbo.  He couldn’t see his team imploding and didn’t add any wrinkles.  He spent the entire game trying string together an offensive drive and it cost him in seeing other aspects of his team failing.

Haynes King was failing on the field and his defense was scared to give up a big play.  Jimbo either didn’t see this or completely ignored all of it.

App State just played into it perfectly.  Jimbo never called a wrinkle on offense or defense.  He was simply a kid playing Madden convinced if he could get 3-4 plays together his offense would take off and his team would win.  It never happened.

He blinded himself and nobody on his coaching staff said anything to him.  Or if they did he completely ignored it.  Either way it’s a terrible look for Jimbo.

He let his team down with terrible coaching.

Haynes King:

I hate to single this kid out but it needs to be done.  I know the offensive line is struggling and not helping him but King did NOTHING in this game other than that one long run.  He looks lost and shows no since of urgency or desire to create a spark.

He now has 3 full games against non-Power 5 football programs and you can count on one hand the plays that have truly been impressive.  The sample set has gotten bigger and the results have been virtually the same.  They actually regressed against App State which is concerning.

King hasn’t shown us anything to make us believe he’s the guy to be under center.  He’s not even pedestrian.  He’s in his third year in Jimbo’s program and he’s confused.

I’ll point to two plays in the 4th quarter.

The first was a zone read with Achane.  For those of you not familiar with a zone read it’s where the quarterback hands off to the running back while reading a defender.  Generally it’s the defensive end but on occasion it’s someone else.  The point of the play is for the quarterback to pull the ball back out if the defender sells out to the run and leaves the edge open for the quarterback.  It has to be a pretty quick read but it’s a play that’s been around for two decades from high school to college.

I promise you this wasn’t King’s first time to run a zone read.

On this particular play King held onto the ball entirely too long holding up Achane.  I don’t know if King was trying to pull the ball back out or was just making a slow decision.  Either way Achane had the ball and wasn’t giving it back.  It was completely botched by King.  That decision must be made pretty quickly.  If Achane has the ball King must let it go.  Instead King help up Achane and we got no yards on the play.  We might have even lost a yard.

The other play was the option play.  This is a play that’s been around for 50 years.  Any quarterback with his salt knows how to run this play even if it goes nowhere.  Especially a quarterback that’s supposed to be a running quarterback.

On this particular play King took the snap and ran to the right with Achane leading down the line with him.  It became apparent REALLY quickly the Aggies were running an option.  App State read it perfectly sealing the edge.  King had a decision to make to either cut up or pitch. He actually did neither and continued trying to stretch the play running into the defender.

I’d be okay with that decision if he pitched in time but instead he held on to the ball for too long not pitching until the defender made contact.  That caused him to have a bad pitch to Achane.  Achane missed the pitch but luckily fell on the ball for just a 7 yard loss.  It could have been a catastrophic turnover but luckily Achane fell on it.

It was the 4th quarter when the Aggies needed a massive spark and King couldn’t make quick and smart decisions.  That’s the sign of someone that’s overwhelmed and not confident.  I don’t want that in my quarterback.  Jimbo has to see this.

King got his shot and has done nothing with it.

Should Jimbo Name Max Johnson the Starter?:

Jimbo is a damn fool if he doesn’t.  I know he’s deeply invested in Haynes King and believes in him but tape don’t lie.  Haynes King hasn’t done ANYTHING of substance against non Power 5 opponents.  What’s going to happen against Power 5 opponents and especially the SEC?  The sample set says it ain’t gonna be good.

Jimbo is a stubborn fool if he runs King out against Miami.  There’s nothing that says he should do that.

I wrote a blog this summer about King and Johnson.

https://rcwouldhavegonefor2.com/2022/05/24/who-will-quarterback-the-2022-aggies/

This is what I wrote over the summer:

Here’s What We Know From Games:

  • Haynes King has started 2 football games.  None of them in the SEC and only played one full game.
  • Haynes King’s one full game was against Kent State where he was a 64% passer with 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.
  • Max Johnson has started 14 games with 10 of those being SEC games.  He’s played in 3 other SEC games.
  • Max Johnson is a 60% career passer at LSU.  He’s 58% in the SEC.  57% in SEC starts.
  • Max Johnson has thrown 35 career touchdowns and 7 interceptions.  That’s an outstanding 5 to 1 ratio.  In career SEC games he’s thrown 22 touchdowns to 5 interceptions.  In SEC starts it’s 20 touchdowns to 5 interceptions.  That’s still an outstanding 4 to 1 ratio.
  • Max Johnson has played significant snaps in these stadiums – Auburn, Texas A&M, Florida, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Alabama.

We now have 2 more games for King and his resume hasn’t improved one lick.  We’re about to hit a serious run of 4 games against Miami, Arkansas, Mississippi State, and Alabama.

Based on those bullet points above with the addition of the last two games I have no clue how you can hand the keys to King for another game.  Jimbo is damn stubborn fool if he runs King out there against Miami.

I don’t know if Max Johnson is the ultimate answer but I do know his experience and resume is INFINITELY better than King’s at this point.  I want to at least try him against this four-game stretch we’ve got coming up.  It ain’t gonna hurt.

We’re seriously staring down the barrel of a 1-5 record if you keep doing the same thing that isn’t working.  At least offensively.

If you’d rather have King going into the Miami game over Johnson you’re a damn arrogant stubborn fool.  Or you’re just a terrible coach that doesn’t know how to utilize the experience and ability of Max Johnson.

We’ll see what Jimbo is.  I don’t have faith he gets help but instead just goes back to the bottle expecting a different result.  I fully expect to see King trot out as the starting quarterback against Miami.

The Rest of the Offense:

We all know the offensive line is struggling.  Fatheree got flat out run over which led to King fumbling a ball.  I was floored when I saw that.  They did a nice job of blocking on Achane’s touchdown run as he wasn’t touched.

I don’t think this offensive line is the biggest issue with this offense right now.  They ABSOLUTELY need to play better but there’s a bigger issue at play.  It’s the play calling by the head coach and execution by the trigger man.

Supposedly Bryce Foster is coming back this week.  There’s no doubt he’s going to be a little rusty but even rusty Bryce Foster should be a boost to this offensive line.

Achane was the sole savior of this game.  He was responsible for our only two touchdowns with one being on special teams.  The dude is a damn weapon.

He averaged 6.6 yards a carry with his long touchdown run being 26 yards.  He averaged 4.5 yards on his other 9 carries so he was pretty productive all things considered.  He was at 5.25 yards a carry if you take away the idiotic zone read error by King and the long touchdown.

That’s damn productive so that tells me the offensive line had some level of success if Achane is getting 5.25 yards a carry when you take away his longest and shortest run.

We’re completely wasting Achane’s talent right now.

Jimbo needs to figure this out.

The Defense:

I feel bad for these guys as they were out there all damn day.  It’s pretty remarkable what they did for the amount of time they had to play.

They had some really costly penalties in the first half but I don’t know how much it really mattered in the grand scheme.  I feel like App State was destined to win this game because the offense was inept.

The Aggie defense gave up 342 yards of offense and 17 points in over 40 minutes.  App State just chewed up this defense on the ground.  For whatever reason it seemed like Durkin and Jimbo were afraid to give up a big play through the air.

They really didn’t gamble much but when they did it seemed to work.  Case in point the blitz that was initially ruled a scoop and score by Fadill Diggs.  It was correctly overturned as an incomplete pass.  It was a beautiful blitz that caused the quarterback to make an errant throw under pressure.

For whatever reason Durkin just thought he could get off the field with his base defense but it didn’t work.

App State converted 9 of 20 third downs which is pretty decent but the kicker was they converted 3 of 5 fourth downs.  That’s the killer stat as there were 5 times App State felt confident enough to attempt a 4th down conversion due to the game situation and field position.  3 times they converted.  I don’t know if one of those was the defensive offsides but either way they converted 3 of 5 fourth downs and that was the difference defensively.

I like to hope this game was a perfect storm of an inept offense, new defensive coordinator, and inexperienced players.

Durkin’s body of work is pretty solid and this defense is loaded with talent.  I’m not too worried about the defense just yet.  The defense certainly dug their own hole a time or two but unfortunately Jimbo and King decided to jump in and make that hole MUCH bigger.

Special Teams:

What a kick return by Achane.

What a botched kick by Davis.  Pressure moment and the dude didn’t even hit it clean grounding his foot before kicking the ball.  We didn’t even get a chance to see if he can be accurate.

Kind of appropriate for the game.  Just ineptness all around for anyone without the last name of Achane.

Going Forward:

I’m not worried beyond Miami right now.  I just want to see what happens next Saturday.

Believe it or not this season can still be “salvaged”.  By “salvaged” I mean an 8-4 record.  That would be remarkable based on our first two games.

I think the ceiling is 10 wins and that’s a pretty big stretch unless 2020 can be repeated.  It’s always possible.

It’s all going to depend on what Jimbo wants to do.  He’s currently in a prison cell with no clue how he got there.  Everyone else knows how he got there.  Bad decisions and a lot of denial.

What’s it gonna be Jimbo?  You gonna go back to that bottle that got you there or do something different and get some help?

We’re all waiting…

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