December 30, 2009

Emerald Bowl Offensive Report Card

It goes without saying that from an offensive perspective, the Emerald Bowl was a game of missed opportunities, and the Eagles lost this game on their own volition, not because USC beat them. The Eagles offensive line manhandled the Trojan front seven/eight, controlling the line of scrimmage in both the running and passing game, yet the Eagles were only able to muster 13 points.

Cry foul all you want about the missed replay call where the punt was kicked by the USC blocker, but there was no excuse for losing this game. The Eagles did everything they wanted to on offense, but every time they crossed midfield, they'd find a way to shoot themselves in the foot (or talon?). A botched snap, a non-contact fumble resulted in 10 yard loss, and a personal foul penalty are gaffes I'd expect from a UNC or Florida State team, but not this one.

Let's see how their final grades of the season went.

Quarterback: First Half B+ Second Half: D Overall: C

The grades had to be broken up by half, because I simply can't understand what happened to Mr. Shinskie during halftime. Actually wait, I do. The USC defensive coaching staff made some easy adjustments, and advised their secondary to just read his eyes. He should have called ahead for a reservation before throwing that fourth-quarter interception.

In the second half, Shinskie would focus on his primary option, which in turn meant he never checked down to his second option, let alone his third option. And once the Trojan pressure started to intensify, he went back to his old tricks - throwing off his back foot, aiming the ball instead of throwing it, and not leading his receivers. That's how you end up going 14 for 33 passing, which makes Jamarcus Russell's completion percentage look good.

With that being said, his first half play was excellent. He was putting the ball where only his receivers could catch it, and putting some mustard on his throws. If the Eagles could have gotten just an average effort for that second half, the outcome of this contest would have been different.

Having said that - and completely off subject - I got to thinking. Why isn't Shinskie going to play baseball for the Eagles this year? I mean he's a minor league reliever, and can play quarterback for the football team - why can't he come in as a late-inning reliever? Spring football practice doesn't start until mid-March, and the baseball team would be finishing their Southern Swing by then. Plus it would keep him and his arm in shape for his sophomore season.

Running Back: B

I don't think I'm being a homer when I say that you can put it on the board that Montel Harris will play in the NFL when he's done here. I might venture to say if he plays at this level again next year, it's a possibility he may leave before his senior season.

Harris has a Barry Sanders-esque way of keeping his center of gravity, which allows him to turn on a dime, and churn for yardage. His highlight of this game was a 3rd and 1 where he was stopped two yards behind the line of scrimmage, kept his feet moving, and then carried three Trojans for a first down. His patience to allow the line to develop holes for him, enabled him to cut back against the grain and get outside the tackle box, which led to some big gains.

With that being said, Montel's fumble on the USC 6 yard line - and let's just be clear here - it was a good handoff by Shinskie - was reminiscent of his fumble on the goal line at Notre Dame. The game was finally going BC's way after Marcellus Bowman]/db]'s interception had all the momentum swinging the Eagles' way, but that fumble deflated most of it, and led to a field goal for the Trojans. That's what puts him down at a "B".

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: A

[db]Rich Gunnell left it all out on the field. He did everything but tape ankles and hand out Gatorade for his teammates. On his 61-yard touchdown pass, he turned on the after-burners to set the BC all-time record for receiving yards. I didn't know he had an extra gear like that.

He was all over the field, and he almost had the play of the year on one of the final drives where he leapt, reached one of his arms sky high and couldn't corral the ball into his midsection.

Justin Jarvis had a solid game, with a few nice catches on the sidelines. This group's numbers would have been better if Dave Shinskie could have been more accurate.

Offensive Line: A-

The offensive line established their presence early, allowing Harris to have some great cutback lanes, which resulted in another 100 yard rushing day. This group was blowing the Trojans off the ball by three yards on every play, even after USC started to load up the box. This allowed BC to play their control-the-clock style of play, which almost won them the game.

Matt Tennant, Anthony Castonzo and company also gave Dave Shinskie plenty of time to deliver the ball, which empowered BC to stay in the game until the fourth quarter.

Thomas Claiborne had a dumb 15-yard personal foul penalty after the play which stifled a promising drive where BC was in USC territory. Castonzo also got crossed up on a stunt, resulting in a sack when BC had the ball on the USC 36 which essentially ended the game. I did enjoy how the announcer said it took the Eagles out of field goal range. I didn't realize that Steve Aponavicius was the second coming of Sebastian Janikowski. BC was forced to punt from midfield and didn't get the ball back until 4:45 left in the fourth quarter needing two scores.
On a side note, is it too much to ask ESPN for a decent announcing crew for BC games? Between the ESPN360 crew, the ESPNU crew, and this crew, can the producers at least ask them to watch a prior BC game before they cover it? They spent half the time dissing why BC calls their Harris-shotgun formation the Bazooka instead of the Wildcat. Honestly, who cares what they call it - it shows arrogance and a lack of preparation on their part. Give me more tidbits like how Montel Harris has a black belt, instead of just trying to fill gaps between plays with stupid diatribe like this.

Play Calling: A

Hats off to Gary Tranquill. He drew up an exemplary game plan, and it's unfortunate this his guys couldn't execute it. Coach Tranquill stuck with the run even after the Eagles went down 11, called for play fakes on running downs which resulted in some big pass plays, and even rolled Shinskie out when he was struggling late in the pocket.

My only qualm with the plan was that I didn't see any urgency on the after the 4th quarter interception. When you're down 11 with 11 minutes left to play, chances are you aren't going to see the ball very much. BC was going into a full huddle, and it took them over 4 minutes to run 7 plays on the following drive, which resulted in a punt from midfield. That's a death knell if I've ever seen one.

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