Last night was a debacle, it's as simple as that. But even in debacles, there are lessons to be learned, ways a team can grow, and so on. When I was coaching, and my team took this kind of beating, often we would just look at the game tape as a staff, get what we needed, and move forward. Many times it is the case that a team simply needs to leave such a beating in their rear-view mirrors, and move on to the next game. This is not one of those cases. Some of the mistakes that were made are not things the guys can fix (you can't coach speed, after all), but others are. After the jump, I will take a look at some of the things we learned, and how we can move on from here.
Lesson #1: We have to figure out better ways to hide our utter lack of team speed on defense. I know that Taylor Martinez is a very fast young man. However, when we play against mobile quarterbacks, there has to be some way of getting speed on the field. Even if it's very raw speed. Even if it involves starting green DBs, and sliding our bigger safeties up to LB some. I do not fault the effort of our guys. But you simply can not teach speed. And if we don't have any team speed, even hiding in a raw young DB talent on the bench? Well, then that's a whole other set of issues.
Lesson #2: Sammuel Lamur and/or Collin Klein need to start getting a lot more reps in practice, and Carson Coffman needs to be phased out. I love what he did in that last drive against UCF. However, up until the fourth quarter of that game, he had been a major part of what was wrong with the offense. And tonight? Well, that throw where Aubrey Quarles (I think it was Aubrey, anyways) had beaten his man by 5 yards, and Carson under-threw him by a good ten yards was brutal. His fourth down run on that first drive was equally brutal. I think either one of the other two QBs gets that first down. Coffman was so stinking slow around the end there. And, let's just cut to the brass tacks here: Coffman is not the future of this program. There's a possibility that S. Lamur and Klein are the future of the program (depending, of course, on how this guy works out this spring). And, frankly, I liked what I saw from both guys. They didn't get a ton of passing opportunities, but both avoided turning over, and displayed better mobility inside and outside the pocket than Coffman.
Lesson #3: I really like Chris Harper. I'd like to see more of him. I have no idea why we haven't seen more of him to this point. That touchdown catch was not easy. I'd like to see him become part of the Wildcat Formation packages, as well as see the ball going his way in the passing game more often.
Lesson #4: Recover your opponents' effing fumbles! If we recover both of those fumbles, I think the game tightens up a lot. I honestly don't know how you fix that. I've always felt that you either have a nose for the ball, or you don't. But still, it's a lesson.
Lesson #5: Don't karate-chop your opponents hardened-plastic-covered head with your non-broken hand, unless you really, really, really want to have matching casts on each. Oh, and giving away 15 yards on a boneheaded play is not such a good idea either.
Lesson #6: Daniel Thomas needs help. Please refer back to Lessons #2 and #3.
Lesson #7: Did I mention our defense is really slow?
So, where do we go now? I have to admit, this game leaves me worried about next week. I'm starting to think that my earlier post about where our season might head after a blowout loss was much more prescient than I had hoped it to be. We're heading into KU next Thursday in bad shape. If anyone can get the boys back in winning form, it's Coach Snyder, but our problems run deeper than just confidence, as I noted above. Nebraska exposed our defensive flaws for everyone to see, and every team we play from here on out will be trying to exploit our lack of defensive speed. Hopefully, there are at least two teams left on our schedule that won't be able to do so. I find it difficult to believe that there are many more than 2 or 3 more wins to be had in these last 7 games, unless the issues above are acknowledged and addressed. If we stick with Coffman, and don't make any defensive personnel moves to get more team speed on the field, I think that our best hope is a 6-6 or 7-5 record.
So, tell me where I'm wrong.