Coach Brian Kelly and his Irish squad have reached the end of the first quarter of the season, and the results so far have left several fans trying to light the interwebs on fire with their disgust. So why not throw a little gasoline on this fire and fan the flames a bit? This week, I will tackle those burning questions...and a few others that will hopefully put things in perspective a bit.
From the comments I have read, the majority of fans are ready to throw the towel in on the season by downgrading optimistic preseason prognostications. We here at OFD-the beacon of rational thought and home to non-delusional maniacs (or delusional non-maniacs, I am not sure which)-have discussed this ad nauseam since Week 1.
So please consider the comment section on this one your last chance to get out your frustrations from the first three games. Wail. Gnash teeth. Get it out of your system.
1. What has gone wrong with the defense?
To answer the question simply: everything.
I am only kidding on that one-but there is a little bit of seriousness buried in there.
To me, the big thing is they have gone away from their core strength-no creases, sure tackling-and instead dialed up pressure to help protect from some of the weaknesses of this year's team. The increased blitzing, combined with opposing offenses focusing on quick passes to avoid the pass rush, have led to some big plays for the opposition.
I would like to see a reduction in and disguising of blitzes moving forward. Confuse the opposing QB by making them guess a little more frequently.
The second thing that needs to get cleaned up is tackling. Now. ‘ Nuff said.
2. What has gone wrong with the offense?
There are two big things that I see with the offense through 3 games: lack of an inside running game and far, far too many dropped passes. Both have led to missing on key 3rd down conversions and have generally stalled the offense. Clean this up, and they are good to go.
The one other thing that I feel is lacking is tempo. You don't have to run no-huddle hurry up Oregon offense all the time, but when you get a match-up problem, exploit it. Stop the NFL-style substitution packages.
Feel better yet?
Now, on to the brighter side of things:
3. What has gone right for the defense?
While many fans would be tempted to answer differently, I think the defense is pretty close to being very good and the issues are fixable.
First, Louis Nix has been a beast. He gives you exactly what you need-occupies blockers, plays stout against the run, works to collapse the pocket.
Second, the Ben Councell-Jaylon Smith combo at Dog LB has played pretty well. The team still misses the leadership of Danny Spond on the field, but these two have done a lot over the first part of the season to make up for the loss of his play.
Third, Ishaq Williams has continued to develop and is now a Swiss Army knife of sorts for the defense.
Having a young/inexperienced group at key positions will result in growing pains.
4. What has gone right for the offense?
I think there have been plenty of bright spots on offense, and none more so than Tommy Rees so far this year. Say what you will about the incessant play changing, but he has minimized the bad choices (outside of a few throws at Michigan) and has become increasingly vocal as a leader.
There is plenty of depth/talent in the receiving corps, headlined by DaVaris Daniels. I think he is a future 1st Rounder in the making.
If When the staff sorts out the rotation at running back (MOAR RUN CMC PLEASE), the offense will improve their consistency-something that will have Irish fans rejoicing throwing fewer things around their house on Saturdays.
5. Please describe (a) your feelings on the season so far, and (b) your feelings/expectations for the remainder of the season-in GIF format.
For Part A (season to date):
For Part B (remaining season):