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Three Goats - The NIU "Game"

The only heroes were the fans who stayed for the second half.

The premise is simple: when we win, I praise our heroes, when we lose I criticize our goats. Take any praise in stride, lest we get a big head. Take any criticism with a grain of salt, this is how we learn.

This week we will only blame coaches. It was an epic 45-3 failure that cannot really be called a game, because in a game both teams show up ready to play. What we saw can best be described as NIU's 1st team taking on a scout team to prep for real games later in the season.

3) Mike Dietzel - Safeties / Co-Special Teams Coordinator

Last week I roasted Spieler, today I roast the other man responsible for our woeful special teams. Congrats we didn't give up a kick return for a touchdown!

Down 21-3, finally get a good drive going, get a chance to cut the lead down to two possessions with a 25 yard chip shot which is automatic because Patrick Clarke has never missed....and that's gone.

So we're down 28-3 at the half, but we get the ball! How are we going to start...By fielding a kickoff at the 3 and running out of bounds at our own 4-yard line with no one near you that's how.

Punt Game? 7 punts, net punt average 31 yards. We had 4 punts under 30 yards net. Our longest punt netted 43 yards, but that was reduced by 15 yards after a hair-brained kick catch interference penalty.

So special teams improved from G to F+, solid F+.

At least Dietzel's safeties are playing well against the pass...or at least they are supporting the run well with solid tackling... well at least if you have a corner on a receiver our safeties wont let said receiver drag them both 10 yards for a touchdown....uhhh well hey everyone's healthy so that's something.

2) Jeff Quinn

You can only blame Zordich for so much. He is who he is. And whatever he is on a given day, Quinn will mismanage it. Zordich completed 62% of his passes, going 18 for 29, and averaged 10 yards per completion.

At the half, Zordich was 10 for 14 for 97 yards, his best passing half in weeks, and we were down 25. Last week we blame Zordich's passing while Campbell runs wild. This week we blame Campbell and the loss of BO while Zordich is actually semi-efficient. But every week I blame Quinn for putting together half a game-plan, not putting his 11 best players on offense in position to succeed, and for getting out-coached in the 2nd and 4th quarters, the quarters where in-game adjustments are most vital.

Also why do you pull Zordich? He had a good game, let him finish the 4th strong. Unless you are actually going to start Licata, leave him on the bench.

Also in the first quarter NIU got an illegal man downfield penalty, it would have pushed NIU back to 2nd and 8 from the 28. Quinn declined the penalty to bring up 3rd and 3 from the 23. Now I don't get paid to coach or scout, but I ran the number and said this in the pre game meal:

On 3rd and short, they run with Lynch, where he converts at a 77% rate, so it is best for UB to avoid 3rd and short.

So if I knew it, I assume Quinn knew this. Which makes that call just an awful call of a guy who hasn't grasped the decision making part of the head coaching job. 77%!. We stopped Lynch on 3rd and 3, but not on 4th and 1. NIU continued their drive and 2 plays later its 7-0 NIU. Bad call Quinn.

But Quinn gets off easy this week because

1) Lou Tepper Turned Our Strong Aggressive Defense Into a Soft Porous Mess

I've been saying this for at least 3 weeks now, and close games with lots of offensive and special teams mistakes have been the headlines, but the underlying story is how Tepper turned our strong front 7, into a weakness.

I'd give Quinn another year, just fire Tepper.

After re-watching 3 quarters of the NIU game, we have major issues on defense, but before I tear into Tepper, I asked LSU Blog "And The Valley Shook" is Tepper that bad, or is it just me? It is not just me.

Other choice quotes from "Valley Shook"

To use the Dinardo analogy, the mistake wasn’t hiring Lou Tepper, it was refusing to fire the guy.

- Poseur

The Tigers had risen to #6 in the country. Nobody seemed to mind that the points surrendered by first-year defensive coordinator Lou Tepper's defense had increased every game.

- Patrick Johnson Yahoo Sports

Tepper was so married to his scheme that he stuck with it even when it was clear we didn’t have the personnel to run it. I remember one time at Tiger Stadium I looked up and saw a big, burly middle linebacker (the unfairly lowly regarded Thomas Dunson, who couldn’t help that he was a backup-quality linebacker asked to not only start but fill roles for which he was grossly unsuited) lined up heads-up with Champ Bailey (who played both ways in college). He was so sure his "drop linebacker" position was a great idea (it essentially called for a linebacker to double as a safety and occasionally even man-up a slot receiver) that he refused to adjust to the fact that his linebacker of choice was much better suited as a run-stopper than as a man-to-man cover nickel back.

- Richard Pittman

This game might have been one of the high-water marks of the Lou Tepper defense, particularly with the near goal-line stand you see in the first minute and a half of the video. Of course, given that Lou Tepper was involved, Bama eventually punched it in on fourth down.

- Billy Gomila

He continues to lose points in my book, here's what I saw in the NIU game:

1) Huge cushions - This has three negative effects.

a) Very Easy Pitch & Catch.

We averaged 6.4 yards of cushion in the NIU game. The average cushion of the deepest DB was 9 yards. This explains why we are:

  • 2nd last in the MAC in yards per attempt allowed passing: 8.4 yards per attempt.
  • and last in the MAC in yards per completion: 14.4 yards per completion.

b) Poor run support.

Our front 7 is good against the run, but when the run gets to the second level, our DBs are still off the ball. It doesn't help that they tackle poorly and take bad angles either. If you are lined up 12 yards behind the line, you have a lot of ground to make up to help Means corral Jordan Lynch, which is part of the reason he gained an extra 2-5 yards after contact all day last Saturday. This is also why we are:

  • 3rd last in the MAC in 30+ yard runs with 7.

c) Counterintuitive susceptibility to the PA-Pass and the deep ball.

Because our DB's are so far off the line, they seem to look in the backfield for run first. This isn't working, they are getting caught flat-footed. In both the UConn and NIU games a tight end ran right by a safety for a big gain as the safety guessed run and guessed very wrong. It's why we are:

  • 2nd last in the MAC in 40+ yard passes allowed, with 5.

2) No blitzing, no pass rush.

3 man rush: 7 times - NIU 6 for 7, 138 yards, 2 TDs.
Highlight: Despite only rushing 3, there was 1 on 1 coverage. With the extra passing time, Lynch found him, Lester broke the play up, but a better thrown ball would probably have been another touchdown.

Lowlight: On 3rd and 14 in the 3rd, Lynch gets 5.44 seconds to throw. Everyone is covered so he scrambled from the left hash to the numbers on the right side of the field before finding an open receiver for a 17 yard gain and a first down.

4 man rush: 9 times - NIU 4 for 9, 24 yards. Each play was a quick throw or screen to exploit the large cushions.

5 man rush: 4 times - NIU 3 for 4, 72 yards. 2 quick throws at the cushioned receiver, one blown coverage by Baugh on the tight end.

6 man rush: 2 times - NIU 0 for 1, 1 Sack. We sacked Lynch before he could set up the bubble screen the first time we rushed 6. The 2nd time, we almost sacked Lynch and he threw the ball away.

3) We maintain the cushion downfield

A move that literally made me hit myself in the head with my notepad. On 3rd and 9 in the 3rd quarter, the man covering the slot gave a 12 yard cushion and proceded to back pedal another 9 yards. The receiver caught an easy post pattern for a 20 yard gain. We gave him 21 yards of cushion on 3rd and 9, you better believe they took it.

9 of 13 completed passes were thrown to the receiver with the largest cushion. They gained 99 yards on those plays. 6 of the plays were on 1st and 10.

If you are going to give the big cushion, you should probably use the gap to read the QB, giving you the opportunity to break on a ball early, break up some passes, stop yards after the catch and if the timing is right, intercept a few more balls than you would playing tighter.

We do NONE of that on defense, and we are last in the MAC in turnovers forced.

4) Weird coverage issues

a) Cross-coverage: A couple of times, we lined up normally, but after the snap, we had the outside corner cover the slot man and the inside nickel back cover the outside man. The effect would create this criss-cross at the snap which I guess we hoped would disorient the offense.

What really happened is we wasted a few steps crossing, and NIU's receivers exploited those steps to get open. That separation allowed a 43-yard NIU touchdown to start the 2nd half, Lester the cover corner was lined up on the outside receiver but had to run about 3 yards further than usual to chase the slot receiver streaking downfield.

5) Stayed base

When NIU spread us out, we did not spread out. We kept one safety deep, and that one safety was not able to cover either side of the field deep. With one safety deep, 3 linemen rushing and 4 receivers covered that leaves 3 men to do what? Well they mostly faked blitz and spied the QB and played short middle zone. This created huge pockets on the outside and deep middle. The same holes Dri Archer lived in, the same holes UConn lived in, the same holes Tettleton exploited ended up being the same holes Lynch used on his 2 TD passes and his other 11 mainly uncontested completions.

Our defense is statistically good, because we allow teams to move on us so efficiently, and our field position is so bad, teams score without needing to rack up 400-500 yards of offense. NIU put up 460 just for fun, they would have tacked on another 200 yards if they left Lynch in the game in the fourth quarter.