Thursday, November 19, 2009

Playoff prognostications

Coaches are loath to say anything that might become locker room material for their opponents. So the interviews this week with the players and coaches of this area's two playoff teams - California and Washington & Jefferson - were politcally correct. Heaps of praise and doses of platitudes were dispensed. So let's take some time to diagnose the two playoff games this week on ordinary terms.

Here goes:

California at Shippensburg

Can you say revenge?
That's what we are talking about here for the Vulcans, who had their pride severely damaged by a 42-35 loss to Shippensburg in the PSAC State Game two weeks ago. It wasn't simply that the Red Raiders' Wing-T offense was baffling to the Cal defense, it was more the embarrassment of allowing wide-open receivers, missing tackles and permitting Shippensburg's offensive line to shove Cal's front backward.

That is not the type of video you want to show to impress incoming recruits.

You can bet that Cal has been working on the Wing-T, but what it really needs to do is concentrate on winning the battles up front. In that scenario, the defense won't have to blitz as often, allowing for more coverage in the secondary to make Ship's passing offense less lethal.

On offense, Cal must sustain a running game so the Ship's offense stays off the field. The blueprint for that was in the Vulcans' win last week over Fayetteville State.

The Wing-T offense is not unique, but it is hard to defend. what makes it easier to defend is winning the battle along the line of scrimmage. If that happens, Cal wins the game. If not, then it's time to hit the recruiting trail.

Wash & Jeff at Mount Union

If everything falls into place for W&J, if the running game produces its best effort of the season, if the quarterback play is sharp and efficient, if the offensive line rises up to the occasion, if the defense flies to the football, makes sure tackles and defends the run and pass better than any time this season, then . . .

W&J loses by only 21.

Mount Union is the defending NCAA Division III champion because the program has better players than W&J and probably every other D-III program. That's why the Purple Raiders will beat W&J and probably go on to win an 11th national title since 1993.

That said, this game will be interesting for this reason: It will show what a successful program such as W&J needs to do to get to Mount Union's level. Watch the play of the Purple Raiders line, and the way they execute. Watch how well they play defense, plugging holes and producing turnovers. Watch how their skill players dominate a game.

Losing to Mount Union is not a shame, or an indictment on W&J's program. It's one of the best in the country.

Losing to Mount Union without coming away with a better understanding of what's needed to reach its level?

Now that would be a shame.


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November 20, 2009 at 8:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess what I wonder is: Why can't W&J get the players to compete with a Mount Union? They seem to have fallen off even what what they recruited under their last two head coaches.

November 20, 2009 at 8:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Almost losing to Saint Vincent, now THAT'S a shame.

November 24, 2009 at 1:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ALMOST is a dangerous word. The AZ Cardinals ALMOST won the Super Bowl, but didn't.

November 24, 2009 at 2:30 PM  
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