One night down. And have to say, it got off to a good start.
Although it didn’t end quite as well as SEMO might have liked. But when it comes to non-conference opponents, especially against FBS teams, wins and losses isn’t always the most important thing.
All things said, the OVC represented very well to start off the college football season.
At the very least…no one pulled a Kent State. Or a Towson. (which is worse…running the wrong way or tackling the guy running the wrong way?)
Time for the first Final Word.
SEMO 38, Central Michigan 27
I forget, what fool was wondering if SEMO could even move the football?
Oh yeah. I’m that fool.
A good start to the collegiate career of Scott Lathrop, especially in the first half. A little shaky on some throws, but a pitch perfect option (see what I did there) put SEMO on the board, and then later Lathrop runs and throws for first half touchdowns. Statistically, Lathrop had just 120 yards passing and 37 rushing yards, and the offense as a whole really got bogged down in the second half. Long term, Lathrop will need to develop a stronger passing game to take some pressure off the running game, but this start was hugely encouraging for the freshman.
Case in point, a 15-play drive to open up the 3rd quarter, that moved the ball just 52-yards over almost 9 minutes. Yes, they got a FG out of it, and they did move the ball, but those kind of drives aren’t really what you’re going for. Although, again, converting on a few 3rd and long situations, a positive.
And that’s really what I get out of this game. A lot of positives for a team that was expected by many (myself included) to scrape the bottom in the OVC. It’s only one game, but this is looking more like the 2010 Redhawks than the 2011 squad. And I’m not that concerned that the Redhawks struggled to move the ball in the second half. You have to consider the opponent, an FBS team that should be better conditioned, and stronger down the stretch.
One thing I didn’t like was the quarterback switch in the 4th quarter. Blake Jackson, who is considered more of a drop-back quarterback to Lathrop’s option, took over when SEMO was down 11. I get that he’s considered a better passer, and that the option doesn’t really lend itself to late game comebacks, but it disrupts the offensive rhythm that Lathrop had developed, and Jackson ended up being completely ineffective.
For the Redhawks defense, things aren’t as encouraging. The Redhawks allowed over 250 yards rushing, and CMU is not considered a rushing team. Again, out of the MAC, they’re going to be bigger and stronger on the line, but 250 is still a lot of rushing yards, especially considering how few possessions there were in the 2nd half.
That being said, the Chippewas had a long field quite often. SEMO’s punter can kick.
Southern Illinois 28, Eastern Illinois 49
The new up-tempo offense has a few kinks to get worked out, but all-in-all, an impressive offensive outing from Dino Babers new squad, scoring first with a WR pass on a gadget play. Jimmy Garopollo looked very comfortable running the no-huddle offense, but he had a few misses and the receivers had a few early drops that kept the Panthers from breaking the game open. Jake Walker had a okay outing that make me think the Panthers will be somewhat more effective on the ground this season as well.
The defense was feast or famine early, getting 4 first-half turnovers, but giving up big plays to keep the Salukis in the game during the first half. Kory Faulkner was 31-58 for the game for the Salukis, and picked off twice. And remember how horrible the Panthers were against the run? Tonight, they allowed just 77 yards on the ground.
While I love the aggressiveness of Babers, it was too aggressive at times. A failed 4th down conversion in the first quarter, and getting greedy at the end of the half not only kept SIU in the game at halftime but gave them a lot of momentum heading into the locker room, despite being very much outplayed for much of the half.
I really think that Garopollo is a top tier quarterback in the OVC, and even better he’s still got another year after this. And it appears that Babers offense is going to make him look even better, as Garopollo goes 32-49 for 369 yards and 5 touchdowns. If anyone knocks Brockman off the all-OVC first team, Garopollo is my early favorite.
Before the game, Babers said 100 offensive plays was the target, according to the EIU announcers. That seems…really high. A lot can happen, both good and bad in 100 plays, and while it’s extremely fun to watch, winning games in the 40’s and 50’s is a risky strategy week in and week out.
Unless their defense can hold their opponents to the 20’s. Which I don’t see happening.
EIU must find a way to limit penalties, especially on defense, and especially the personal foul penalties. With the high-tempo offense, I can see more on offense. But there’s no excuse for all the defensive ones that time and time again kept the Salukis on the field.
Hampton 31, Tennessee Tech 41
At halftime, it looked like Tennessee Tech was going to win in a landslide. That didn’t happen, but a impressive outing from Tre Lamb and the Golden Eagles, as they come out with a win over Hampton. Lamb was 23-35, throwing 332 yards and 4 touchdowns, as the offense went for over 500 against a team known more for their defense than offense.
And despite giving up 31 points, the Golden Eagles defense gave up just under 200 yards of total offense.
One question mark after this game is Tech’s special teams play, which made some mistakes that let Hampton stay in the game longer than they should have. And while the defense was solid, they couldn’t manage a single sack, and had just 3 tackles for losses. But, for the most part, they were able to keep plays in front of them, and despite going 18-23, Hampton’s quarterback Travis Champion finished with under 100 yards passing.
The Golden Eagles also had 2 turnovers, but also forced 2 from the Pirates. And much like the rest of the OVC tonight, penalties were somewhat of an issue for Tennessee Tech, committing 8 in their opener.
Da’Rick Rogers finished his first game with the Golden Eagles with 3 catches for 75 yards and a touchdown. Yeah, he might be a playmaker this year…just maybe.