Photo Courtesy: Bob McKinley
1. Week 1 is less exciting as the NFL Preseason — There were exactly zero exciting games in the fourth quarter in Week 1. None. Nadda. Zip. Every game was out of hand, most by several touchdowns. Some teams were on the winning end. Some on the losing end. But, other than celebrating the return of football, Week 1 in the OVC brought nothing worth getting excited over.
But it did bring plenty to overreact about.
2. EKU’s offense may be catching up with the OVC. — Let me get this out of the way: I didn’t say it’s the “best” in the OVC. That would be an overreaction. But they may be catching up.
In their win over Robert Morris, EKU put up 624 yards of offense — and that’s after stalling early with starting quarterback Bennie Coney. Mistakes and turnovers cost EKU points, but they were well on pace for much more than 29. EKU took over the ground game, netting more than 400 yards rushing. It was noted in last week’s game preview, and should be noted again: RMU isn’t exactly an FCS football powerhouse. Eastern Kentucky will face stronger defenses throughout much of the OVC. But for a team historically known as a run-the-clock, defensive-oriented team, it’s quite a lofty start.
2a. …even if they’re still questioning their quarterback — According to Hood, they had no plans on playing Jared McClain last Saturday. In their minds, Coney won the job, and McClain was the backup. But as I just mentioned, Coney didn’t get off to a great start, allowing McClain to come in and spark the Colonels’ offensive explosion.
So, McClain is the guy going forward, right? Not so fast, according to Hood, who will use practice this week to determine who starts on Saturday.
My take — who cares about practice? One proved he’s great in the game, the other not so much. Let’s pick McClain, and move on, please.
3. Not all FCS v FBS games are created equal — Here’s the one thing about EIU’s semi-challenge of Minnesota – they’re not Michigan State. EIU outgained the Golden Gophers on offense, but a comedy of errors kept the Panthers from really being in the game. Both quarterbacks were solid — but I can’t help but feel that I need to temper my excitement, somewhat. Sure, Minnesota is a Big 10 team, but most of EIU’s scoring came in the fourth quarter. And EIU absolutely could not run the ball, and that’s with Sheppard Little in the backfield.
On the other hand, the University of Kentucky isn’t exactly Alabama, and their shellacking of UT Martin does have to raise some eyebrows. UK is improved — at least, that was the general consensus in the crowded, un-air conditioned press box. The Skyhawks were able to exploit the outside run game, albeit inconsistently, but didn’t points on the board until well after the game was out of hand.
4. We learned next to nothing about Tennessee State, Southeast Missouri — It’s not all Tennessee State’s fault, although it is 100% Southeast Missouri’s. TSU played NAIA Edward Waters in an absolute monsoon in Nashville on Saturday. All the Tigers could do was run the football, and doing so against an NAIA front seven, they did so with considerable success.
Southeast Missouri had to have the most misleading 77-point win in college football history. That’s what happens when you play a team that’s a) in a lower division and b) is in their first season of football. Was SEMO good? Yes-ish. The punt return let not 1, not 2, but three punts bounce before picking them up, and they struggled with their own screen game. Things ramp up considerably with Kansas this week, even if we are talking about a not-very-good FBS team.
5. We learned a lot about Jacksonville State, UT Martin — As much as I complain about money games, I officially declare them to be much better at finding strengths and weaknesses than lower-division teams. So, what kinds of things did we learn? First, JSU has a solid defensive line. Michigan State put up 200 yards on the ground — but did so over 50 rushes, a 4.2 yards per rush average. That’s a number some FBS teams will struggle to hold the Spartans to. The Gamecocks young secondary, though, not as much up to the challenge.
UT Martin has similar issues with their secondary; On multiple occasions, the Skyhawks were burned not by speed, but by having zero idea where the football was at any given time. Tackling is a major issue across the entire defense. We learned Dylan Favre is still a gun slinger, and still needs to work on reading defenses, and that UTM’s offensive line isn’t terrible, and kept the quarterbacks upright.
6. Zero quarterback battles were solved — We discussed EKU’s ongoing battle earlier, so what about the rest? Eastern Illinois’ can probably stick with a two quarterback system this entire year — I don’t think they should, but they have the talent to make it work. At halftime of UTM – UK, I said on twitter that the Skyhawks should stick with Favre. By the end of the game, I had changed my mind to Jarod Neal. UT Martin head coach Jason Simpson admitted it on this week’s OVC teleconference — if he had one quarterback, he wouldn’t need two.
Tennessee State didn’t need a quarterback in Week one, therefore solving nothing in Nashville as well.
7. Did no other team play their second-team defense in Week 1 other than Murray State? — I really like head coach Chris Hatcher, and if you’re reading that and wondering “oh no, he’s about to say something bad about him,” you’re not entirely wrong.
Hatcher, whose Racers gave up 26 points, 19 on defense to NAIA Union, praised his first team defense, but said his second-teamers, mostly young guys, were “bright-eyed.” Here’s the thing though — I’m betting SEMO played their second-team defense. As did Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech, and every FCS team facing lower division opponents in week on. Most didn’t give up 19 defensive points. Most didn’t give up more than 7. Some gave up none.
Again, we don’t want to overreact to one game here — but Hatcher’s Racers have never been known for their defensive prowess. I’m finding it hard to agree with his outlook on his defense.
8. The Quarterback Wing isn’t ready for primetime — While I can criticize the Racers for giving up 26-points to Union, Tennessee State was still in a game against NAIA Kentucky Christian in the third quarter. Why? Because their offense was completely stagnant.
TTU’s traditional QB did hit 72% of his passes, but only gained 168 yards through the air. The quarterback wing was all wing — and no quarterback, not throwing a single pass. So, essentially he was a running back.
I’m far from sold on the “QW” and Week 1 didn’t help matters all that much.
9. I have to find nice things to say about Austin Peay — Like, I like their new logo. Austin Peay put up 146 yards of offense at Memphis on Saturday night, punting 11 times in the loss. They were never in field goal range, and far from putting up seven points. Defensively, they struggled to get in the Tigers way.
Remember how I mentioned not all FCS – FBS games are equal? UT Martin won at Memphis two years ago. Has Memphis improved since then? Marginally. But Memphis isn’t a team that should be shutting you out.
Yes, I know Austin Peay is young. And coming off a winless season. And doesn’t really have a quarterback, which is important position.
Which brings me back to the point — I’m going to have to find nice things to say.
I like the color red.
…We’ll try to do better next week.
10. Jacksonville State at UT Chattanooga is the pick of a solid Week 2 slate — Although I wouldn’t blame you if you chose Eastern Illinois vs Southern Illinois. All four teams are ranked in the top-25, and this is a game with FCS playoff implications — you win, you feel good, albeit early, about your odds of getting an at-large should you not win the conference.
UT Martin also travels to Central Arkansas, in what could be an elimination-type game. Yes, in Week 2. Only 24 teams make it to the playoffs, after all.