Watching the Minnesota game last night, I couldn’t help but get really nervous for our upcoming schedule. Losing to Illinois, Minnesota almost becomes a must win to get to 6 wins and a bowl game. But what were they doing to be ahead of Ohio State at the half? I’m going to table the fact that defensively they were much more aggressive than we were in 2020 when we got beat 52-17. I want to highlight why they may be good offensively, and why are we struggling to get our best guys out there?
I got two texts nearly simultaneously that “already know what Minnesota’s identity is and we are only 3 series into the game. I don’t with us.” I think that’s a huge part of it. We have no clue who we are. But we could help ourselves by getting our best athletes on the field.
I get that. You can’t be doing whatever you want, or dropping passes, or not knowing the plays. But at some point it’s on the coaches to get some consistency. It feels like we are one of the only teams in America that can’t get their best players on the field due to stuff that we can’t see during the week. Let me rephrase, every other team has issues, but “consistency” is tough for me. As a coach I can’t keep hearing that year 4. Because when we do, we put ourselves in spots where we have lesser players trying to make plays.
I can’t tell you how mad I was watching the Minnesota/Ohio State game last night and seeing them take one on one shots to this guy:
I thought to myself… ok we have Omar Manning, we have Zavier Betts. Why can’t we get them on the field? Because if you remember my rant from the other site, when we don’t get them on the field, this is what we do:
That is from last year, and I love Vokolek as a TE, and let’s save the fact that Martinez’s pass was pretty bad comparative to Morgan’s, but you have to get someone other than a TE split out wide in goal line situations on that. That’s the whole difference. That’s where we are. Minnesota has players that when there are one on one situations, they can win that battle. Vokolek isn’t winning a jump ball in the endzone even though he does against our scout team. He may win one, but he’s not going to win as many as if you put Manning or Betts out there.
Dive deeper into it. How easy is this from Minnesota? They see a corner who has deep coverage in the cover 3, so they just audible to a quick out/stick route and it’s an easy 8 yard gain. Now, we hit something like this early in the game to Toure. But it wasn’t one on one, it was a combo route. And do any of us have confidence that the ball will be where it needs to be? Or that our WR will catch it or get open?
So a few things. We have no identity. We can’t win the one on one battles because we are splitting out TEs instead of four star big WRs. I have ranted for years that if you want guys to get acclimated, you find out what they are good at and give them a package of plays that they know they are good at. We did it with McCaffrey. Trimmed down the playbook but got an athlete on the field. Can Betts or Manning be better in the redzone than our TEs so that when teams go man against us we make them pay? That’s what we need, as it opens up a ton for us. If it’s a redzone package, a certain list of plays, whatever… at some point our coaches have to be able to get these guys we are excited about on the field. And we have, we gave Betts jet-sweep packages last year:
Watching that dude run through and away from a Penn State team that typically recruits at a top 10 national level, get him on the field. From there you say “ok you have our jet sweep package down, here’s what we build from there.” Or if Omar Manning is your redzone guy and he catches a touchdown like the Minnesota guy, the next week you say “ok how do we get you out in the field more to get longer touchdowns” and find what plays he’s good at.
I understand our OL played awful, Martinez has accuracy issues, but all these things add up. We need to build confidence with packages of plays. I think you will see that this week against Fordham. Our better guys are going to play and build confidence against a Fordham team that is bad and we can make mistakes against and still win by 40. But at some point these guys not playing needs to fall on the guys that identified them, recruited them, and are coaching them. Mike Schaefer brought up a great point on the Gary Sharp show that Betts is a difference maker, you can see it. But why do we trust him to return kicks but not run offensive plays? We need to coach at some point. If we want to win we need our best players on the field. Our WRs aren’t scaring anyone from what I saw against Illinois, in fact I could argue Illinois had better WRs than us.
Time to get these guys on the field. We will against Fordham.