At halftime, I was texting a good friend of mine…a Sooner fan…who was pulling hard for the Hogs. He’s a former student and probably roots for the Hogs more out of loyalty to me than anything. Still, he knows football, and he and I had a disagreement at half.
I was nervous about holding onto the lead, because we could not run. His point was that VT was selling out, and that if we kept gashing them with the pass, they would have to pull back their safeties, at which point we could run…and ice the game. I agreed to a point, but also pointed out that if we continued to be unable to run, and if VT stopped shooting themselves in the foot (which they sure did to put that mildly…because they were too busy watching us blow our own feet off), we would have issues for the same reason we have all year.
That is…this o-line (and most college o-lines) can’t pass block in a pro-style offense against a defense that knows you have to throw.
And that came to pass. VT started harassing AA…AA made mistakes…other’s like Drew added to those mistakes…and the wheels came off.
We can talk and talk about all of the problems. The penalties (VT should have been flagged over and over for mimicking our cadence. That’s flat illegal), the fumbles and INT’s all were huge. But that is looking at the micro.
The macro issue is that the o-line could not handle their front. This has been a mediocre o-line all year. 2 very good players. And 3 players that, while talented, got beat over and over by stunts. I have said over and over Bielema builds the program on being able to beat you with his o-line. (I think that is a sound philosophy, btw). And we couldn’t do that this year.
One thing that hasn’t been discussed much us the change in our o-line coach. Bielema has really praised his knowledge of technique. I am sure he’s right. But I also know that significant change in technique takes time to jell…and that could possibly be a reason for this o-line’s problems. Who knows. Maybe its just inexperience. Whatever it was…fixing the offensive line is far and away the top priority coming into next year. IMO. Even bigger than fixing the defense…which is huge too.
Looking toward next year, I am optimistic about the roster…SO LONG AS WE GET BETTER SAFETY PLAY. I hope our young ones are ready to play. I think we are ok roster-wise everywhere else. But our safety play has been awful all year. (And this is coming from me…someone who tried to keep negativity about the Hogs within the confines of my living room…or on the phone to friends…and not this board).
I do think we need a more aggressive defensive scheme. I like our offensive scheme just fine. So long as we can run it.
So, back to the main issue. I hope to read in the spring about how good the o-line looks. I don’t want to read about how any d-lineman on our roster just can’t be handled by our o-line. I was excited when reports of Deatrich and company dominating kept circulating last spring and in camp. As it turned out, that was more of a statement about our o-line than the d-line. The d-line was good. But not very good. Certainly not great. The o-line was just green and not good at all.
So onward to spring football and the hope the o-line improves. And that everything else improves too.
Oh…and Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.