1) In a rivalry game, you know both sides would come out overly amped. But one pre-game punch aside, the furd players showed better discipline. Whereas we found a way to beat ourselves throughout the game(6 penalties and 2 TO's in the 1st quarter), they channeled their emotions and executed. I can't fault our effort - the D was flying around even when the game was well out of hand. And besides the QB position, I believe we have at least comparable talent. But, we continue to have issues with our mental toughness and preparation.
2) I know there was an emphasis on being more competitive and more spirited this year. (like Tedford head-butting Price) But it seems like a disconnect to me. Teams take on the personality of their coach. Our coach is many things, but a paint-your-face-blue rah-rah guy, he is not. It seems contrived when he tries to manufacture emotion in his players. It's also a house built on a fragile foundation; when things go badly, you can only dial up your Rudy speech so many times. With Tedford's best teams, high morale came from a self-confidence born of machine-like precision and execution.
3) Key sequence of the game: After holding them to 3-0, we drive into the red zone, turn it over, and then bail them out a of 3 and out with a mind-numbing offsides penalty. This lead to Luck's long run and their 1st touchdown. On our next drive, we move the ball well until consecutive procedure penalties negate a Vereen 11-yard run and give us a 3rd and 22. Another sustained drive and TD. 17-0. Ballgame.
4) This was the game I was worried that Mansion would have in his 1st start against Wazzu. His struggles with accuracy, decision-making, and ball security have been well-chronicled already. In his tenuous defense, the pass protection didn't do him any favors. The furds were often able to get pressure on him rushing just 3 or 4 guys. This let them drop more bodies into coverage which created tighter passing windows, made his reads tougher, and often lead to our best playmakers being double covered. On his early interception, their DE beat Schwartz with a simple inside move and forced Mansion to throw off his back foot. On his 2nd INT, their pass-rusher drove our LG straight back into Mansion's face with a simple bull rush, collapsed the pocket, and forced him to scramble. This was compounded when the score rendered our running game useless and let them just tee off every play.
5) Either by demotion or injury, we missed Miller on the field. His backups, Ladner and Sparks, might have more speed, but don't have the same beef as blockers. Ladner got lit up and struggled setting the edge. Stevens has improved this year, but the coaching staff still favorsusing Ladner as an H-back. Considering how important the fullback and H-Back/TE position is for the Tedford offense, recruiting misses or inattention the past few years really hurts us now. We typically rely on walk-ons or under-recruited/converted players at FB, and we've had a # of TE's just not pan out. Losing Wark to injury (the most physical blocker as a true frosh) might have been a bigger deal than we thought.
6) I defended Ludwig's playcalling last week. However, I agree with Avi's assessment that Ludwig might be better at scheming plays than preparing the players to execute those plays. My other concern is that after three games, we continue to see him call plays that simply do not suit Mansion's present skill-set. The fade on the 2pt conversion against Oregon and the fade to Vereen matched up on Marecic come to mind. Mansion has a decent deep ball, and can make straight-line throws. He hasn't shown any ability to consistently complete a pass that requires touch, loft, and timing. I can see parts of the gameplan designed to take pressure off an inexperienced QB, (diverse running plays, short passes, wild bear) but I also see a stubborn persistence with focusing on the chess match instead of adapting to make the best use of what you've got.
7) The final score doesn't look great, but I don't fault the defense or defensive gameplan. Our offensive ineptitude combined with injuries left us susceptible to being worn down, and with two starting CB's out we've really got some matchup issues. Besides, having a perfect scheme or the right call don't matter if you're losing your one-on-ones battles. Our pass rush couldn't get to Luck and their WR's made plays against our DB's. You also have to give credit where credit is due - Luck is pretty darn good.
8) This is a contrary opinion, but I did not like calling the pass from KA for our 1st TD, nor the hook and ladder for our 2nd TD. I liked watching the plays just fine - but calling them in the 4th quarter of a blow-up game is like trying to put lipstick on a pig. Call those plays in the 1st quarter when the game is yet to be decided. Calling them in the 4th does nothing other than give UDub a heads-up. This isn't a case where scoring will make the offense or team feel better about themselves. They're gimmick plays. As painful and ugly as the result might have been, we would have been better served to develop Mansion and let him make plays out of our standard offense. My uneducated knee-jerk armchair thought is that perhaps we're better served focusing on fundamentals over big-plays on both sides of the ball.
9) There is no quick and easy fix to turn things around. But the first step is winning next week and becoming bowl-eligible. I don't care if it's the Preparation H Roto Rooter Sewage Bowl. We need the extra practice time and the recruiting visibility. Remember how Riley improved with the extra reps to lead the comeback in the Armed Forces Bowl? Mansion may not be the future at QB, but I'd rather have he have the opportunity to show us something instead of ending the season early with a whimper. Sure, there are tough questions to be answered during the off-season and I think we'd all be disappointed if there aren't some significant changes. In the immediate future, we owe the Huskies a beat-down. Go Bears!