First, a reminder … this week’s game at Laurier is on Friday morning. That’s not a typo. The game kicks off at WLU’s University Stadium at 11 a.m. Friday. As I wrote back in July …
As stupid as it sounds to play a game on a Friday morning, I really can’t be critical. I’m all for innovation and trying new things when it comes to growing the game. It will inconvenience alumni and the families of players but perhaps it helps somehow with generating revenue and bringing OUA football to a new audience.
Laurier has shifted the game in order to make it possible for local school children to attend. I know that some AHL hockey teams [Hamilton Bulldogs & Toronto Marlies] have done the same thing, so there is precedent for it.Thousands of school children also attend mid-week, daytime MLB games as school trips.
It is about the money. Laurier probably benefits to the tune of $20,000+. I can’t blame them for that but I also won’t be able to make it to the game because of the time/date change. However, I can assure you that I will have my game preview posted by tomorrow night. It is already 80% complete so I’m not really going out on a limb.
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Reflecting back on Mike Hogan’s column and the idea that Guelph’s 2-4 start to the season is unexplainable … it’s true and it’s not true. In my opinion, a lot of it can be explained but at the same time it can’t be done easily in a blog post. Believe me I tried 3-4 days ago and I didn’t end up with anything worthy of posting. It was a lot easier to answer specific questions that numerous alumni and fans sent me.
A few quick thoughts …
- This team has had a tough time fielding the same lineup in any two consecutive games. That was particularly problematic at several positions – receiver, O-line, defensive back. This season was always going to be a transition year but to until there is some continuity on the roster it is hard to evaluate. This team needs some roster stability for various individuals and position groups to learn to work together. You would hope that happens by mid-season but this year that hasn’t been the case. Hopefully things will come together in time to make the playoffs.
- The problem is not quarterback play. In fact, James Roberts has been the greatest force holding things together in my opinion. That is not to say that he hasn’t made mistakes but if not for his leadership I think things could have been much worse. Guelph returned just one veteran receiver [A’dre Fraser] and he has only dressed in three games. Given that Roberts has been throwing passes to players he barely knows, the fact that he is in the OUA’s top 4 in passing yards per game is impressive IMO.
- The young and inexperienced receivers have performed very well if you look at the receiving numbers. I think you can expect to see Kian Schaffer-Baker and possibly Jordan Terrio on the OUA All Rookie team. The Gryphons have probably used 15 receivers so far this year. That is not great for continuity and for the offense developing chemistry but it does help to develop depth.
- Untimely penalties have been a big problem. In Guelph’s two victories they took 11 penalties for 110 yards. That is 55 yards per game. In the 4 losses the Gryphons committed 49 penalties for 414 yards, an average of 12.3 penalties and 103.5 yards. That is a stark difference. Penalties have done as much or more damage to offensive production than turnovers in my opinion.
- The defense has not played up to the level of 2015 but I never expected it to. I think it has been pretty darn good all things considered. There have been lots of mistakes but most were correctable. In at least on case it didn’t take long for the lessons to be learned. I’m thinking here about the big rushing yardage given up to Queen’s receiver Chris Osie-Kusi. The next two games Ottawa and Western tried the same things and had nothing close to the same success.
- Special teams have looked more average than at any time in the past 5 years. Gabe Ferraro’s consistent field goal kicking has been the exception. Our coverage teams just haven’t played up to my expectations. Part of that may be because of the unprecedented number of young receivers and defensive backs who have been forced into play. I like the talent of 7 or 8 new receivers but some of them have been pushed into the lineup before their blocking skills are up to a CIS level.
- The situation is similar with defensive backs who though they have played well given their inexperience, generally lack the tackling ability of the veterans. That shows up on coverage teams. Bottomline, it will take time for players to grow. Some of these new recruits are well ahead of where you would expect them to be but you don’t expect them to have to play as must as some have in the first month of their CIS careers. In the long run this will benefit the program.
Updated – Let me add …
♦ I don’t like the way the quarterback is being used. James Roberts scored two touchdowns in games last September. They were not QB sneaks. They were scrambles of 5 & 7 yards, against Ottawa and McMaster if I recall correctly. As the year wore on that completely ended. He began dropping or sliding to avoid a tackle at every opportunity. I was told in the off season that that would change in 2016. It had been a function of the lack of QB depth after Alex Skinner had quit the team. It hasn’t ended. It has become more common and it is hurting the offense.
Roberts will never be Jazz Lindsey and he doesn’t need to be. He does need to run the ball once in a while. Opposing defenses know he isn’t going to run and they don’t have to show him any respect. They are free to T-off on Johnny Augustine, or any running back, in anything that looks like a read option. It is time to let Roberts carry the ball.
♦ If James Roberts is never going to ever run the ball then it is time to start using two quarterbacks in games. [Remember what I said above about Roberts play not being the problem.] Both Theo Landers and Zach Buchan are dual threats. That would seem to be the only way to change things up on our opponents. It would at least force them to game plan for a running QB. It would help the running game overall.
♦ I actually felt bad for Roberts late in the Mac game. You could see from his body language that he knew he had made a mistake sliding when there was a 50/50 chance he could have picked up a first down. It just looked like he has been totally conditioned now to avoid contact and it is hurting his game.
♦ And if keeping Roberts healthy for a drive to the Yates Cup was the reason he was programmed to avoid contact last year, why is it still being done this year? Our QB depth is 250% better than at mid-season last year. Not having played Landers or Buchan more this season could end up hurting the program this year and in the future.
♦ It is also time to get James Roberts out of the pocket more. We have a new O-Line with a single veteran. The QB has faced more pressure than in previous years. Why not roll him out more? It could make things easier on everybody. Keeping him in the pocket when opposing teams know he is not going to scramble makes him an easy target.