Last week’s loss at Ball State was quite a discouraging start to the season. It wasn’t the losing itself, it was the way we lost. Penalties. Turnovers. Dropped passes. And worst of all, piss-poor play calling.
The fourth and one call was the worst of the worst. Last year, when we were in a short yardage third or fourth down situation we became ultra-conservative and ran off tackle nearly every time. Our playcalling ineptness at the goal line last year cost us games. It is predictable and it flat out DOES NOT WORK. The thought that we can run the ball down the opposition’s throats at will is laughable. We do have a fine running attack, with an experienced line and talented backs. But what the offensive brain trust at Eastern can’t seem to comprehend is that when the opposing defense puts nine in the box your run attack will be stifled. Almost every time. Happens in the pros and college on a regular basis. To borrow from Bill Clinton, the problem is simple arithmetic.
It seems as if Ron English and Offensive Coordinator Ken Karcher do not know how to use Alex Gillett, especially in short yardage/goal line situations. Since Gillett is a legitimate dual threat QB, wouldn’t moving him out of the pocket, flaring Garrett Hoskins into the flat, and giving Gillett the run/pass option be a better call? Maybe just once?
As for the rest of the play calling, we need to back off the bubble screens. They are only mildly effective at best, and too often our receivers fail to beat the corner after the catch and proceed to get tackled for a loss. Also, I humbly suggest using more play-action. Our run sets it up, might as well exploit the opposition when they do commit eight or nine to the box. Gillett is a senior who has started over 30 games in his career. We will win or lose based on his play. I have no problem letting him throw a little more.
It is said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I honestly thought that Karcher and English would have worked out the short yardage failures during the off-season. It was such an obvious shortcoming. I hope last week was an anomaly.
As for this week, now we have a must win game against Illinois State, a foe that we are supposed to beat. Lose this week and 0-4 is a real possibility. Eastern needs to play confident, and diversify their offensive playcalling. We need to prove we can stop the run. A lot is on the line, and this team and this coaching staff need to come through, or the arithmetic for even a .500 season will evaporate.