There was plenty to be happy about with the Irish win against Michigan State. The defense looked better, Stephon Tuitt looked more like himself, Louis Nix had a great game and Prince Shembo was disruptive on the pass rush. The Irish also showed some of their depth offensively with Corey Robinson having some nice catches and Tarean Folston looking effective out of the backfield. The problem is that the good did not outweigh the bad, even though the Irish marched on to victory.
Tommy Rees/Pass Efficiency:
Rees was 14-34, that’s just a 41% completion rate and it’s not like the Spartans had 10 passes defensed. Rees’ accuracy was, well, inaccurate and some of his reads were even worse. Several times throughout the game, even on his passes downfield, his read was late or just wrong all together. Rees and Kelly need to come to terms with who Tommy Rees is as a quarterback. He’s an averaged sized quarterback with below average athletic ability and an equally below average arm. This is on display when he makes the right read (which is most of the time, yesterday was a bit out of the ordinary in that category) but his arm strength isn’t up to speed with the pace of the game itself. Many times it seems like his receivers are getting to the right place before he is able to get the ball there. While Rees has his shortcoming, Brian Kelly doesn’t do him any favors.
The Play Calling
Yes, teams are stacking the box and daring Rees to beat them over the top, but that doesn’t mean you throw every ball twenty or more yards down field on the vast majority of your pass attempts. Week after week, Kelly talks about all the talent on the offensive side of the ball; so why are we not using these guys more effectively? TJ Jones was great off bubble screens last season, DaVaris Daniels is a big body with great hands and a threat over the middle, he’s not just a deep threat on the sideline. Amir Carlisle is a great pass catching runningback and Troy Nicklas had one catch against the Spartans, these guys are not being used to their full potential. The offense looked like Kelly and Martin told Rees to chuck the ball down field all day and sprinkle in a run or two. If you look at the box score, yes, it looks like there was balance in the play calling, but the majority of those runs were at the end of the game when the Irish were just trying to run the clock down. As soon as the running game has one negative play, it gets abandoned, just like the rest of the creativity. The Irish had a little swag last season, and the only real difference I see is Tommy Rees at quarterback. I know Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood are gone, but there is depth and talent in the back field; those guys were good, but they weren’t Ricky Watters. Only Brian Kelly and Chuck Martin know what reason is for the train wreck they call an offense, but putting the team on the shoulders of Tommy Rees is not the yellow brick road to victory.
Kelly admitted before the game that they have to go over the top of the defense to score, so why not bring in Andrew Hendrix to mix it up a bit? This isn’t rocket science, you have to keep the defense on their toes and with Oklahoma, Arizona State and USC anxiously awaiting their chance to prove last season was a fluke, the game plan cannot be Tommy Rees to X receiver twenty yards down field.
I believe in this team and I believe in Brian Kelly, I really do. I just hope they are trying see what they have before the onslaught begins next week when Boomer Sooner rolls into town.