Sunday, March 23, 2008

Week 3 Recap/Thoughts from throughout the UIF

So, the road woes continue as Omaha falls on Saturday night to River City, 36-18. Here are some thoughts I have at the 3 week mark for the Beef, and around the UIF, in no particular order:

-Take everything I say Xs and Os wise with a grain of salt, but I really think McNear needs to think less and run more. I know a lot of Saturday had to do with an incredible pass rush from the River City from 3 (and sometimes Bevis), and perhaps the orders are coming from Coach Warren/Williams, but McNear having 0 carries 2.5 quarters into the game is baffling to me. He averaged over 8 yards a run coming into the game and was really doing the River City defense a favor, in my mind, by staying in the pocket for multiple reads and 5 step drops. I think a few designed QB draws might have slowed down the D-End speed rushes, as well.

-Staying on the topic of McNear; I'm sure the topic throughout the Beef boards all week will be stemming around football fans favorite player, the backup QB, but just say no! Nothing at all against Schmigel, or Bartik, or anybody else, but McNear has to be the guy. James said it best last week after the Bloomington win that he can't be a rookie forever, but by the same token, he's also a humanbeing. One bad game doesn't change the future of McNear, and the inconsistency can't cloud the ceiling that this young man possesses. I don't blame a Beef fanbase starving for a consistant powerhouse to want to press the panic button, but if you sit back and let James play his way through the ups and downs of a UIF season, you are going to be very, very glad you did. This won't be the last subpar game McNear has, but if the coaching staff shows the confidence in James to allow him not to constantly look over his shoulder like years past, the consistancy will come.

-Shame on me for doubting that River City team coming into Saturday's tilt. I saw 2 teams, whom I think are probably the 2 weakest in the UIF, and a pair of underwhelming wins, 7 and 1 point, respectively. I talked about it a bit on the air, the UIF as a whole is really an offensive league, so when you see those 28-27 type scores, you can't help but be a bit turned off. Reminds me a bit of the Tony Bennett Washington St. hoops teams that fans continue to overlook because they don't have the sexy 20 point scorer or 80 PPG offense. I'm not so sure you can expect that type of efficiency from Fisher week in and week out, but that defense is absolutely for real. They will be a force to be recogned with in the Eastern Conference, not that you needed to hear that from me, considering they are at 3-0 and alone in first place in the conference.

-Didn't get a chance to watch the Billings game, yet, but my god is that an impressive team. Seems like the early bye week really did a number on their momentum. How does 47 first half points sound? And that's a much improved Sioux City team, too. Whether the streak remains in tact or not, I just don't think Sioux Falls goes into Billings and wins. Chris Dixon doesn't need weapons to be a productive QB in this league, the fact that he has so many is downright scary.

I have plenty more rambles about the Beef, among other things, but I'll keep them for another post. Overnight busrides (we got back around 6 AM) can greatly shorten the desire to rant!

Hope everybody had a Happy Easter!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tuesday Practice

So, I decided to make the trek down to the Civic Auditorium tonight for Media Night (nice turnout, by the way), and ended up sticking around for the duration of the team practice session.

One word describes the entire duration of the practice quite well: I-n-t-e-n-s-e

Not that any coach is (or should be), but Coach Warren is 100% positively non-content with losing. I have seen more than a few Beef practices over the last year and a half, and I will say as an absolute fact that this was the most intense workout I have ever seen. Coach was really getting after some of the linemen during the individual session, and this is a guy, that in my short time with the Beef, is about as upbeat as they come. Then, during the split session with the skill position players and defensive backs, Coach Williams was letting the players get after it. He had set up a one-on-one tackle session that gave the skill position players a running start, forcing them to stay within a small boundery and trying to get past a stationary defender. The hitting was fierce, with both sides staking claim to more than a few huge hits. In particular, Kenny Horton was running with an unbelievable amount of emotion and power. That is a guy who could be playing professional football at just about any level on this planet and would be successful.

We all knew that Billings wasn't the way that this Omaha team wanted to start the season, far from it, but I think here are two ways teams handle adversity:

1. Sulk and regress
2. Learn and improve

If Tuesday is any indication of which direction Coach Warren has his troops heading, I think it's same to assume the ladder.

Not that anybody around this organization had any doubt, but there is no doubt in my mind that Coach Warren is the right man for this job. As for the Beef, call me a homer, but I really think Bloomington needs to look out. If we get 5-6K+ at the Civic on Saturday and jump on the Extreme early, I really think this Omaha Beef team is hungry enough to run a good Bloomington team right off the field.

Coaching Show is set for tomorrow, I should actually be there hanging out since my class got cancelled, Side Pockets at 7 PM, come support your Omaha Beef!!

Until next time...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Billings - 70, Omaha - 37

The score sums things up about as well as I possibly can, but I'll give it a try anyway. I'm a huge college basketball fan, and I think the game really followed a lot of the same broad bounderies of an in-conference road game. The Beef very much held their own early on, even grabbing a pair of early leads in the first half and making Dixon uncomfortable in the pocket with pressure on just about every drop back. But if there is one major thing you have to avoid if you want to beat a good football team on the road, it's extended runs. Billings saw their first late in the 2nd quarter when they turned a 1 point deficite into a 13 point lead. But even so, Lebeda buried his second fieldgoal of the half and despite trailing by 10 points at the half, it was hard to find too much to be upset with with the pace of the first half.

Halftime came and went and Billings never looked back. Omaha got the ball first to start the 3rd quarter and saw about as nightmare a start as anybody could have imagined. A quick safety on an intentional grounding (the second safety of the game) was parlayed into a quick Billings score to turn the Outlaws second extended run of the game. And unlike the first one, which Lebada thrwarted with the end of half fieldgoal, Omaha began to fall apart and couldn't pick up the pieces. They were stopped at the one inch line twice (although you wont convince me that McNear wasn't in atleast once) and a couple penalties pushed the Beef far enough back that they ended the drive with 0 points, which for all intents and purposes ended the game. All in all, it's impossible to feel too good about yourselves on the heels of a 70-37 loss, but here's some of the good and bad I saw from Saturday's game:

-McNear was rusty (to be expected) but he's in great shape and as he picks up the new offense, will continue to revert back to his late 2007 form. Mark my words, by years end, he will in in the conversation with Dixon and Bryant.

-The front three (led by Head and Colin) were getting a ton of pressure on Dixon early in the game. I'm not sure if the line tired out late (long bus trip, different time zone) or if Billings just made the necessary adjustments (3 step drops instead of 5), but if they can continue the trend of getting pressure with just the three, guys like Jones and Whitehurst are going to benefit greatly.

-The WR corp is going to be as good as advertised. Horton was his usual productive self (5+ catches and a score), Nizzi absolutely looked 100% (something I'm not sure he was for much of last season), and Bell was very unselfish blocking downfield (he sprung an early touchdown with a great block). As McNear gets more comfortable within the offense, the numbers of these guys are going to do nothing but improve. Mix in Day (I still think he needs to get more touches, maybe on kickoffs) and Rollins/Horne, and the offense wont be a problem in 2008.

-Special Teams, Special Teams, Special Teams. LeBeda flashed a really good leg and even got a 3rd fieldgoal blatantly taken away from him from the officials, but the Special Teams unit as a whole just has to improve. Some of it was penalties, and some of it was Anthony from Billings (he's an explosive talent), but Omaha was constantly behind the 8 ball on offense (starting most drives inside their own 10) while Billings was working with short fields all day long. The offense can be as efficient as ever, the defense can get pressure galore, but if they can't shore up the Special Teams, it's going to be a long year.

-Time of possession. I don't have the boxscore in front of me, not that it would really help since the numbers are really flawed with the late game mean nothing scores from both teams, but the running game has to get going so the defense can catch their breaths on the sidelines. Much of it had to do with the fact that they were down for most of the game, but if Day and Rollins can break some runs and move the chains consistantly, I think it will do a lot for the defense as a whole.

All in all, certainly a discouraging start to the 2008 season. But that's a damn good Billings team and the crowd made life awfully difficult for the opposition throughout. I have no doubt that Tommie, James, Tony, and Coach Warren will disect that gamefilm to threads to help this team down the road.

There is a lot of football to be played, and just remember, the Outlaws have to come to Omaha late in the season. This Chapter isn't closed by any stretch of the imagination.

Until next time...