Hope you’re well. A couple quick things. Hopefully I’ll have more today after going to practice and then the press conference.
1. I think something important happened with the defense last week. Safety Brandon Jones said defensive coordinator John Thompson challenged his unit, asking players what was it going to take for them to be the defense they want to be.
Players responded with a good week of practice and by doing things like putting in extra time studying Campbell’s offense.
Said Jones, “A lot of guys, we got to know a lot of routes that we saw out there (Saturday) on the field. We actually understood what they were going to run.”
The defense had six three-and-outs in the first half, as many as it had had in the previous three games, and seven total. The Panthers held Morehead State to 98 yards in the first half, when the game was decided, and a lot of the 280 yards that the Eagles accumulated were pretty empty.
I think the team is making a jump in its maturity and understanding of what it takes to win consistently. It’s a given at established programs, but, and it’s been said a whole lot, it’s hard to know what it takes when a team doesn’t have a lot of experience winning at the college level.
2. This coming week will present a different kind of challenge. As the Panthers been up and down in level of effort, up against Shorter, down against Lambuth, up against Jacksonville State, down against Campbell, up against Morehead State, they have plenty of reason to believe they can just show up and blow Savannah State off the field.
This is just not a good football team. The Tigers have a coaching staff in flux – it’s never a good thing when you start a season with an interim head coach, as Savannah State has with Julius Dixon – and they’ve been outscored 48-211. The defense ranks dead last in FCS in scoring and rushing and is third to last in passing efficiency. The offense is No. 112 (out of 117) in total offense and No. 114 in scoring.
After the game, I asked Bill Curry if he thought with the Morehead State game that the team had turned a corner. He did not, saying he wanted the team to have a string of games with consistent effort.
“Next week is going to be a big test,” he said.
The next couple weeks will be important in that respect. The Panthers have two winnable games, Savannah State and North Carolina Central, before the final four-game stretch – Old Dominion, South Alabama, Lamar and Alabama. I’d contend that Old Dominion might be the most meaningful game of the year.
It’s against a team that started last year, has been playing well, will be in the CAA and it will likely be a pretty intense atmosphere.
Two good weeks of practice and playing would pay dividends – confidence, development, getting backups into games – that GSU will likely need against Old Dominion.
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