Walking into the Sports Arena for last night’s basketball game, after watching the football team suffer a humiliating loss to NAIA level St. Francis, someone asked me if there was any Georgia State could lose to an NAIA team and a Division III team in the same day.
It was a joke of a question but it does provide a glimpse into what seems to be a fragile mental state of the school’s two most important teams.
Of course, the basketball team, under new coach Ron Hunter, ran Oglethorpe (Trustee 15 was my old stomping grounds) out of the Arena last night. It was an up-and-down performance. The team looked sharp for the first 12 minutes, and then sloppy for the next few. It settled down at halftime and then came out and rolled. The same thing happened in the first exhibition game against Southern Poly. The ability to make adjustments at halftime is a good, albeit early, sign for a team starved for success.
The football team, on the other hand, loses its way at halftime.
It’s said that few coaches have the ability to alter game plans during games. Most wait until halftime. Because I’m in the press box and not present in the lockeroom at halftimes, I’m not sure what goes on in the warroom inside the Georgia Dome. But it’s clear that something isn’t being communicated or processed correctly.
The Panthers have been outscored 92-13 in the fourth quarter of games this year. Fans say that’s an indictment of everything but the quality of the opponents, with apologies to St. Francis.
Fans have called for a list of firings as long as a newspaper page. They don’t like the coaches. They don’t like the play calls. They don’t like the administrators.
I’m not here to give you answers. I am here to provide some analysis and start some conversation.
It seems safe to say there’s enough blame to go around to everyone, without singling anyone out. I wouldn’t know where to start and if I did, I certainly wouldn’t say. That’s a job for a columnist, not for the beat reporter whose job is to remain objective.
I will provide a few facts to chew on.
First, there was no film on Georgia State last year until they started playing. This year, opponents have lots of film. That difference can’t be understated.
The team has had three quarterbacks this season. One hadn’t played quarterback in college before. One missed the entirety of spring practice. One dealt with an issue this summer that must have been the most challenging thing he’s experienced. I would imagine that their lack of experience could make it difficult to process changes made by defenses at halftime. You’ll say the coaches should help them. That’s true. They could be. I assume they are.
Some fans have said the coordinators don’t know what they are doing, they have been out of it for too long. Looking at formations and plays, that doesn’t seem to be true. The offense runs everything from the shotgun option to the wildcat, and very little of the old-school power I. The defense runs the upward trending 3-4, as well as the 4-3 with some zone blitzes.
There have been lots of plays this year in which the wide receivers have been open and the quarterbacks, perhaps because of their inexperience or perhaps because of what the defense is doing, have missed them. Perhaps they were open because they ran the wrong routes. Who knows? It happens in every game at every level. It happened in the LSU-Alabama contest.
The offensive line has had to deal with numerous injuries and a suspension. That affects everything on offense, especially one that is still trying to find a cohesion. It especially affects the running game, which seems to have taken a step backward the past two games.
The defense thought it had things working after playing in the 3-4 last year. It seems stepping up in competition proved otherwise. So, doing something that doesn’t always happen, the defense used the bye week and made some subtle but significant changes. They seemed to work until the Saints, running fairly basic plays, ran over them. Some on the defense said earlier this year that perhaps they weren’t studying film like they should have been earlier this year when they were getting ripped for 400-plus yards per game. As soon as they started doing more of that, the results improved. Of course, they were also playing teams that weren’t quite as good as those earlier in the season. And then came yesterday’s performance against the Saints, who did nothing fancy in rolling up more than 450 yards. Actually, it seemed like they had about 6-8 plays, with the only variation being which side of the field they ran it toward.
We spoke with four players after yesterday’s game. Just one, senior and captain Christo Bilukidi, said that they overlooked the Saints. It was an honest answer to what seemed evident to most watching the game. Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson once said that if the players need him to motivate them in the locker room before the game, then’s something wrong. It made sense then and it makes sense now.
The Panthers have two games remaining to try to put a cherry on top of the 2011 sundae. They have had injuries. Everyone has injuries. They have played a tougher schedule. They put the schedule together. They have shown their potential in a few games. They have also shown what they can’t do.
They need a good finish because 2012 isn’t going to get any easier. Most of the offensive line will graduate. There will likely be the customary turnover within the roster. Plus, the team will be playing a CAA schedule.
Adding to the issue is that Bill Curry’s contract expires in 2013 and he hasn’t signed an extension. Athletic director Cheryl Levick has said she wants Curry to coach as long as he wants to.
To those who have called for firings, it could take two-three years for a new coach and staff to even begin to make sustainable progress. Do you have the patience to wait? I’m interested to hear you thoughts.