Tag Archives: football

Checking in with WMU Football

Jason McMillan BC Enquirer

Photo via Jason McMillan, Battle Creek Enquirer. 

That Ohio game was ugly. It’s the worst game I can remember going back to the 1-11 season in 2013. And at this point in Tim Lester’s tenure, it was an unacceptable effort by the Broncos. It was painful to watch.

Going into the game, I had two questions:

How will Kaleb Eleby play/respond to his first start?

How will the defense look after getting roughed up by Toledo?

They did not answer those questions well. The lack of discipline and passion showed Thursday, and, if we’re being honest, the last few weeks of the season, are signs of serious concern. The team has too much talent to be turning in games like that.

Let’s go over some themes from the game and look ahead to the rest of the season.

Special Teams

Where should I start?

Following a solid first drive of the game, Gavin Peddie stepped up for a 39 yard field goal and he missed it. Field goal kicking has been a letdown for WMU the last two years. While the game got out of hand, missed kicks can contribute to overall morale. Ohio was able to respond with a touchdown, taking any momentum WMU might have had after a good opening drive.

Then of course is the blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown, making it 21-0 Ohio in the first quarter.

And then you had two fumbles on consecutive kickoffs, resulting in 10 points for Ohio.

It’s unacceptable. It points to lack of discipline, lack of motivation or will to compete and coaching.

Kaleb Eleby

Everyone was pretty impressed with the way Kaleb performed against Toledo. I was excited to see who his preferred targets would be, how the running game would help him out and what kind of game Tim Lester would call for him.

Unfortunately, the game was pretty much out of hand before Kaleb could even make an impact. While WMU was looking to make a push down 21-0, he did make a bad throw that was intercepted, ending a drive that could’ve got some momentum back.

In the next two games I want to see how he responds to pressure and what kind of games Coach Lester will call. Though he’s a freshman, WMU needs to be aggressive in throwing the ball, partly because opposing defenses will be even more committed to stopping the run.

The Defense

WMU’s defense had a rough go of it against Ohio. They also struggled against Toledo. The defense is struggling to get a push up front putting pressure on the DB’s who are struggling in coverage. Looking back at the BG, Miami and EMU games, this has been a reoccurring theme. Yes, there are some young players on that side of the ball, but it hasn’t been pretty.

The defense didn’t have any help in the Ohio game, with terrible field position and facing an offense that Lester said was one of the most efficient in the country (#30 in the country, #1 total offense in MAC as of 11/8).

Obviously, WMU needs to find some answers on the defensive side of the ball. While they’ve faced two of the better offenses in the conference the last two weeks, it doesn’t get any easier as next opponent Ball State has the fifth-best offense in the MAC.

I’ll be looking to see how the unit responds after a 12 day break between games. They need to scheme something up to stop Ball State since playing within the system hasn’t been working that well.

Looking Ahead

With a couple of bad losses the last two games, the season outlook looks pretty bleak. However, WMU STILL has a *chance* to win the MAC West. For that to happen, WMU needs to win their last two games (and get some help). First up is Ball State (11/13) and then NIU (11/20).

All things considered, has it been that terrible of a year for the team? The last few weeks were incredibly frustrating, but one solid goal is still in front of us: a bowl game.

Therefore, WMU needs to take care of business. Pick up one more win to secure a bowl game for the program. That’s very important after missing out last year at 6-6.

We can talk more about the season when it ends. For now, all I want is the team to show some fire, and be better than the last game. Beat Ball State, and get ready for a battle with NIU after that.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions for me or want me to write about anything, let me know here or on Twitter!

Week Two at San Francisco

Week Two saw the Lions lose again and in a familiar way. Still, there were some bright spots to be encouraged about and obviously some areas where improvement is needed. I think it was a better performance and a step forward for the team in some ways.

Some of my questions heading into the game:

How would the team respond, overall?

How would the offense look in Week Two?

Would the defense be able to step up and make some plays?

Would special teams not be a disaster?

Let’s go over some of the things I saw after watching the game.

Big Play Defense

Yes! We have a big play defense. Unfortunately, what I mean is that they give up some big plays over the course of the game while making their share of big plays. One of the alarming things a lot of fans have noticed is the lack of tackling. It’s been a trend in the league in recent years and has definitely been a problem for the Lions so far, specifically for guys like Jarrad Davis, unfortunately. This is something that needs to get better and hopefully will as the year goes on and everyone gets more comfortable in the defense. Then maybe we won’t get gashed for some huge runs that really break a defense.

On the positive end, the defense stepped up when their number was called. On the first drive of the game, they got two sacks that forced SF into a field goal after they marched down the field. The Lions defense ended up with four sacks in the first half, benefitting from pretty good coverage and some blitzes/stunts that freed up defenders. Otherwise, there wasn’t a whole lot of pressure on Jimmy G.

After Matthew Stafford fumbled in the second quarter to give the 49ers great field position the defense again came up with a stop to force a field goal.

In the fourth quarter with the Lions down 10, the defense came up with another stop to give the Lions a chance. Guys like Quandre Diggs and Jamal Agnew stepped up in coverage on that possession and that is very encouraging going forward.

And, you’ll remember, down three, the Lions came up with a couple more stops. One being the interception by Tracy Walker that got called back; and then later in that drive to give the Lions one last shot with about a minute left.

I know they got gashed on some run plays and struggled getting a push and pass rush. I know some guys like Jarrad Davis and Teez Tabor struggled in coverage. They’re going to learn and get better. The defense can’t be to blame when they come up with enough stops and give the ball to the offense to give the team a chance. This is something we’ve seen the last few years, and it’s really quite frustrating. The unit that we thought to be our strength – our offense – continues to struggle even after our weaker unit delivers. Now, about that offense.

“O” No…not again.

Sunday was just another chapter in a sad story we’ve seen for the last few years. As I said on Twitter, it was the type of game that we fired Caldwell for, and that doesn’t bode well for Jim Bob Cooter.

Now it wasn’t all bad. We actually got a push up front and had some success running the ball! Which is great, and to me, means that we need to commit to the run. Keep working with it, add some wrinkles here and there and keep the running backs rotating. The run game paid off on the first touchdown to Kenny, who was wide open after coming down into the slot or wing position and faking a block.

An area of concern for me is third down. Notably, third and short/manageable. Somewhat like the red zone, when the field gets shorter the Lions fall into some trouble and look like they have their hands tied a little bit. It’s not an easy place to call plays but the idea I think should be to be aggressive. This falls on Matthew too. See what the defense is giving us and attack instead of just trying to get the three or four needed yards. Golden, Theo, and the tight ends are all guys to look for in these sort of situations. Michael Roberts showed up late in the game with a TD and could really come into his own on third down. And, Wilson had at least one catch and a nice run after, so bring them into the fold more and let’s see what they can do.

Another area of concern is the play of Matthew Stafford. I am slow to criticize him because he is our best player and one of the reasons this team has been mediocre the last couple years. But, we all saw that he missed some throws in Sunday’s game that he probably shouldn’t have. So what gives? Obviously, he’s been under pressure. He didn’t get hit too much on Sunday which is good, but he was forced to move around a little bit.

Lions beat writer Justin Rogers pointed to Stafford’s mechanics on Twitter.

Matthew has to be better and he knows that. The thing is everyone else needs to be better to. A lot of guys are dropping passes, the protection varies and our run game isn’t where we want it yet. Continued improvement is the goal and is what we’ll all be watching for.

SPECIAL Teams

All caps just ’cause. To be a great team you have to win in all phases. Anyways, just from watching the game you would say Sam Martin had a better day punting the ball. Still, he has one of the worst net averages in the league according to the aforementioned Logan Lamorandier.

The opening kickoff of the second half was not good. You can’t come out and allow the other team to take the momentum like that. It resulted in a quick score and gave the Lions a bigger hill to climb.

Positively, Jamal Agnew was HUGE. On the ensuing kickoff after that Niners score to open the third he returned it out near midfield. Then, of course he had the punt return for a touchdown called back. He’s a bright spot and playmaker back there, and the Lions need to eliminate mistakes like penalties in the return game so it can be a catalyst for the offense.

Last, and certainly, not least: Discipline

Penalties were a huge factor in Sunday’s game and for both teams actually. The Lions racked up 10 penalties for 106 yards, which is pretty much inexcusable. A couple of them were drive killers: the Lions’ first play in the red zone in the third quarter was a holding penalty. The next play after that was another holding penalty. They ended up having to kick a field goal.

Another big one was on Jamal Agnew’s punt return for a touchdown. After looking at it, I didn’t really see an illegal block. Jamal didn’t make it easy on the return team but still. Just don’t block a guy if you’re not in position to.

And lastly, the holding penalty on Quandre on Tracy Walker’s pick near the end of the game. It didn’t look like a penalty at all but the NFL says it was the right call.

For me, yes it’s very frustrating to end up on the wrong end of some of these judgement calls. But, if you don’t want the officials to have an impact, don’t let them be in a position to affect the outcome. Also, the Lions have never ‘earned’ any sort of calls from the refs and they never will until they become a top team that gets the benefit of the doubt. So, just beat the other team and don’t give the refs a chance to have a say.

Last Word

So, this game left a lot to be desired on both sides of the ball. It looked like an improvement over Week One, though. For me, all eyes are on the offense. They have to do a better job. JBC is officially on the very warm seat. How long will they give him to figure things out? He needs to work with the team’s strengths and shape the offense’s direction around that.

Obviously a huge challenge coming up this week. SNF, against the Pats. Most anyone would say the Lions have no chance. It’s a very intriguing matchup between Patricia and Belichick, and no matter what happens I’m really looking forward to the game.

That’s where I’m at with this team. Obviously, you want to win, but the bigger thing to me right now is how the Lions look. Are they improving? If the Lions would’ve won on Sunday it would’ve covered up the issues the team has like in year’s past. Now let’s see what we’ve got against one of the best teams in the league.

What’d you think of Sunday’s game? Do the Lions have any chance against New England? Let me know! Thanks for reading.