The offensive line is one of those lingering questions heading into the second game of the 2002 season. In the first half of the opener at Southern California, the Tigers generally controlled the line of scrimmage helping the offense rack up 142 rushing yards and 246 yards of total offense.
However, in a game that turned into a tale of two halves the Tigers' O-line looked confused by the second half adjustments of the Trojans' defense. The Tigers were held to an abysmal minus two yards rushing and 35 total yards the second half of play.
Offensive line coach Hugh Nall says that you have to credit the Trojans for the job they did in the second half. "They just started loading us up with eight or nine men on the line of scrimmage and did a good job of disguising it at times and gap adjusting the defenses. You can't take away from them doing what they were supposed to do and we didn't."
Heading into the second week of play, Nall says that his group still has a long way to go to meet his expectations. "I'm still not happy with the performance the other day. I thought we did some good things and I thought the kids competed hard. That is the big thing I'm proud of-- the way they competed--but as I told them I am not happy one bit with the execution."
One offensive lineman who had a solid performance in the opening game was junior weakside tackle Mark Pera. However, Pera says that he can really improve his play this week with a few mental adjustments. "I think I played pretty decent, but I can definitely play a lot better," Pera notes. "I didn't do a lot of the things that I know I can do, and there were a lot of plays that I knew what to do and I just didn't do it." Pera says that mental adjustments will be the biggest key to this offensive line getting better throughout the season.
With three new starters, the offensive line was a major area of concern in the preseason. The group's solid start in the first half was noticed by many. "A lot of people said that they were surprised with how we played, but I wasn't that surprised," Pera says. "I knew that we could go out and do it. Actually, l thought we should have played better than what we did."
Overall, Pera says that the offensive line's performance in week one had some high points, but ultimately has to improve if the Tigers are going to fulfill their goals this season. "It was the first time for this offensive line to be playing together in a game and we did a lot of good things," Pera says. "We had good effort like the coaches told us. In the second half, we didn't stay in our box and finish stuff like we know how to. It was an OK outing, but obviously it has got to get better."
Following a Monday night game in Los Angeles, the Tigers only had two real practice days on Wednesday and Thursday to prepare for the Catamounts on Saturday. However, Pera says the short week will not affect the offensive line's preparation in the least. "We are ready. We know that Western Carolina is going to come in here and give us a good game. So, we are ready mentally and I think we are going to have a good week."