Problem Areas Improving

The first couple of games of the year saw some immediate red flags raised that the team has worked hard on to put back down, most notably the assignment-blocking errors in pass protection and in special teams execution. Last week's games against Air Force saw strides in both areas.

"We were tons better against Air Force," said offensive lineman Travis Bright. "What happened against Tulsa was ridiculous and I felt that we came together a lot more and fixed the stupid stuff that we were doing. I know that I did because I did a lot of stupid stuff against Tulsa."

The Air Force game saw a plethora of pressure from the Falcon defense as they brought five-to-seven guys on the pass rush on almost every down. But in the face of this pressure, the Cougar offensive line and the running backs collectively got it done, cutting down on the sacks allowed as well as cutting down on the hits Max Hall had to endure.

"We weren't perfect obviously," said Bright. "We allowed some stuff that we shouldn't, but we all felt that we improved a lot against what was probably a tougher defense. We didn't make the mental errors and we did a good job protecting Max and letting the offense work. We just need to improve the mistakes that we did make and make sure we improve even more this coming week."

More of the Same

This week's matchup against New Mexico will bring more of the same in regards to defensive pressure applied during passing situations. The Lobos, like the Falcons, like to blitz and blitz often.

"They bring guys from everywhere," noted Bright. "They blitz every bit as much as Air Force from what I've seen, but they bring guys from more places than Air Force does. It's going to be another challenge, but we're up to it."

Shakeup at Center

Last week's game saw Tom Sorensen enter the game at center midway through the third quarter, where he was able to finish the game out for starting center Sete Aulai. Will that continue and will we see more of Sorensen in the coming weeks?

"I'm not sure, but I hope so," said Sorensen. "I don't know the reasons why they put me in. Coach Weber just went to me and told me to get in there and I don't hesitate when I get the opportunity to get some playing time. I hope I did well, so they'll trust me to get in there some more. I just want to play whenever and wherever I can."

Curing the Punting Ails

The first game for punter C.J. Santiago in the Cougar uniform was forgettable, as his consistently shanked punts during the Arizona game were met by a chorus of boos from some of the Cougar faithful. Since then, Santiago has settled in to where punting should no longer be a worry.

"It's all mental," said Santiago. "With the first game and everything I think I was just over-thinking things and stuff like that. I wanted to do so well that I think it affected me. Now I feel settled in and feel that I'll do fine for the rest of the year."

Indeed, Santiago stands as the 32nd best punter in the nation based on average yards per punt, which is more than satisfactory considering his first game woes. With the increased reps in a formation that includes almost 1,000 pounds - divided between three linemen - right in front of him for protection, Santiago feels he's now comfortable.

"Yeah, I wasn't used to the formation when I first got here, but I'm fine now," said Santiago. "I know that I have the leg and the technique to be a very good and consistent punter. I feel that now that I'm settled in that I'll continue to help out this team by punting well."

Up the Seam

The signature offensive play against Air Force was the seam route to Dennis Pitta, which was enabled in large part by the Falcon cover-two defensive coverage, something that Hall and Pitta were able to exploit.

"We saw on film before the game that the seam route would probably work, and it did fortunately," said Max Hall. "Most of the credit, just about all of the credit goes to Dennis. It's not an easy route to run and he did it just about as perfect as you could ask."

The seam route is where a tight end or middle receiver basically runs up the seam of the coverage in a straight line. Against a cover-two, timing is everything in executing the route, as the ball needs to come in between the linebacker's underneath coverage and the safeties over the top. It's a play where a quarterback can really look bad if the timing isn't right.

"It's a tough throw," said Hall. "You can't just lob it up there or your guy is going to be taken out by the safety, and if you throw it on a line, then the linebacker will pick it off, so it has to be sort of in between."

Fortunately for Hall, he has the ready advantage of some very tall tight ends who run great routes, enabling this difficult pass.

"Dennis is obviously very tall and athletic, as are Vic [So'oto] and Andrew [George]," said Hall. "They give me a bigger target and I know that I can trust those guys to make a play. On that third-and-long, Dennis had guys all around him, but I knew that if I just got it there and up high that he would make the play. It's really all about the tight ends and what they're able to do. I'm just fortunate to have them."

Pitta, meanwhile, is more than ready to give all the credit to the guy delivering the pass.

"Max threw it perfectly every time," said Pitta. "He didn't leave me out to hang and got it there with precision and exactly at the time it needed to be there. I just made the catch. Max made it easy."

So will this coming Saturday's game set forth even more opportunities down the field and up the seam for the Cougar tight ends?

"Oh, for sure," answered Hall. "It's a great part of our offense and it's a very hard pass to defend if it's done right. We have the guys to get it done and fans will definitely see more of that play for the rest of the year."

Another Opportunity to Hit

If you strain your eyes during kickoff returns, you'll note a very unlikely lead-blocker for the returners. Defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen has assumed the position as a lead-blocker for the kick returners as they receiver the ball. For Jorgensen, it's just another opportunity to do what he loves.

"I'm all for getting to hit guys whenever and wherever I can," said Jorgensen. "Lead-blocking on kick returns is just another opportunity to hit a guy hard, which is why I play football."

Jorgensen wanted to get into the act more during preseason and immediately noted that participating in kick returns was likely the only other opportunity to hit a guy during the course of the game. He immediately volunteered his services.

"I just want to be on the field whenever I can to help this team," said Jorgensen. "I feel that I can hit guys pretty good. I love to do it, so I went to the kick return captain and he liked the idea. It's good because after the return I get to go the bench and rest up until the next defensive series. So far I love it and plan on doing it every year if they'll let me."


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