Just looking at the box score from Thursday's game won't tell you a whole lot about what happened on the field. Hawaii covered the spread. Taylor Graham had a terrible game. None of the receivers except Keith Kirkwood stood out. Of these three, for example, only one is true (that Hawaii covered.) The rest change significantly depending on whether or not you actually watched the game.
The box score tells us, for example, that Taylor was just 16 of 41, for 208 yards and 4 picks. And, if that's all I'm looking at then yes, I'm assuming he had a pretty tough day at the office. This does not account, however, for numerous drops and miscommunications that are atypical of what will happen moving forward with the team. This is why people have such a big problem with the Quarterback Rating stat. It looks at performance without actually "watching" the game (something that ESPN's QBR does a much better job at calculating for.) Anyway, this is not a Taylor Graham post. It was just an example to show you how stats alone without context can be misleading.
Which brings us to Vasquez. He had 2 catches for 15 yards against SC, not overwhelmingly impressive numbers by any stretch. And yet when watching the game, one thing was pretty obvious. He was almost always open. I've written this before, but he is the most physically imposing/dominant of all the receivers that we currently have on the roster, and if you go and re-watch his first down catch in the second quarter you see all of that on full display. Body control, going up to attack the ball at its highest point, solid break coming out of his route, using his strength to effectively box out the receiver. Even if it was just on one catch, it was all there wrapped nicely in a bow. I don't need to wax poetic here about his use. His stats, like that of the rest of the offense, will get better as the season progresses. And they are all young (meaning they all have eligibility left after this season). Hope springs.
The thing I was most impressed with though, (and the reason for this entry) is his maturity off the field. He sent out a tweet yesterday about his birthday. And of course, me being the magnificent homer that I am, felt compelled to respond. This is the interaction that transpired:
Vasquez: Birthday is tomorrow !
Me: where's the party at? (besides on the field in Corvallis next saturday)
Vasquez: the party is in my room watching film so that we can win the next game ! lol just trying to get better !
He didn't have to respond this way (there was no wrong answer here.) He could have said anything. He could have told me that he was going to the club with his boys on the team and that would have been okay. He could have told me he was going to dinner. That he was just gonna hang out and play video games. It's his birthday and they have a long week off (thursday game means they don't play again until next saturday.) But he didn't.
"The party is in my room watching film."
I mean, really? Pretty friggin awesome, if you ask me. Happy Birthday Vasquez!
If Hawaii is going to move the ball offensively, they'll need a bigger contribution from him and the rest of the receivers. There is clearly talent there, it's just a matter of them getting on the same page with the quarterback. Aside from some of the drops, there were clearly times when a receiver thought he was running one route, and Taylor thought he was running another (which led to a pass that probably should have been considered grounding since it was throw to empty space.) Hopefully a few weeks of practice will get this resolved, now that they know what game-speed feels like.
Also, thanks to Steven Tsai and the Warrior Beat blog for the image of Vasquez. Not a whole lot of pictures out there of this guy.