Curle: The Silver Lining

Hey, let me ask you people a simple question: Who wants some sunshine blown up their rear end?

 

I do, I do! After all, with the disappointing way things have gone this football season and the fall chill in the air, a good dosage of UV rays up the metaphorical tailpipe might do well to bring some warmth and happiness during these dreary days of late October.

 

So without further ado, here's some good ol' fashioned posterior phototherapy to help you see the silver lining to the cloud hanging over Carter Finely and to get you through the rest of the football season.

 

1. The Pressure's Off.  Nothing relieves the crushing weight of great expectations like crumbling like a communion wafer before the midway point of the season, and the Pack has unfortunately done just that. With perhaps the best defensive front four in the country and an improved Jay Davis at the helm, Pack fans once again talked of conference titles and BCS bowls prior to the Virginia Tech game. 

 

Well, losses in that game and the winnable games against Carolina, Clemson and Wake Forest have deflated those once lofty hopes. The dreams of playing football in January of '06 are gone.

 

So now that Pack fans aren't sweating so profusely over every play and the bandwagon has been trimmed of all the fat, the coaches and players can take a different tact to the remaining games this season. Instead of "gripping it"—a condition where golfers and baseball players ruin their swings by squeezing on the club or bat too hard—now the team can focus on improving this year's squad AND next year's squad by dialing the intensity down a notch.

 

Not that they would ever play less than full-speed, but rather the team now can reel in some of the over-aggressive mentality that has led to so many mental mistakes this season: lining up offsides trying to get one or two unnecessary inches closer to the line, late hits out of bounds in an attempt to intimidate the opponent, forcing passes across the field or into triple coverage trying to make the big play.

 

If the coaching staff will look at using the rest of the game snaps this season as an instructional tool, they can make tremendous strides in teaching the juniors and underclassmen how best to play the game in '06 and beyond.

 

2. Bring On Stone. Jay Davis, God bless him, gave everything he could to this program, but for whatever reason he could never fill the ginormous shoes left by Philip Rivers. His vocal leadership ability left much to be desired and the team never seemed to respond to him in times of adversity like it did under his predecessor.

 

To coach Amato's credit, he never gave up on him or into the public pressure to replace him when folks started grumbling last season. He stuck with him and gave him every opportunity to prove that he was just as good a player under the lights as he was on the practice field.

 

Well, in the same vein as the last silver lining, it's time to start thinking about next season. Davis will be gone next year regardless of his play, and Marcus Stone (assuming he's not supplanted by an underclassman) will take sole charge of the reigns. Amato has made the right move in going with Stone from here on out.

 

No doubt, Stone has a lot of work ahead of himself. He's never looked comfortable behind center, and his erratic play has left Amato and Co. less than thrilled about him being the top starter up to this point.

 

But now that Stone is the starter, he'll get the lion's share of the snaps in practice and many more chances to run the heap of plays in Marc Trestman's big offensive playbook that he maybe only ran once or twice over the course of a week's practices. Hopefully that will give him a better grasp of the depth of an offense that Trestman seems to have made exceedingly shallow in the hopes of improving the QBs' comprehension rate.

 

3. Basketball Season Is Right Around The Corner: Remember when Pack fans would dread November because it interrupted a winning football season? Now the tables have turned and folks are eagerly awaiting a roundball squad that should once again finish in the top-three in the conference. Herb Sendek's seat has cooled down to "light simmer" with a sweet-sixteen appearance under his belt and yet another strong crop of fresh interchangeable parts on the bench, and folks are once again thinking State might be a basketball school at heart after all.

 

Am I advocating that the football team should give up? Not at all. Believe it or not, every last one of those games left on the schedule is winnable, and running the table in dramatic fashion would put the Pack in a decent bowl at 7-4.

 

But the State fans and coaches should not lose sight of the tremendous opportunity presented by the remaining games this season. Amato can try some different things, work on honing techniques at full-speed in game time situations, if nothing more than to prove to the guys on the field that games can be won by playing under control and dialed down a notch, without the hell-bent-for-destruction bravado that seems to have paralyzed the winning spirit of the team with penalties and mental mistakes.

 

When the zebras throw you cloth lemons, about the only thing you can do is make some lemonade. Sure, it would be really nasty and full of lint, but still…


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