Tech’s secondary, a bit of a question mark entering the season, gets top marks, while the remainder of the defense and the special teams put in a dreadful showing. Grades for the offense are reasonably good, but given the competition, that’s nothing to brag about.
Quarterback: Statistically, Davis Webb was pretty good, passing for 452 yards and four touchdowns while completing 39 of 52 passes. Webb also distributed the wealth, connecting with 11 different receivers. But he also made three critical mistakes, tossing a red zone interception, forcing a go route pass which was picked off and nearly returned for a touchdown, and committing intentional grounding while in the end zone, which resulted in a safety. Those three mistakes contributed to a maximum point swing of 16 points.
Running Backs: This unit showed some life, albeit against a light box most of the night. Deandre Washington stepped for 104 yards and averaged 5.2 yards per carry. Quinton White and Justin Stockton contributed 45 and 38 yards respectively while both averaging over 5.5 yards per carry. Stockton’s speed is as advertised and really makes a difference. Tech’s off-tackle running game could be a weapon this season. That said, Tech still does not have a running back who can consistently break arm tackles, and who can move the pile. Short-yardage runs between the tackles look like a grave weakness.
Receivers: Senior Bradley Marquez came up huge when the team needed him most. He snagged 11 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns, showing very good speed on a 70-yard touchdown, blowing by two defenders who had the angle on him. Jordan Davis, a Danny Amendola clone, may have been Tech’s second best receiver against the Bears. Reggie Davis looked extremely dangerous on a 32-yard reception in the second quarter. Tech needs to make a concerted effort to get him the ball in stride in the open field. Blocking by the receivers was borderline terrible.
Offensive Line: For most of the game, Central Arkansas did not stress Tech’s o-line, preferring to bring only three or four defenders on passing downs and daring Tech to run the ball in 2nd- and 3rd-and-long situations. Consequently, there wasn’t much pass rush. But when the Bears loaded the box in short-yardage situations the interior of the o-line got zero push and that is a major concern. The line also contributed its fair share to Tech’s allotment of 15 penalties.
Defensive Line: The Red Raider d-line boasts an infusion of new blood and big bodies, but the results were depressingly similar to what we’ve seen in past years, particularly against the run. The interior of the line, whether it be Jackson Richards or one of the new JUCO recruits, was rooted out on running plays, and the defensive ends, including Branden Jackson, sometimes lost leverage on off-tackle runs. Rika Levi looked like a positive contributor before succumbing early to a knee injury. The pass rush was acceptable but hardly exceptional.
Linebackers: Overall, it was a quiet outing for this group. Pete Robertson did record one sack, but it was far from the dominant outing many of us expected from him. Micah Awe, who seemed to get as many snaps as Sam Eguavoen, showed a bit more fire and physicality than most. And the linebackers must share some of the blame for Tech’s chronic inability to win short-yardage battles against CAU.
Secondary: This unit may have been the bright spot for the entire team. Keenon Ward was certainly the team MVP. He was physical and aggressive and played like a man. And he was a rare specimen in that respect. True freshman corner Tevin Madison looks like a revelation. He did allow one touchdown pass, but also tallied nine tackles and three pass breakups. The Bears completed a pass against him on the very first play, but on the next play Madison fought off a block and tackled a receiver for a four-yard loss. As the coaches have said, Madison is a competitor. Justis Nelson was solid enough at the other cornerback position. J.J. Gaines was quiet. The lack of interceptions—a carry-over from last season—remains a major concern.
Special Teams: On the whole, not good. Ryan Bustin did nothing to erase skepticism by missing a chip shot field goal. Cameron Batson failed to field numerous punts and the failure cost Tech all sorts of field position. When Batson did field punts, his returns were nothing special. Kickoffs by Taylor Symmank and Kramer Fyfe were decent, but coverage was only average. Jakeem Grant did his best to spark Tech with a few good kickoff returns—three fielded deep in the end zone—but his efforts simply stood out as flickers of light in the pervading gloom.
Central Arkansas Report Card
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