Thank you, Graham, for reminding us why you are the starter. Harrell had a nearly flawless 31-40, 6 TD effort. The difference in the offensive performance was due to several factors. First of all, we finally used the entire field and spread the passes around. Nine different players caught passes (ten if you count Harrell's completion to himself.) Second, we got Jarrett Hicks more involved. Hicks was only led in receptions by Joel Filani and Shannon Woods. Finally, Shannon Woods became more of a part of the offense, but I'll get to that in a second. Credit goes out to Harrell this week for leading the resurgence of the Air Raid.
At this point, I'm almost tired of giving Shannon Woods an A+ grade. However, he keeps earning it week after week. I guess I'll learn to deal with it, considering what his phenomenal performances provide to our team. He had 173 yards last game with his rushing and receiving yards. He proved his ability to earn yards-after-catch in his 32-yard touchdown. Woods is a complete back; much more so than any of us thought that he would be this year. Woods has become the catalyst for our offense that Taurean Henderson was, and that certainly is a noteworthy accomplishment.
They arguably earned the AFROS label this week. Danny Amendola and Joel Filani were touchdown machines, Jarrett Hicks was finally utilized, and solid performances were turned in by L.A. Reed, Eric Morris, and Robert Johnson. Reed's touchdown was especially impressive, as he broke several tackles. Eric Morris is a player who fights for every yard, which is always nice to see. Johnson provided his contribution, but dropped one pass that should have been a touchdown grab. The Walker brothers provided a nice change of pace as well, and it's good to see the unit as a whole playing well.
The line's protection gave Graham time to shine, and Harrell took advantage of the opportunity. If you subscribe to the adage that says that games are won and lost in the trenches, then credit the offensive line for Saturday's win. The O-line tore it up any way you want to slice it, as Shannon had the holes to run and Graham had all of the time in the world to throw. What is even more impressive is that the unit did it without Manny Ramirez. Brandon Carter stepped it up and filled in very nicely, and has a bright future with the Red Raiders. Shout out to the O-line and the 78 Posse, who both represented us well!
The defensive line got Keyunta Dawson back, and had an impressive effort. Dawson had four tackles, two of which were sacks. Seth Nitschmann also had a good game, recording two tackles for loss. On the afternoon, the defensive line combined for five sacks and six tackles for loss, which is an impressive day. The line also held a capable running back, Stevie Hicks, to only 56 yards. Furthermore, I was extremely pleased with the way that the line contained Bret Meyer in check. Meyer is a relatively mobile quarterback, and the sacks and containment were a welcome effort.
Brock Stratton had his second straight good game with his two huge interceptions. Kellen Tillman also played with intensity, which both helped and hurt his game. Tillman led the team in tackles, but committed a costly penalty as well. Kellen needs to take a page out of Dwayne Slay's book in controlling his emotions. Slay was like Tillman is right now in his Junior year, but kept himself in check in his dominant Senior year. Tillman needs to follow suit. Brent Slaughter played in relief of Session during Saturday's game, and made the most of his time with his five tackles, one of which was a TFL. The LB unit played well.
The secondary redeemed themselves for their sub-par performance last week. Antonio Huffman and Darcel McBath showed off their coverage skills, both recording important deflections. The big surprise was the impact that Daniel Charbonnet had in the game with his two pass breakups. Daniel is a player to get excited about, as is his brother Taylor, who will be an incoming freshman in 2007. Chris Parker and Joe Garcia did their jobs as well, making several key tackles. The unit forced several coverage sacks, and held talented receiver Todd Blythe to only two receptions for 23 yards. Well done, boys.
This game would have been an absolute rout if the special teams had done their job. There were three separate occasions in which the Cyclones punted the football, yet got the ball back on the same play due to mistakes by our special teams. Amendola had another costly muffed punt, Filani roughed the punter, and Marcus Bunton had a kick graze his leg while he was trying to block on a punt return. Bunton's fumble was an excusable "sh*t happens" mistake, Amendola's muff was slightly understandable given the wind, but Filani's roughing the kicker was completely unnecessary. These mistakes will not fly against Texas.
Overall, this was perhaps the best the team has played all season long. The offense and the defense were both clicking, working together, and helping each other out. As I said before, if the special teams had stepped it up, the game would have been closer to 60-10 with the way the O and D were playing. The defense forced several three-and-outs, and the offense was pretty unstoppable. This was the type of game that we needed to play to get ready for the huge game against Texas. If the offense and defense play like they did on Saturday and the "special" in special teams means "gold star" instead of "short bus," UT better watch out.
(Questions, comments, praise, and constructive criticism can be directed to Trent within the forums or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)