1. The Rush Defense has to be Better. The rush defense was simply not good enough and there were just too many lanes to run through. It certainly didn't help to have Rika Levi hurt within the first few minutes of the game, but injuries happen and this team just has to figure something out. Figuring something out isn't a plan and it's never fun to think that after the first game, the defense is going to be similar to what it was last year. UCA ran for 178 yards and 3.3 yards an attempt. Really though, it would have been almost a 200 yard rushing game had their quarterback not been sacked a few times.
The thing that I just don't get is that defense isn't supposed to be this hard and/or difficult. It's just not. Especially this defense. You line up based on the location of the ball, you fill a gap and you tackle. Of course, tackling was suspect at best last night too. I don't have any solutions other than that last sentence.
2. Webb Was Uneven. I don't expect perfection. Not from college players, but Webb's performance wasn't what I was expecting. Oh, yeah, the yards and the touchdowns are there, but also there are the three turnovers, all on Webb and he has to be better. He does. There are higher expectations on your best players and that goes for Webb. Webb is arguably the team's best player and he has to be smarter with the football. The first interception, there were just too many bodies there in traffic for something bad NOT to happen. The second interception, it was essentially an under thrown jump-ball with a 5'6" receiver and with the safety, he should have recognized, immediately, that he needed to get the ball out within 2 seconds of the snap. Especially since he was standing in his own endzone. I don't and won't make any excuses on that end, other than Webb has to be damn near perfect.
And Webb did put up some impressive numbers along the way, 8.5 yards per attempt for 450 yards passing and 4 touchdowns. Yeah, I can live with those, but turnovers are a killer. They're an equalizer. UCA stayed in this game because of Webb's turnovers. I do try desperately to be optimistic and the one thing that I think can happen is Davis Webb can be better.
3. Bradley Marquez Was Terrific. He was just terrific on the night. 11 catches for 184 yards and 2 touchdowns. No other receiver caught more than 54 yards. The thing that I tend to forget about Marquez is just how fast he is. That one UCA defender had a line and an angle on Marquez on his first touchdown, on the slant. Marquez just poured on the jets. I tend to forget how elite Marquez is in terms of speed.
4. Madison Made Some Plays. The best thing about the defense is that Tevin Madison played really well. Really well. He did have a touchdown thrown on him, but he was picked on pretty regularly through the game and came up winning 90% of those battles. His body was right most of the time in terms of him and the ball and that should be something that gets better as we move along the season.
5. The Running Game Returns. The best news of the night was that the running game really looked pretty good for the most part. DeAndre Washington, Quinton White and Justin Stockton all played really well. The worst thing about the running game is that I'm almost positive that the running backs had 135 or so yards in the first half and only managed another 50 in the second half. It would have been really nice to sustain that type of pressure from the running game but it seemed a bit stymied in the second half. Washington was the star of the show and had 104 yards on 20 carries for about 5 yards a touch. That's really fantastic news. White and Stockton each performed well, with Stockton registering his first touchdown of his career. If you want to include the passing yards (which should have been better as Washington dropped an important third down pass that was between the numbers), you could tack on another 39 yards onto those totals of 223 total yards of offense from the running backs.
6. Who Showed Up? I keep racking my brain to think who stood out on defense and it's just not happening. The UCA offense ran for too many yards and although Madison was real good for a freshman, I just can't think of another player on defense that really showed up defensively. A player that made his presence known. That's the problem I think, this defense (really any defense) needs a guy that can make plays. Before this game, to me, it meant that Sam Eguavoen, Branden Jackson and Pete Robertson needed to be all-world players for this defense. Time to step up.
7. We've Got to Talk About Penalties. A personal foul in the second drive on the offense (I don't remember who this was). A personal foul on Madison in the second quarter. A couple of holding penalties in the first and second quarter. A Reginald Davis holding penalty right out of the gate in the second half. Justin Stockton holding during a kickoff. Jalen Barnes receives an unsportsman like conduct for intentionally coming up to a UCA receiver and jawing at him behind his back. A Jared Kaster late hit, after the play was completely over and this team is trying to put away UCA (because the game is within one freaking score) and Kaster comes up after he knows that Stockton has run for 9 yards and just knocks the crap out of a UCA defender. Dammit, that's not the way this game is supposed to be played. Those last two bother me more than anything else and if anything, it shows a lack of respect and control and that shit can't happen. It just can't. Kingsbury said that the players took responsibility for dumb penalties during the spring and the fall camp, well, it's time for these players to realize that if they don't play well and play in control, they simply won't play. Bench Barnes and Kaster and let's see if those penalties will continue.
8. Freshmen Played. Aside from Madison, Jah'Shawn Johnson and Derrick Dixon both played and had their redshirts removed, along with Stockton on offense. Also getting into the game, was Sam Atoe, who had a redshirt year available, but he did play.
9. Grant's All-Purpose Yards. Jakeem Grant didn't show up as much on the offensive end, only nabbing 6 catches for 48 yards, but he did show up in the return game as he had 3 kickoff returns for 87 yards, including a 32 yard return that helped the offense get back on track to start the second half.
10. Bad Things, Man. All of the things that you hoped would be worked out over the offseason, seemed to rear their ugly head for the first game and that's the biggest kick in the gut.
Turnovers? Yeah, two of them. Go ahead and throw in a safety for good measure. That's three if you want to be technical.
Poor play by the defense? Yeah.
It's disappointing. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury said as much after the game:
Just disappointed because I know how good they can be and to come out and play like that. I've got to give Central Arkansas all the credit in the world. They played hard. They had a plan. They expected to win the game. But to come out and have that many undisciplined penalties and turn the ball over twice and take a safety on the other one which counts as a turnover, it was pretty embarrassing to be honest.
It's disappointing because you have this expectation of Kingsbury that he's going to have a team that's more prepared than what they were. I think Kingsbury is disappointed in himself, the players and everyone else involved in the game preparation. It's going to be a long week for these players.