Wednesday dawns on an angry SMQ, filled with bile and disgust in the wake of Mid-major Tuesday's gruesome end. Form dictates giving due respect to a worthy opponent, but SMQ refuses to let the Eagles off the hook for its dismal effort (and he does mean effort literally), particularly the no-show by the confused, over-pursuing, poor-tackling, no-pass rushing, assignment-busting Southern Miss defense against a glorified high school scheme that didn't attempt its lone pass further than 12 yards downfield until the middle of the fourth quarter.
Rarely, maybe never, has he felt his team was thoroughly outcoached. But USM defenders, inept in all phases Tuesday, looked especially as if they'd never dreamt of learning the concept of the existence of a two-man read option, which gashed them consistently because, apparently, the only player with any responsibility on the play was the playside end, who looked to be charged with neutralizing the dive and containing the quarterback on the keep while the linebackers ran into the wash, or generally wherever they pleased. He guessed right on the dive maybe twice, on the keep once, but this was not tenable.
The defensive line made zero plays against the run and didn't lay a glove on not-very-talented Paul Smith. Every play-action, rollout, screen and misdirection found its target willing, waiting, biting, out of position and taking the wrong angle with not much abandon. A pudgy wide receiver scored on a simple speed option from the tailback position, pretty much just because Southern Miss let him. Where was the force from the corner? Why didn't they tackle him? Push that bastard out of bounds!
Also, a likely quarterback controversy brews between The Ineffective Jeremy Young and streaky, now hobbled Steven Reaves, whose unlikely hotness was doused for good at the end of his impressive first possession in the second quarter when a well-designed, well-thrown, go-ahead touchdown that changes the game completely was dropped by usually reliable Shawn Nelson, the most visible offender among the butterfingered corps that let eight other useful balls bounce incomplete in addition to the touchdown. Reaves has no chance to unravel, though, if Damion Fletcher - who singlehandedly kept Southern in the game in the first half with 19 carries for 95 yards, which didn't put a lot on the board but stemmed the massive defensive hemorrhaging by sustaining drives that kept USM well in the plus on time of possession and the defense, mercifully, on the bench - isn't relegated in the second half to guessing on blitz pickups he doesn't entirely know yet, even as the game remained well within striking distance (one score) until only a few minutes were left. Tulsa ate up massive amounts of second half clock because Fletcher only got five carries - two of them, for some reason, after the Eagles were already down two touchdowns very late.
Still, most of the frustration remains firmly with the defense for laying on national television the largest possible egg to have hatched only 20 points. They did not know what was going on. If not for a fumble deep in Southern Miss territory and a dozen drive-killing/extending (for USM's offense) penalties, to the one flag against USM, the 14-point margin perhaps doubles. Either way, the momentum of a three-game win streak and margin for error in-conference are nil.
Update [2006-10-4 11:15:10 by SMQ]: Reader Patrick submits the USM Fan Flow Chart, which SMQ suspects applies to many other schools: Vent, vent away