Midterm Report Card

by Staff

SUBJECT MARKS Quarterbacks Matt Dlugolecki has performed a little under expectation so far this season. While he has had the misfortunes of having to play behind a struggling offensive line and losing his top offensive partner, Lynell Hamilton, he still has shown little improvement over last season. The problems that plagued him last season – inconsistency, bad decision making, and poorly thrown balls – have re-surfaced in a few of the games this season. On many occasions, he has missed an open receiver or overthrown the ball. Heading into the season, there were legitimate hopes he had rectified those problems, but so far, he has only been average. He has thrown for 1,268 yards and six touchdowns, but has also tossed seven interceptions. C+ Running backs Michael Franklin and Brandon Bornes have performed decently in place of Hamilton, but neither brings that added dimension to the game Hamilton did ? durability. Franklin has done a mediocre job as the primary ball-carrier, averaging 4.3 yards per carry and rushing for 334 yards and two touchdowns. Bornes, meanwhile, has been a good change-of-pace and short-yardage back, averaging an impressive 5.6 ypc. Although they have teamed up to average more than 100 yards per game, they simply haven?t been able to drive the offense consistently. B- Wide receivers Easily the most improved facet of the team, this corps has grown into one of the best units in the Mountain West Conference. Starting at the top with Jeff Webb and Robert Ortiz, the unit has performed exceedingly well. Down the lineup, with Devin Pitts and Ramal Porter, the group has made the life of Dlugolecki a lot easier. Webb and Ortiz have become a very formidable one-two punch, as Webb has hauled in 37 catches for 434 yards, and Ortiz has grabbed 23 balls for 336 yards. Each has three touchdowns, and both had amazing one-handed snags in the narrow loss at Michigan. B+ Offensive line It’s hard to fault these guys. The offensive line has been torn apart by injuries, and has been plagued by bouts of inconsistency. Granted, it is very hard to find a rhythm when the unit has had five different starting lineups in five games. The group has given up 10 sacks in five games, but Dlugolecki has done a surprisingly good job at avoiding some others. During the course of the season, I expect this group to improve vastly, as its growth in consistency should parallel its rising familiarity. C+ Defensive line This is a group that seems ready to explode. There have been mild tremors – Blake Lobel’s three sacks, Aloali Lealofi’s four tackles-for-loss, and Antwan Applewhite’s huge interception return at Michigan – but no one person has blown up quite just yet. With a constant shifting throughout the line as some of the players are more adept at passing situations that others, it has been hard to get a grasp on this group. The Aztecs offer a solid front four in whichever pairing they decide to use, and look to have a good foundation for the rest of the season. B Linebackers What more is there to say about this group of talented young men?It says wonders that units “third best” linebacker, Heath Farwell, isin the top six nationally in sacks (five) and forced fumbles (three).With his role as strong side linebacker expanding to include moreblitz packages, Farwell has been a monster early in the season. Also,his hit on Michigan quarterback Chad Henne, who took way too long tokneel at the end of the game, has been one of our favorites.

Kirk Morrison and Matt McCoy, meanwhile, have been excellent.Morrison leads the team with 48 tackles, and McCoy is not too farbehind with 43. Both have been great against the run, consistentlyplugging holes and sniffing out the ball. Stephen Larsen and FreddieKeiaho have been very impressive for the unit as well, combining for21 tackles and two sacks. A- Secondary Safeties Marviel Underwood and Josh Dean have both played very well in anchoring the defensive backfield. While both have been torched a couple times, their overall consistency has been very good. The duo has combined for five interceptions, and is has absolutely smashed many a receiver coming across the middle. Cornerbacks Hubert Caliste and Marcus Demps, though, haven’t been quite as good. While they have had to face three of the best wideouts in the nation in Michigan’s Braylon Edwards, UCLA’s Tab Perry and Wyoming’s Javon Bouknight, they haven’t stepped up as needed. They have been crossed up on key occasions, and have allowed for several deep passes. Overall, there is room for improvement, but the group has played well. B Special teams The nubile unit has been incredibly inconsistent. Kicker Garret Palmer has missed three field goals in only eight tries. One last week against Wyoming – a 33-yard chip shot – could have made it a one-score game. The punting situation has been in absolute shambles, with neither Michael Hughes nor Sean Henschel playing anywhere near well. Luckily for the Aztecs, the coverage unit has been excellent with Kyle Conerly and Terrell Maze providing impeccable speed on the outside. The return game has been just average so far, without a single huge return. D Coaching There have been many questionable calls early in the season, specifically on offense. It seems coach Tom Craft has gone to the well way too often on the short bubble screen, which works only a few times per game. I simply don’t understand calling a hitch route that only gains six yards on a third-and-long, and I will never understand calling the option with a quarterback like Dlugolecki. C-