I have to admit, the first half of this game had me a bit nervous. Idaho seemed to do a decent job of shutting down the Eagles' attack. The Vandals were throwing the ball well and keeping it close. The one highlight (and whoa was it yet another highlight) was an 83 yard scamper by Matt Breida.
I missed the second touchdown run, but I got a text from my brother about how impressive he looked on another big run. I didn't realize just how impressive until I was able to get home and watch the highlight. Everyone knows he has good speed, but he used some excellent vision, patience, elusiveness, tackle-breaking, etc. on that one. What makes it even better for me (as a lover of the old triple option) is that it came on a pitch play. The thought of Ellison at QB, Ramsby at B-Back, and Breida on the edge as the A-Back pitch man brings to mind a Bret Bielema quote about last year's Texas Bowl.
Four games into the season, I think we can see that the West Virginia game was a perfect storm. The Eagles faced what is quietly one of the top teams in the nation with a relatively inexperienced QB and a brand new offensive line. I - and I'm sure many of you - were worried after that game. However, every game since has shown us that Willie Fritz & Company are still on track with the Eagles to do great things in Year 2. I don't see any reason why the Eagles can't repeat as Sun Belt Champions. They'll just have to get over that nasty little hump in Boone.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Breida. Breida things. He really is a home run threat every time he touches the football. It's a joy to watch.
Kevin Ellison's command of the offense. Favian Upshaw is good. I think the Eagles could win the Sun Belt with him at the QB position by himself. Kevin Ellison is just another level of special, though.
Perhaps it's the fact he was brought in by Monken to run the triple option and ran it as the starter for the close of the 2013 season. Whatever it is, he's just significantly better on the pitch plays. The passing is 50/50 to me between the two of them, but overall Ellison is the man who gives the Eagles the best chance to go the distance in conference for the second year in a row.
Defensive Takeaways. Two more interceptions! One of them by big ole Jay Ellison dropping back into coverage and reading the QB's eyes. That was a very impressive INT. He made a fantastic move to step in and take it away from the wide receiver.
Kicking Game. Three more field goals attempted for Alex Hanks. Three more field goals made. All of them in the 30 yard range. I'll take that any day.
Offensive Turnovers. Two more turnovers for the offense. One interception. One fumble. That fumble is questionable, though. I still think it rolled out of bounds, first. I'll get back to that in a second, though.
Getting Burned on Deep Balls. I'm not going to pretend to understand coverage schemes or think I can diagnose why we got burned on the two deep touchdown passes, but having it happen twice is still concerning. West Virginia did the same thing to us, and we're going to face some other excellent passing teams before the season is over. I'm still more confident in the secondary than I was last year, though. They've looked well except for the few times they've been beat deep.
The Game Broadcast. Woof. No down and distance graphic? No time outs? Nothing but time and quarter? That was hard to watch. Showing down and distance is something most everyone has had the ability to show for years. I don't know why it was missing in their broadcast. Then there's the camera angles. I wonder if that fumble would still have been ruled a fumble with a camera angle down that sideline. It sure looked to me like it touched the white line, first. Or at least that an Idaho player touched it while out-of-bounds.
Still, it's an improvement over previous years. At least we were able to watch the Eagles play when they're 2000+ miles away from home. I'll take being able to watch the game over having to listen to it on the radio (as much as I love the radio guys) any day. And you can always turn down the sound and listen to the radio play-by-play. It will usually beat the TV crew by leaps and bounds, too.
I really like where this team is at, right now. They've rebounded from the game against West Virginia to handle a tough non-conference opponent in Western Michigan. They trounced an old familiar foe (and thorn in our side). They traveled across the country and played a game at a much later time than they're used to and won by a healthy margin.
Now they travel to Louisiana Monroe. The Warhawks gave the Eagles one of their toughest games last season in the final game of the year. ULM is coming off a thrashing at the hands of Alabama. It's hard to really see where the Warhawks are at right now, since they've only played UGA (14-51 loss), FCS Nichols State (47-0 win), and Alabama (0-34 loss). This game is one I circled on the calendar at the beginning as a conference measuring stick. If the Eagles can get out of Monroe with a victory, then I'd like to think App State will be the hardest test remaining.
I'd like to think that. There are still some other tough Sun Belt foes on the schedule (TXST, USA, maybe Troy), though. Right now it's just one game at a time, though. You can't win them all if you don't win the next one.