52 seconds of madness: the end of the 1st half

Dana Holgorsen during the Navy game / Photo by Mario Puente

To put it kindly, UH looked dysfunctional in the first half against Navy. The Midshipmen managed to turn the Cougar game plan upside down in just three plays. Because of that, UH often seemed desperate in their decision-making and execution. Clayton Tune, coming off an injury, started pressing immediately and hit two defenders in his first three throws.

But nothing we saw in the first 29+ minutes could compare to the pileup of mistakes committed and created in the last 52 seconds:

– Nathaniel Dell took the kickoff out of the endzone from 8 yards deep. That made absolutely no sense. Dell brought it out to the 23 (meaning UH lost yardage) and he cost his team six seconds. Trying to make a play is great but that wasn’t a smart decision under the circumstances.

– On the other hand, running the draw play on 1st and 10 was brilliant. Seriously, it was genius. There were 25 yards of daylight and two guards out ahead of McCaskill, going downfield to pave the way.

The eight guys that dropped into coverage should have identified that and made an adjustment but they didn’t. The only guy that had to be dealt with was the nose guard. UH center Kody Russey, the team’s best blocker, was taking care of him.

Except Russey let the nose get lower than him, which helped the defender put a move on Russey. He popped the center under his pads, knocking him back onto his heels. That allowed the nose guard to get his left hand free and make an athletic move to snare McCaskill.

That just can’t happen from Russey – he has to win that matchup, knowing the ball is coming right by him. But McCaskill’s got to have better vision to ensure he can sidestep the only white jersey around him. If he does that, he won’t meet first contact until the third level.

McCaskill seems to have excellent vision in space but, similar to some of UH’s other running backs, he also seems to lack between-the-tackles vision. He’s got to be able to see the need to bounce around Russey.

– Yes, Singleton should have stayed on the ground. But the TV broadcast made it out like that entire sequence was all about burning a timeout. That’s wrong. The clock initially stopped for the first down but when the back judge realized Singleton was “hurt,” he signaled for a stoppage for a hurt player. Watch him run to get the ball to set back in play and then call for a clock stoppage:

But Dana started overreacting and came on the field to call the timeout. They still hadn’t even put the ball in play. He let emotion get the better of him.

Dana seemed to think that once Singleton got up, he would need to come out of the game, which would have allowed Navy to bleed the clock while making substitutions. He didn’t calm down to look at the field judge standing there with the ball, ask the side judge, or look at the stopped clock.

– During the ensuing timeout, Dana is so busy raging that he doesn’t take time to tell Alton McCaskill to get out of bounds on the next play. Yes, at some point McCaskill should know but clearly, he didn’t. And that’s on him but it’s also on the head coach and play-caller.

Dana stood with McCaskill for forever and a day and obviously didn’t remind the freshman to get out of bounds. Every coach at every level reminds the skill people to get out of bounds there. It appears UH did not.

Lagniappe: For his part, Christian Trahan managed to rise above the chaos happening all around him and made two nice catches. He even managed to get himself out of bounds which, at the time, seemed miraculous in itself.

– On the play that ended up being the final of the half, Tune knew he couldn’t run it and knew he couldn’t get to the sideline, right? Right. He should have thrown it away at that point. He should have been instructed to throw it away in that situation.

Possibly worse than that, he had a streaking Marcus Jones down the right sideline open and Clayton flat-out didn’t see him. Maybe there’s an argument that the safety could have gotten there to help but I think with a well-timed throw, he hits Jones inside the 10. If that happens, the entire calamity would have been forgotten.

Instead, it looks like another example of Tune freezing rather than seeing his options. Worst case, Clayton throws it away, and UH has one more throw at the end zone before attempting a long field goal.

The thing is, Tune made the throws to get his team down the field. Ultimately, he panicked and tried to run while missing Jones and that’s all most people will remember. Nathaniel Dell did not understand how extra seconds would matter more than possibly getting a few more yards of field position. Kody Russey allowed the nose guard to get leverage on him, win an individual battle, and get his arm around to take down the runner. Alton McCaskill made a rookie mistake and might have changed the entire drive had he worked to sidestep his center on the opening play. Holgorsen lost his cool on the play that Singleton was “hurt” on, blowing a timeout there that he didn’t need to call. And worse than that, he didn’t have his QB or his RB prepared for routine situations in critical moments.

Just a disorganized mess.

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