Post Game Report | Bwahlberg

We’re now about 48 hours removed from what I’d think is one of the most devastatingly tough losses we’ve experienced as a fanbase inside Washington Grizzly Stadium. It still feels surreal to me, I still get upset thinking about all of the “what could have been” situations in the 4th quarter. Unfortunately (to steal a somewhat well known line) these Griz are/were exactly who we thought they were. The fought like hell through the game, they didn’t quit, they ALMOST got it done, yet their ongoing flaws once again sunk the day. And insult to injury, against the cats, costing another playoff trip, for the 3rd year in a row.

I have some general thoughts on the season and looking ahead, but I wanted to put this post-game post up for the sake of just this game.

Through the week all of the talk was how evenly matched these teams were and by the way the game rolled out it, it sure was a dead-on assessment. Despite all of the ups and downs and wild stuff that happened, one play put the Griz up but was stopped by an expertly timed timeout, and the next time it was shut down and fumbled away for a cat win.

Unfortunately the reason for the loss is the same reason for 4 of the 5 losses this season:

– Turnovers. -2 and it could have been worse as MSU dropped two near interceptions, both would have been in the red zone. When this team turned the ball over it’s a surefire recipe for disaster. I went and looked back at other really crappy seasons (by our measures) to see how some of the poorer Griz teams faired in terms of lost turnovers. 2017 had 26 lost, 2016 had just 20 lost, 2012 had 24 lost. 2010 had a whopping 32 lost. Under Bobby’s prior tenure here his worst year was 2003 with 27 lost. His Griz over the course of that stretch had 139 lost turnovers in 97 games, that’s an average of 1.43 lost per game. This year the Griz had 20 lost turnovers, a slightly higher average than the course of the prior Bobby-coached teams. However the timing and recourse of those turnovers were more pronounced than I’ve ever seen for a Griz team. Another key point from the game was a JLM fumble he recovered himself on a drive that was going well, it turned a would-be run for a first down into cat territory into a 3rd and long that lead to a punt.

– O-line play. I actually thought the OL did a far better job than I expected them to do considering the pure talent of the Bobcat defensive line. Sneed was able to move in the pocket a bit and while he did get beat up he was able to keep making some plays. Of course the biggest stinging example was the OL getting blown up that lead to the Eastwood fumble that ended the game.

– Lack of a running game when Calhoun isn’t on the field. Sneed GAINED 58 but was net 21 thanks mostly to the sacks he took in the game (4 for a loss of 22). Only JLM had good running stats in the game. I like Eastwood as a developing running back, the guy will be a sophomore for us next year and has a chance to really build on this season. It’s clear that this team, this year, lacked the guy that needed for this role. Calhoun was that guy, but we’re all aware of his ups and (mostly) downs this season.

– Inability to play consistently through the game, especially the 4th quarter. Same song against the cats for these Griz, watching a 4th quarter lead disappear. The Griz this year have been outscored by 62 points this season in the 4th quarter. This game perfectly summed up what we’ve seen too often this year late. There’s plenty of reasons for it, I think. Youth and inexperience which really adds up as the season goes on, having to rely on the same guys far too often and too much inconsistency with even younger and more inexperienced backups. There’s the coaching/prepping side of it too all across the board. Getting an even approach to playing the whole game, not half or 3/4s of it. You felt it slipping away in this game, as we saw before multiple times.

It’s simply crazy to think that the Griz are essentially 3 fumbles away from being 9-2 instead of 6-5. JLM’s fumble at WIU, Curran’s against PSU, Eastwood’s against MSU.

There was a lot that I really liked from this game, of course it’s not all really much to celebrate as the loss is the main factor. However, some things I saw;

– Like I mentioned, I figured Sneed was going to be totally under fire on every snap. And while he was pressured a bunch he did have time, especially in the first half. The OL play, while not good, exceeded what I expected by a good margin. Is that something to hang your hat on? Well… I’m not sure, but at this point at the end of the season it’s really all we had left for expectations.

– Sammy Akem is a damn beast of a WR and should land on the all-conference team, maybe 3rd or 2nd team, and should open next year as a possible 1st teamer. His catches and plays he made were simply incredible. He’s a total mismatch on the sideline and hangs on to the ball even when getting rocked. Assuming he continues his growth into next season we could be seeing the start of the next all-time great Grizzly wide receivers.

– Keenan Curran had a hell of a great game. For a kid that’s had such a down year compared to what was expected of him he really shined in his last Griz game. Yeah I know posters will dog on him for not being able to consistently produce like he did in this game, but he sure stepped up when needed. He had a tremendous catch early and then a drive-preserving sideline grab in the Grizzlies last drive too.

– I think considering the opponent, the stage, and the way the game went that outside of the fumble lost this shows that Dalton Sneed can come into next season as a real threat to be one of the 2 or 3 best QBs in the Big Sky. He has had issues with accuracy when under pressure but largely was damn good throwing the ball. His best game was probably the SUU game, but I think considering who he faced off against this week vs that SUU game this one was right up there. Sneed’s play gave me great hope that if he can find the stride of these last three games for his senior season… we’ll be in great shape. One thing he needs to improve, that pre-snap crouch. I can’t help but wonder if that was what helped tip Choate to expertly call the game saving timeout.

– Dante Olson is such a beast, another game with giant numbers. I would assume that the defensive MVP may go to a team that finished a little better this year in the Big Sky but Dante should be a first team all-conference linebacker and could get the same recognition Josh Buss got this upcoming summer… and just as a junior!

– Man… Eric Williams had a hell of a game punting the ball. One almost got the Griz a safety.

———

Alright, this was our flipped version of the 1997 game in Bozeman. This stings like hell, still does 2 days later. The cats kept their cool, did their thing, and in the scope of this game out-coached our side for the win. Troy Andersen is a freak, it almost seemed like someone dropped an Alabama running back on the field who would just shed guys left and right. I felt the Griz generally game planned for him as well as one can, but he still got his yards. I’ll be interested to see where his career goes now as he’s made a fairly legit case to stay on offense I think, but I still also think he’s an NFL-caliber linebacker too. The other cat running back Ifanse sure impressed me too with his ability to get extra yards. We’re going to see that dude for 3 more years now too. Defensively that D-line looked even better in person than what I saw on TV. They’ll be an interesting matchup to watch against NDSU for sure (I’m going to assume they’ll beat Incarnate Word).

Much like what coaches have to do with certain teams and players is there must be a period of breaking that player down to rebuild what’s needed and expected from them. And while I don’t think a loss to the damn cats is ever a desirable process I would hope that this can be used as the “lowest of the low” points for these guys going forward to rebuild on and go forward with. Let the pain of this awful loss burn your passion to improve, to train, to execute, to study, and to make sure that this type of game never happens again over the course of your time as a Griz.

I’m proud of the 2018 Griz, they came into a season with the odds stacked against them but they fought harder than I’ve seen in a few years. The 2018 Griz were far more flawed than the 2017 or 2016 team but were right there and probably should have beat the cats and gone to the playoffs. While the ending doesn’t feel like it right now, I think this is a sign that better things are to come.

Go Griz, and thank you Griz seniors. You didn’t let this fan down, it was a pleasure to cheer for you and support your football careers while you were a part of this team!

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