Sunday, August 28, 2016

2016 College Football Kickoff Weekend In Review

Two games were played this weekend in college football, kicking off the 2016 season with both a resounding thud in one case, and giving us a clash to remember in the other. California met Hawaii on Friday night (or Saturday in Sydney, Australia, where this was played for no real reason), and on Saturday evening, we were given the FCS Kickoff game between North Dakota State and Charleston Southern, both top ten programs on the FCS level. The FCS Kickoff was by far the more entertaining of the two, as the Sydney Cup (1st annual, and here's hoping the last) was just a stinker of a game.
Let's take a look at both of these games and see what we could take away from the Kickoff weekend.

Cal Looks Awful on Defense
We all sort of knew this would be the case. The Bears have not been good on defense for as long as I can remember at this point, and Sonny Dykes has never coached teams with a shut down defense mindset. Cal, who gave up over 30 points per game last season, was at their worst, allowing 31 points to a Hawaii offense that averaged just 17.6 points per game last season. Ikaika Woolsey, who passed for just 968 yards in 13 games last season, scorched the Cal defense for 234 yards and a TD to go with a pick. He did only manage to complete 50% of his passes (just one point over his rate last fall), but he looked much better than he is against a very weak Cal secondary.
If the Bears cannot fix their pass defense, they will be in for it come PAC-12 time, and may even struggle to beat San Diego State in their next game in two weeks.

Cal 51, Hawaii 31

Davis Webb Makes Bears Forget About Jared Goff
One thing that a Sonny Dykes offense does is make the QB position interchangeable. Gone is Jared Goff, but Webb passed for 441 yards, completed 70.4% of his passes, connected on four TDs, and ran for another. Webb was headed to Colorado before Cal intercepted him and brought him to Berkely, and I am sure that Mike MacIntyre wants to vomit right about now.

Cal Will Go Runner By Committee 
No one back in the Cal offense carried more than 11 times, and three backs ran at least 10 times. The Bears will never be a power run team under Dykes, but they certainly could use someone to stand out as the season progresses. Khalfani Muhammed did run for 96 yards and a score, so look for him to get more work as the season moves on.

Ikaika Woolsey Played Over His Head
I don't expect Woolsey to be a 200 yard per game QB throughout the season, nor do I think that it is healthy to ask him to attempt 34 passes per game. He looked flat early on, got a good run going, but all of this came against what arguably may be the worst defense in the PAC-12. Former QB Nick Rolovich was a strong passer in his day with the Rainbows, but he may end up asking too much of the limited Woolsey down the stretch.

Hawaii Found Success Running the Ball
Hawaii ran fairly decently against Cal, but again, only so much could be read from that. Diocemy Saint Juste rushed for 118 yards on just 14 carries, and accounted for a score, while Steven Lakalaka and Paul Harris added TDs on the ground as well. If Hawaii can find some balance, they may see improvement this season.

Hawaii Still Can't Defend
That may be where it starts and ends for the Rainbows in 2016. The defense gave up 441 yards to Davis Webb in the passing game, and often just forgot to cover Chad Hanson, who caught two TD passes. Giving up 51 points to Cal isn't surprising, but they have to do a better job of defending with talented teams like Michigan, Arizona, and even Tennessee-Martin all coming up.

North Dakota State 24, Charleston Southern 17 (OT)

Despite Experience In 2015, Easton Stick Was Flat
Easton Stick played plenty in 2015, as Carson Wentz was often injured. Stick looked plainly rattled early in this game, and was beaten up by the CSU front on skilled blitzes from everywhere. Stick finally relaxed somewhat in the second half, but tossed a scary INT late in the game that almost gave the Buccaneers an upset win in the Fargo Dome. Stick passed for 194 yards and two very nice TDs, and ran for another 45 yards in a gutsy performance, but he has to clear his head.

NDSU Went Backs By Committee Again
King Frazier, the leading rusher last season by far, only saw 11 carries for 79 yards, but he scored the game winner in OT. When all was said and done, seven different Bison ran the football in the win. If NDSU can keep Frazier fresh, he will be more than ready to carry the load in Missouri Valley Conference Play.

Bison Defense Come Up Big Despite Losing Leader
Nick DeLuca is always in the middle of the action on the NDSU defense, but was lost early in the second half with a shoulder injury. Instead of being made irrelevant by the injury, the star LB turned into a coach on the sidelines, working closely with the youngsters that were coming up in his place. The defense, in turn, came up with big stop after big stop, and despite giving up 14 points after the half, the unit saved the day on more than one occasion and gave the CSU spread option fits at times.

Charleston Southern Played With Nothing To Lose
CSU has far less the pedigree, low end budget and facilities, yet came within a few feet on a missed FG from beating the top ranked Bison in Fargo, and for a time, kept the famed Fargo Dome Crowd quiet. CSU played loose all game, and despite lacking the depth of their opponents, left everything on the field until injuries mounted in the second half. Even then, the Buccaneers kept on grinding. This was a wonderful intro to CSU coach Jamie Chadwell, one of the best young coaches in the country.

Kicking Game Cost CSU the Win
CSU missed to FGs, one early, and one at the end of regulation, and that was simply the difference. NDSU missed a kick as well that could have ended this game earlier on, but both teams seem to have deficiencies in the kicking game, which we already knew heading in. Those difficiencies ended up costing CSU here.

CSU RB Mike Holloway Will Be a Star
Holloway scored both CSU TDs in this game, including the play that tied it up at 17. He rushed for 126 yards on just 10 carries, and should become a household name in FCS football as the season wears on. Despite the Buccaneers losing this football game in OT, Holloway was my player of the game.

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