While our offense put up quite a show, our defense shut the Chippewas out in the first half and allowed a mere 7 points throughout the entire game. Unit-by-unit breakdown, here we come...
We return James McClinton, but little else to the front four so this opening game would be very telling. They played very good, if not great, creating somewhat regular pressure and not allowing big holes in the running game. Matter of fact, CMU's running game was virtually non-existent for much of the game (28 carries 114 yards), holding the starter Ontario Sneed to 17 yards on 7 carries. John Larson particularily impressed, picking up 7 tackles including 2 for a loss and a sack. A lot to be impressed with up front, although it could be our Achilles' heel later on this season.
Mangino and Co. did some switching around before the game, making Joe Mortensen the middle linebacker and moving Mike Rivera to the outside. They were both all over the field, especially Rivera (8 tackles, 1 sack). Rivera chipped in 4 more tackles himself. However, the real story was outside 'backer James Holt, who was tied for the team lead in tackles with 9. He was often overlooked throughout the offseason in favor of the higher profiles of Rivera and Mortensen, Holt played the best on Saturday and his week-to-week production will be interesting to watch.
The worst part of our football team last season, they played wonderful Saturday. LeFevour, a very good QB in the MAC, went 19-37 for only 172 yards and 1 TD. No interceptions from the secondary, but the unit as a whole played much better than last season, doing a good job of keeping receivers from getting open deep. The only pass over 20 yards, was a short pass to Ontario Sneed that broke loose after the catch, so no deep-thrown balls were caught, which was the specific problem area last season. Kendrick Harper didn't play due to his injury, allowing former WR Chris Harris to start opposite all-everything Aqib Talib. Harris played very well, piling up 9 tackles. I know, tackles for a cornerback aren't necessarily a positive thing, but Harris was active in the passing game and, while struggling at times, will be an improvement over last season's main starter, Anthony Webb. Darrell Stuckey, last year's starter, had a much better game than his performance last season, proving that an extra year of experience is sometimes all that is needed to improve a unit. The secondary's play was the most encouraging part of Saturday's game IMO, and if that can continue all year long our defense will be in the top half of the Big 12.
All-in-all, our team looked damn good on Saturday. There is no other way to say it, we flat out demolished the Chippewas, something that will likely continue against the Southeastern Louisiana Lions. We won't put this game to rest until after tomorrow, but starting Wednesday we are solely focused on our next opponent, the SELA Lions.