So, one heart breaking loss and one good win. I know we are better than a .500 team, and I think the team agreed. More importantly, the UAH Intramural guys thought that too. So, they scheduled us to play Alabama A&M's best team. They did this for a few reasons, but the big one was to see if we, UAH that is, could compete on a higher level. Starting this year, UAH will be participating in the national tournament stage. A&M has done well at that level, so this was a marker for us.
We played two of A&M's team last year. We won the first game easily and lost the second on a last second play that was totally bogus. We were on the 1 yard line going in for a score to seal the game. QB reached the ball across the line, the other team knocked it out of his hands, caught it, and ran it 69 yards for a score. They won by 1 point. Anyway, that's beside the point.
The point is, that it seemed that all the teams would do was throw the long ball. Didn't matter if it was 1st and 10 or 4th and a half yard...they were throwing it as far as they could. So, if you played back, you couldn't get beat. that was the plan for defense. Play WAAAAYY back.
Conversely, the short passing game led to their demise.
So, all weekend, I thought of ways to make this happen again. They had the height and speed. How do you get around that? Misdirection and short passes. So, lots and lots of out routes, naked boot legs, and throw backs. Right?
Wrong. Apparently the same team we beat last year had learned some things. First series...1st down, called a bubble screen. Got a few yards, but their speed to the ball broke it up pretty easily. They weren't bringing any pressure on the QB, and with Ethan being a quick guy, I spread the field and called a QB draw. Again, a decent gainer for a run, but it was 3rd and 7. Now, I admit, I love the out route. When run and throw perfectly, it is unstoppable. And if you try and bird dog it, you hit the out and up for big yards. So, I called the out. It's a safe 3rd and 7 call. The ball came out a little late and the A&M player stepped it front of it, picked it, and ran down to about the 3 yard line.
So, the defense and I got on the field. In flag football, you NEVER want your first defensive series to be on your own doorstep. You need that long field to see how the other team plays. When you don't...they can just about get away with anything. And that's exactly what they did. Short pass for a TD. Extra point was throw towards me...way over my head...and the receiver ate a bowl of cereal off the top of my skull, as the big-leagues say. Just like that, down 8-0.
Came out on the 2nd series. Called up the out route play again. The wide side receiver runs a post, the slot receiver cuts underneath on the out. Should be a confidence play. And Ethan could use it. Same play. Same result. Except this time the A&M player scored. They easily scored on the extra point again. 16-0.
On the next series, we started getting some progress. Made it to midfield. They seemed to be stacking two rover linebackers in the middle to prevent any crossing routes or drags. They seemed to be leaving the outside open. On another 3rd and long, I proved the definition of insanity. I called up another out-route play. And again, the guy was just sitting on the route. I couldn't believe that they were jumping routes! Surely they were giving some thoughts to the long ball! But they weren't. Guy picked it off and went for 6.
24-0 at half time.
I have to take full credit for at least the 2 pick-sixes. Once bitten and all that. But I didn't I gave them 24 easy points. So, talking it over with the defense guys, who get to watch our offense, they saw what I had assumed the other team would never do. The long ball was there. All day. But, we couldnt' just line up and throw go routes at them. They were too fast. No, we still had to run short routes and get them to bite on them. It also meant that we had to complete a few passes. And, Ethan would have to sit in the pocket long enough for our receivers to get open.
But, our defense had to get on the field first. And it was the first time that we had been on the field all day that wasn't either 1st and goal OR an extra point attempt. But, we put the game plan into effect. No deep balls. Give them anything underneath. Yet, their first few plays were all underneath passes. We stopped them, but they were chewing up the yardage. They marched right down the field on us and we found ourselves with our feet on the goal line. We geared up for the short game and made stops on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd down. 4th down. This was it. We could stay in this if we could make a stop. But, they threw the ball up top on the other side of the field. A high ball none of us could get to. But, their guy could and he made a ridiculous jump to get it. They went for 3 with the same play. 33-0. The game was over.
But, we kept playing as hard as we could. First down, dialed up the out and up. Josh P was in at receiver for a play and he ran the out route, cut it up the sideline and the defender was dead in his tracks. Wide open. But, Ethan was running for his life and couldn't see Josh. The rest of the receivers were across the field from him and weren't working back to the ball. He threw it away and that was that.
I was seeing something that I didn't like. He had no mid range check down route. It seemed to be open. someone to shade with Ethan as he rolled out, about 10 yards up the field. I decided to play offense and do just that. That made all the difference. The deep routes were open and we started hitting them for big gains. If they weren't there, he started checking the ball down to me for solid chunks of 7 to 10 yards. We marched down the field and setup a 1st and goal. Ethan rolled out, I shaded him, and when all the defenders had taken off with the wideouts, he had me guarded by one of their middle LBs. He tossed it. It went right over the fingertips of the defender and I snagged it for a TD. Finally, on the board.
Right back on defense, and after finally having a full series under our belt, we figured out their offense. It wasn't a long ball offense at all. In fact, it was the complete opposite. All short passes. They were walking a single receiver my side, which meant that Jon (our safety) and I both were guarding one guy. They would run him long and dump it short underneath. So, Jon went man. I pulled in as a linebacker. On the wideside of the field, the other guys went man on man. And it worked. We forced a 4 and out.
With short time, we started marching right back down the field on offense, but ran out of time.
Sure, we got beaten pretty bad. But, I shoulder the blame. I assumed they would do what they had done last year and they didn't. I didn't learn from the same mistake the first time, the second time, and pretty much the 3rd time. Had the other guys not pointed out what we needed to do, we might have gotten beat worse. But they did. We made all the adjustments we needed to make, just took too long to do it. Luckily, there is already a rematch in the works at A&M. I can't wait to strap up again.