We're six weeks in. Most the teams have played six games, so this is the perfect time to dole out some midseason grades. All grades are final but protests may be submitted to the instructor, although this rarely helps.
Offense: Through six games the Falcons have 878 total rushing yards. That's more than all of last year in twice as many games (752). A less-bandaged offensive line has helped this. Their only main injury was when left guard Kyle Bryant broke his hand before the season. Rimington Trophy candidate Ben Bojicic stepped in to play his position until he returned for the Miami game, and since then it's been all the same starters.
But the pleasant surprise have been the freshmen running back corps: Anthon Samuel is near 100 yards per game, including 6.49 yards per carry. When he couldn't play against West Virginia, another freshman Jamel Martin did admirably. And there aren't many complaints about Matt Schilz, whose 16 passing TDs rank top 10 nationally. They're doing this with not just Kamar Jorden anymore: fellow senior Eugene Cooper actually leads the team in yards and touchdowns. And the tight ends have amplified the passing game: three touchdowns have been thrown to them, the most since Jimmy Scheidler caught seven on his own in 2008.
This has been mostly a best-case scenario for the Falcons offense.
Except for the turnovers.
You can accrue all the yards and all the third-down conversions in the world, but 17 turnovers through six games is, well, a lot — and it's going to be the primary reason they lost to Wyoming, not the missed extra-point. 17 giveaways is tied for second worst in the FBS. Final grade: B
Defense: You don't play BG and look at the defense and say "yikes, how are we going to score 20 today?" And it looked that way after a feel-great win at Idaho, but as it turns out Idaho might be bad at football this year. A couple of blowout losses to West Virginia and Western Michigan normalized those defensive numbers pretty quickly, and while they're scoring 30 a game they're also allowing about 30 per week as well.
Their greatest team stat has to be third down defense. Ranked 102nd last year, their 32.1 opposing third down conversion is 20th in the country. But that run defense has been exposed in recent games. After holding the opposition to 380 yards combined in four games, WVU and WMU each ran for over 350 yards on them. That's it. If they can run on you like that, the game's pretty much over.
But this is a young defense. Juniors Chris Jones and Dwayne Woods are leading the way with 14.5 combined tackles for loss. The secondary has been put in great position to succeed: Boo Boo Gates and Cameron Truss especially have made great strides.
For what they've done in recent games, that has been outstanding. They also really did keep them in the Wyoming game, as well as shut the door on Miami. But I keep going back to that run defense ... that hurts. Final grade: B-minus
Special Teams: It's neither healthy or encouraged for one to laud the power of the punting game, but Brian Schiedebusch has forced my hand. For a while he was the nation's top punter, but a few yakkers moved him all the way down to sixth (47.04 yards/punt)
The extra point game was harrowing for a while, so the struggling Kyle Burkhardt (he of the famous Wyoming last-second extra point blocked line drive) was replaced by Stephen Stein during the Miami game and has since been 8-for-8 on PATs and 3-for-3 on field goals.
Returns have been nothing special. Gates had a fantastic kickoff return against West Virginia that set them up directly in the red zone, but beyond that Eugene Cooper on punts and Gates on kickoffs haven't done great. In fact Gates had a couple kickoff return fumbles. So again with the dropsies. Final grade: B-plus
Overall: It's still a young team. Whatever they do from here on out is gravy. Obviously finishing 3-9 would suck, but if they scrape out three more conference wins it'll validate the season and the rebuilding process. With a mostly freshman/sophomore defense you're bound to have lapses in technique and judgment. I'm not expecting the defense to hold many more teams to under 20 points (except for Kent State, heaven willing).
But the Schilz-guided offense and the senior wide receivers really need to put the pressure on the opposing defense and find some way to limit the turnovers, because that's burdened the defense.
Still, the season is at 3-3 and that's already one more win than last year. There's promise in the secondary, capable special teams, and an offense — especially a run game — that can move it. For what we expected? Final Frade: B-plus