Sunday, March 20, 2011

Power vs Barnstormers Review

To quote an old DVE Morning Show sketch:

“My Lord.”

“My Liege.”

“My god, what an ass-whooping!”

The Power more than made up for their painful loss to the Soul in their home opener last week. Before the game, I said to Keller that, after last week, I really needed a runaway victory like the Rush were nice enough to hand the Soul Friday night (62-28 final.) Well, I almost got it. Last night's score was a lopsided 58-28, courtesy of a smoothed out Power offense.

As I predicted last week, the second game of the season saw a lot of adjustments in style and strategy throughout. This was obvious right from the beginning. when the Power managed to burn 7:07 off the clock on one drive. That's a ridiculously long time in this league.

This week, QB duties were split between Morris and Kevin McCabe, with each taking a half. I'm not sure if an injury benched Morris, or if Siegfried just felt that 114 yards and 2 touchdowns were enough out of him for one week. It's tough to say, but the fact is #14 got sacked three times and we didn't see him again after the half.

Far and away, Morris' prime target this week was Willis for picking up critical yardage throughout the first half, although he didn't get any TDs to his name. Both Morris and McCabe chose instead to spread the passing TD's out among five other targets. Interestingly, week one favorite Washington was not the presence that he was in the opener, picking up only 24 yards and a touchdown.

Continuing to be a Bus-like figure, Joshua Rue was utilized in short yardage situations. He had six carries, averaging about a yard apiece, but this still resulted in two touchdowns. He was also able to pick up 21 additional yards and a touchdown in the air. In just two games this season, he has been so potent on offense that there were two plays in which we needed a critical yard and the crowd started bellowing “RUUUUUUUUEE!” Despite everyone in the building calling out where the ball was going, the Barnstormers were still unable to stop him.

When McCabe took the field in the second half, his performance by the numbers were very similar to Morris' accomplishments in the first, however he seemed a lot more confident and composed on the field. Granted, the Barnstormers had begun to fall apart at that point and the Power had a comfortable 28-14 lead, but I really felt he was the more stable figure behind center. He changed up his targets, not really preferring one receiver over another, adapting to the situation on the field as he went. He also didn't seem to get happy feet and managed to not end up lying on the field looking up at the lights much. Again, it might just have been that the other team wasn't pressing as hard. As such, I'm hoping that he starts next week in Milwaukee so that I can get a better sense of it.

As cohesive as the Power looked this week, they had a lot of help on the other side of the line. As there is really no preseason to speak of and Iowa had a week 1 bye, this was the first chance the Barnstormers had to take the field together – and it showed. Their offense was confused and all over the place. Interceptions were common and end zone discoveries rare. More often, their O-line ran into their own players more than the Power defense.

Even worse was that their defense didn't show much sign of knowing what they were doing – particularly linebacker Sam Smith getting gigged for two illegal formations and a holding. Things weren't all bad for the defense, however. Defensive back Patrick Stoudamire was all over the field, breaking up passes wherever he went. If there is a standout weapon on Iowa's team, it's him.

A few thoughts on adjustments and changes off the field from week one: As predicted, attendance dropped substantially this week, but not as much as I'd feared – especially considering that Pitt was busy slugging it out in a doomed March Madness outing. The 9100+ in the house were louder than their numbers, and brought the enthusiasm. (Note: the consensus seems to be “Let's go Pow-er ” rather than the modified, “Here we go Pow-er, here we go!”, though both were used.)

The announcer was a lot more subdued this week, keeping the monster-truck-rally style color commentary to a minimum. At first, I thought that he might have gotten a memo after the opener, but in the second half, his nicknames returned. Jason “Watchu Talking About” Willis, Mike “the Joystick” Washington and Lonnell “the Power Tool” DeWalt all put in appearances. God help me, I actually realized the first half was lacking them.

Finally, the grounds management decided to take down the glass around the team benches. I am particularly pleased with this, as my lower-level seats had a very disrupted line of sight to the far end zone because of them. It's selfish, but I give it two thumbs up.

Conclusion and closing thoughts:

So, where do the Power stand? This week's performance was vastly improved over the home opener between two expansion teams finding their footing. On one hand, the Soul had it handed to them Friday, and the Power came out swinging in their second game. On the other, the Soul went on to play a hard-hitting, established franchise on their home turf, whereas the Power stayed at home and beat up on a shaky team still trying to work out the kinks.

With McCabe backing up Morris and getting an expanding role, I think we've got a potent one-two punch that can surprise the opponent. I hope we see McCabe starting next week, rather than being a relief for Morris after he gets laid out too many times. In that regard, I hope the line can get better at keeping the defense from reaching Morris and give him time to gain some confidence in getting rid of the ball before he gets slammed.

The strengths this week were the D making some great goal-line stands and taking the ball away from the Barnstormers. Also, McCabe's style of spreading the ball around (rather than watching Morris for a few plays and figuring out which guy he's tapped for the game) is an effective strategy. I have high hopes for the season if these things continue.

Let me take a moment to apologize: I missed the memo that I was supposed to get a pic of the Sparks for yinz this week. Below is the best I have from the game. Yes - I took one, personal portfolio. Don't judge me.

Next up: The Milwaukee Mustangs Monday night, giving the Power a long rest before heading on the road.

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