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Sunday Notes and a little video
After a full day to reflect, and another 12 hours to get over the Huskies tough loss in Provo, I thought I'd pass on a little HD video (be sure to change the settings on youtube to "720" in the picture quality) and a few thoughts from the game. Before we get to that, don't forget that you can find my live blog of the game here, Mike Anderton's game recap here, and the official stats here.
All in all, it was a great win to start the 2010 season. As we discussed in the preview, this had all the markings of a a trap game: a road opener...at a team with a new coach...missing eight or ten key players...missing perhaps the best player...it looked as if a loss was damn near inevitable.
And make no mistake about it, the Vikings did not play well. BUT, good teams find a way to win sloppy, they find a way to win on the road, and they find a way to win in adverse situations.
Line Play: The Vikings big guys dominated this game, and gave a struggling passing attack chance after chance to convert, while opening gaping holes for third and fourth string running backs. On defense, if you take away the Cascade 75 yard TD run, the Bruins managed just 75 yards on 31 carries. Much of this was due to the pressure exerted up front, which allowed Viking linebackers Bryson Daggett and Korey Young to run free, pursuing the Bruins' speedy Bruce brothers across the field.
Defense: Wow. The Vikes gave up 12 yards in the first half. Lake surrendered just five first downs TOTAL. Bryson Daggett came up with a big interception and the signature hit on LaQuondis Bruce to seal the game. Joe Cronin's boys were dominant - despite missing as many as six starters - including last year's leading tackler.
Maturity: Remember the first games the last two years? I do. False start after false start. Stupid Penalties. Cramps. Brain freezes. Dropped balls. Okay, so the dropped balls are still and issue, but everything else was on point. There were a couple penalties, but most were the forgivable aggressive type. And showing the ultimate sign of maturity, junior QB Jake Nelson shrugged off an 0-8 start to the second half (including an overthrow on a sure touchdown to Brady Pahukoa that was followed directly by Cascade's 75-yard TD run) to lead the Vikings on a spirit-crushing 86 yard TD drive that included on of the prettiest deep balls you'll ever see - a 52 yard strike to Pahukoa that got Lake out of the shadow of their own endzone.
Inelligibility: Eight Viking starters watched from the sideline as their teammates battled to hold off a tough 4A opponent on the road. This can't happen again.
Injuries: Starting RB Conner Crowley left the game with a head/neck injury and was transported to the hospital. He is expected to be okay. Brandon Preslar suffered a pair of dislocated fingers - prognosis unknown.
Lack of short passing game: The Vikes were again unable to operate the screen and short passing game that is so vital to the spread system. Too many dropped balls by Viking receivers and an over-reliance on the deep ball (although Nelson does throw a great long ball) led to the brutal completion percentage. Look for the Vikes to operate a more balanced offense with the return of their first and second string backs and a few receivers. Also fair to point out that the Bruce brothers are a pair of first class defensive backs, so Nelson's 2-1 TD to INT line looks great.
Man, you have to feel damn good about this team after pulling out a sloppy but hard fought win on the road. I can only imagine the physical fury Kamiak will face when Duke Dolphin and Brandon Belcher (among others) return to the field and begin to operate behind the shield of that dominant line...I'm also excited about the potential of the Nelson to Pahukoa hook up - there is obvious chemistry there. The Vikes also look really set at running back - Shae Giddens stepped right up despite possibly being fourth choice on the depth chart and turned in a brilliant 100 yard performance with no turnovers.
Shae Giddens: Stepped in after Crowley went down, scored the Vikes' first TD on a smooth 19 yard scamper, allowed Tri to milk the clock in the 4th by moving the chains and holding onto the ball. Somebody give this kid some helmet stickers.
Bryson Daggett: The Viking QB moved seamlessly into Joe Cronin's 3-5-3 defense and made the defining defensive plays (INT, brutal slam of Bruce in 4th Q) while collecting the second most tackles. This is how a leader operates. Cheers to Bryson.
Entire Line: Believe me, you'll all be sick of hearing about Gunnar Eklund by the time the season was over, but the guy is absolutely dominant on both sides of the ball. Nelson was sacked just three times in 37 passing attempts - and two of those appeared to be runs. The lack of pressure was due in large part to Eklund dominating two Bruins at a time on nearly every down. But let's not stop there: Spencer Smith was steady as hell in the middle - not a single bad QB snap. Kody Dihn and Cody Tupen were phenomenal. Tupen was third on the team in tackles and Dihn brutalized the right side of the Cascade D line all night. If battles are won and lost in the trenches, then the future looks good for the Vikes, especially with the return of Taylor Metzger - a starter at guard and tackle last season.
Jake Nelson and Brady Pahukoa: Brandon Preslar led the team in receptions and gutty catches over the middle, but he's a returning All Wesco selection and the damned KRKO player of the game, see above, so we'll talk about a few other kids here. Jake Nelson fought through some rough patches (some of his making, some entirely not his fault) and pulled out a tough road win. It is obvious that the kid has made some huge physical gains - the rest of his body is catching up with those size-16 feet - and it is showing in increased arm strength and the shocking speed and power with which he runs. But more importantly, he is emerging as a leader. This was evident in the way he responded from a tough start to the second half by engineering a game winning drive and alternating between lowering his head and running for the tough yards and stepping up in the pocket and making the big throw. Brady Pahukoa showed a great ability to get behind the defense, and it is clear that there is a chemistry between he and Nelson. Several times, deep balls were just out of reach or off the finger tips, but when it mattered, Pahukoa pulled in the two biggest receptions of the game (with apologies to Colter Swords' TD) - the 52 yard bomb that kick started the 4th quarter drive, and the bobbling circus TD catch that gave the Vikes a lead into half.
That's all for now. Just so you know, typical schedule will be game story on Sat/Sun, stats on Sun/Mon, video on Monday, Power Rankings on Mon/Tues, Photo Diary on Wed, Previewing Opponent on Thurs, Pick and Preview on Friday. Please keep up the comments and questions. We'll have the stats and sidebar stuff updated soon enough.