The 85th Annual Blue-Gold game had everything Irish fans could have hoped for: a new The Shirt, balmy temperatures, and solid, though not spectacular, QB-play from Messrs. Golson and Zaire. It was a scrimmage that gave us glimmers of excitement to come, as Greg Bryant, Corey Robinson, and Amir Carlisle combined with the competing signal-callers in a hyper-choreographed ballet that did much to chase away memories of “Tommy, No!” offenses from seasons past. It was also a scrimmage in which we saw, for the first time, a new O-line take its first steps on the long road to cohesion.
I emphasize the phrase “long road,” because Harry Hiestand’s charges have a lot of coming-together to do between now and Rice. With likely starters Nick Martin and Christian Lombard notably absent due to injury and a game format that had offensive linemen on the field at all times, the O-line never quite gelled. That said, they had their moments.
The biggest of all their moments came with about 8:45 left in the 4th Quarter, when Malik Zaire handed off to Greg Bryant, who exploited a huge hole opened up by Colin McGovern (6’4.5″ – 313) and Mike McGlinchey (6’8″ – 300) at the start of a fifty-plus “big chunk” run. McGlinchey, a probable starter at right tackle, has the athleticism to line up at end and has me seriously excited for August. He could present an intriguing option for Coach Kelly’s offense, if only to confound opposing defensive coordinators in the red zone. In the main, I thought the O-line did a good, but not great, job of creating and holding a pocket for the quarterback throughout the game.
There were moments, though, when Coach BVG’s troops looked, overall, more comfortable and confident than did their counterparts on offense, and they would have put some serious licks on Golson and Zaire had they been allowed to do some actual hitting. While VanGorder played his scheme-cards very close to his chest, the O-line missed a couple of obvious assignments. For what it’s worth, the “official” sack total from Saturday’s game saw Romeo Okwara net three, while Trumbetti, Hounshell, Rochell, and Matuska eached picked up one.
Additional woes came in the form of awful snapping thanks to center Mark Harrell (6’4″ – 300) who flubbed at least two exchanges. Given that Nick Martin has the center spot all but locked down come August, I am not going to let Harrell’s display take on any more significance that it warrants.
In the end, Saturday’s performance by the offensive line was, in all likelihood, artificially depressed, or depressing, given the personnel situation and demands of the game itself. Coach Hiestand has talked about the line’s lack of “chemistry” given the squad’s youth, its loss of once-in-a-generation leadership, and the aforementioned injuries to key players.
Given his past performance and demonstrated record of success, there should be plenty of time between now and Rice for Coach Hiestand and the O-line to work out the necessary equations.