With the Coyotes not playing again until Sept. 21 in Flagstaff, Ariz., the squad has some time to work on shoring up some trouble spots that have shown up the first two weeks of the season.
On Tuesday during the Missouri Valley teleconference, Coach Joe Glenn was a little more positive in tone than he was on Saturday night after the 31-14 loss to Kansas, but the themes were the same: The passing game, the punting game and the defense against the run have to get better. The running game is good and – adding to what he said on Saturday – they probably should have forced Kansas to prove it could stop it.
Practices this week will be different because the Coyotes don’t play on Saturday, but it’s still a valuable week of preparation that the team has to make the most of.
“We’re going to try to regain our health a little bit and get ready for the long haul down the stretch,” Glenn said. “(Health-wise) everybody got on the bus and made it back….We had a good effort against Kansas. We rushed against a Big 12 defense and we had four different kids run for five yards a carry. We have to get the pass game going, but I thought we had pretty good pass defense against a kid (Jake Heaps) who I think is going to be a special player for Kansas. We had as many as four true freshmen out there and 27 made the trip, so for having such a young team they hung in there. We had the lead most of the first half, but we didn’t finish.”
But it was obvious that the coach is expecting more out of the passing game.
“No. 1, I have to credit the teams we played,” he said. “Secondary-wise, both did a nice job in coverage. But we haven’t caught the ball very well and we have to protect better. It’s going to be a big emphasis for us – we have to step it up. “
Glenn was very complimentary of the unit’s ability to run the zone-read offense, but there’s more to it than that.
“Can you run all the time? Absolutely not. You can run it until they stop it and I’m not sure Kansas every really stopped it. … We’re doing good things and if we can work a little passing game in there it would make it a pretty formidable offense, but we have to score some points.”
The Coyotes will know more about Northern Arizona after Saturday. The Lumberjacks take on UC Davis after taking last week off. They opened the season with a 35-0 loss at Arizona, so there really isn’t a lot of pertinent scouting to work with at this point.
The Lumberjacks are a Top 25 team, however, and boast a pair of capable running backs in Zach Bauman and Casey Jahn. Quarterback Kyren Poe, a sophomore, completed 21-of-36 passes for 176 yards against Arizona. Bauman, a 5-10 senior, rushed for 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons.
And then there’s that punt game. Glenn said the Coyotes would be “putting their teeth” into that project.
“It’s something we know we can shore up,” he said.
The films revealed that Sean Bredl, a redshirt freshman defensive lineman, had a good game, Glenn said. He also mentioned outside linebacker Keyen Lage.
It seems clear to me that by the end of the season, many of the first and second-year players getting a taste of the game now will be playing quite a bit on defense. Weeks like this one will provide defensive coordinator Jason Petrino and his staff a chance to evaluate and “coach up” some of the guys who may very well be depended upon later in the season.