|AP Photo/Steve Jacobs|
The Defense: Last game our defense certainly struggled. Our young linebackers were clearly having a problem and our secondary kept getting beat. Tonight, the D definitely improved, however, we were playing an FCS team. Phillip Thomas stayed true to his promise to Orange Slice Sports and improved dramatically from the Wake Forest game. He registered two interceptions, one of them coming at the end of the game, crushing Rhode Island's last hopes of tying the game.
Rhode Island quarterback Steve Probst did seem to have the defense's number tonight. He threw for 154 yards but more importantly, rushed for 46 yards on 15 carries. When the Orange locked down his receivers, he'd simply run take the ball himself past the first down marker. It was a frustrating night for the Orange defense.
The Offense: Ryan Nassib put together another respectable performance. He completed 29 of his 37 passes for a career-high 318 yards and three touchdowns. He completed passes to eight different receivers, which says a lot about the Orange wide receiving core. Van Chew earned the bulk of the yards with 134 and Alec Lemon got the bulk of the receptions with 10 for 94 yards. Both Chew and Lemon had touchdown receptions but the most important TD reception came from senior walk-on Michael Acchione.
The problem with the offense today was the running game and offensive line. The O-Line just doesn't look comfortable yet and it's affecting the entire offense. The part affected most is the running game. Antwon Bailey went for just 43 yards and then Marrone tried to mix it up by running Prince-Tyson Gulley. That didn't really work either.
The Lesson: The Orange aren't as good as we thought they were. The team still has a lot to work on, especially with USC being next week. I'm not saying they can't improve, it's definitely a possibility. The team has looked great in the final ten minutes of each game so far, but once conference play starts, were going to have to start playing before the fourth quarter in order to have a chance to win.
The good news is that the Orange have started out 2-0 for the first time since 1999 and that is certainly something to be happy about. Now lets buckle down, have a good week of practice, and beat the Trojans next week in sunny Southern California.