Last weekend, Mr. Yuk headed west to Chicago for our last tournament before the series. We were on a six-game losing streak after a terrible Sunday at Queen City Tune-up and a possibly worse Saturday at Easterns Qualifier, but for the first time since the fall, we had a full roster, which suggested we might have a more positive weekend. Results-wise, we certainly did; we finished in 9th place (out of 64 open teams) going 6-1 on the weekend, with our only loss coming to Michigan State (the eventual finalist) on universe point.
Unfortunately, the tournament format wasn’t all that ideal. We were pretty horribly under-seeded after poor performances against good competition earlier in the spring and this meant that to get into the championship bracket (and finish higher than 9th), we pretty much had to be undefeated on Saturday. Moreover, our cross-over game on Saturday evening would be against a two-seed from a power pool, in this case Michigan State. If we were seeded slightly better or slightly worse, our cross-over would have been against a three or four seed, which would have been a much more winnable game. Our loss to MSU meant we could get 9th at best, and by winning out on Sunday, we did exactly that.
First the break-down, then some comments.
- Michigan B: As is usually the case with Mr. Yuk, we started out pretty slow trading points early on and going down a break before we really got our act together. They ran a poach-y defense that our O-line had a pretty hard time dealing with, resulting in a lot of miscues and easy blocks for them. Our D-line really picked up the intensity, with much more tenacious man-defense that I’m used to seeing from our team, and also with some nice zone-looks that generated turnovers. We started to run away with the game in the second half and eventually won 13-8.
- Wright State: With some momentum from our win against Michigan B, we brought the pain on Wright State, generate break after break. The O-line didn’t need to play all that much, but when they did, were cool and consistent. The D-line worked hard to generate turnovers (actually earning blocks, not just capitalizing on miscues) and then converted time after time. CMU wins 13-3.
- Dayton: Building on our earlier rounds, we came out strong right away, generating three breaks to start the game and taking half 7-2. Dayton was plagued with injuries and consequently played pretty short-handed but our defense was pretty stifling. Again O-line did their job. CMU wins 13-6.
- Michigan State: As our cross-over game, this was a must-win situation for either team to get into the championship bracket on Sunday. At Easterns Qualifier we played MSU very close, losing 14-16, and I looked forward to a competitive, exciting game. As it turns out that is exactly what happened. We started out trading points, and eventually MSU earned two breaks in the first half. The second half was a different story. We earned three breaks to take the lead 12-11, generated another block with the opportunity to win but a costly turnover swung momentum in favor of MSU. They scored to tie the game at 12s, and we traded to 13s. On universe point, both teams were very impatient, resulting in a marathon of a point with the possession exchanging several times. A costly end-zone turnover on our part enable MSU to work their end-zone offense and score for the universe-point win. MSU wins 14-13.
- Dayton: Relegated to the 9th place bracket, we faced Dayton again first thing on Sunday morning. If it’s at all possible, they had incurred even more injuries but as usual, we came out incredibly slow, going down 1-4 right away. Once we got our act together both lines started clicking and we earned our breaks back to win 13-10.
- Western Michigan: Another fairly straightforward win for us. We started out trading and then broke a couple of times to take half 7-4. Deep defense was huge for us this game as they looked to huck early and often but we prevented them from completing the majority of these attempts. The second half was went smoothly and we came out ahead. CMU wins 13-8.
- Northern Iowa: Penn State was on the other side of the bracket after a surprising loss in their crossover game on Saturday, and we were expecting to see them in the 9th place game. However, they got upset by Northern Iowa, who we ended up facing. Again we came out strong right away, taking a quick 3-1 lead. They broke back once in the first half but we got a couple of more to take half 7-4. In what was a fairly uneventful second half, we ended up winning 12-9 after the game got capped. Thus we ended up in 9th place.
- We clearly play up or down to our opponents. We played some teams that we should have crushed this weekend, yet many of our games ended pretty close. This meant that we had to keep our starters playing, so that in the games that mattered we were fairly fatigued. We need to get much better at putting away bad teams. On the plus side, we really stepped up to MSU and showed that we can compete with some very good, potentially nationals caliber, teams.
- Another mental thing, it takes us way too long to get going in the mornings. Come regionals, we can’t dig ourselves into a hole on Saturday or Sunday morning, and really all it means is that we focus and take our warmup seriously. This is purely mental, but, to me, it is critical for our success in the series.
- The last mental thing, we lost our composure towards the end of the MSU game and I think that cost us the game. We had a couple of unforced turnovers and bad decisions, especially on universe point, where we repeatedly gave them back the disc. Our offense was not clicking on that point and I think that in part it was because we’re not used to such high-pressure situations and lost our cool. We’ll only improve on that with experience but it is something to note.
- Strategically, our O-line really struggled with the poach-y defense that Michigan B threw at us. Our cutters were very hesitant about moving through the poaches, making it very hard for handlers to find open upfield targets, and resulting in several turnovers. I’m not sure if a lot of teams in our region rely on poach-y defenses but it is something we should work on in the next couple of weeks.
- Defensively, the one thing that really hurt us in the MSU game was our marks. We started out marking honestly, but MSU’s handlers repeatedly got off around breaks, making it near impossible for upfield defenders to get blocks. We adjusted by having our marks really take away the around option, but this came at the expense of opening up the inside looks, which MSU exploited, again at the cost of our upfield defense. Better marks would ideally challenge both options simultaneously, making it much easier for us to generate turnovers.
- On a positive note, both our offense and defense clicked much better than it has in past tournaments. On the defensive side, missing two of our starters at past tournaments definitely contributed to our relative success this weekend. Offensively things also seemed to work very well for the most part (apart from a couple of miscues and the poach-defense thing). Defensively I was especially happy to see more and more people laying out and actually contesting both underneath and deep throws.
All in all, we had a solid weekend, winning games we should win, and with a really close, competitive game against a very good team in MSU. However, there are definitely things to work on in the next couple of weeks leading up to regionals. With our region only earning two bids to nationals, we’ll have to iron out all of these kinks if we want to make a push for one of them.
Conferences is next weekend so look for another post in a week or so.