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Khus the Red

Now we know

So this is what a transition feels like.

A game that should have been won handily is difficult to stomach but not difficult to diagnose. There are other games in which five turnovers is survivable, even easily, but credit Southern Miss for not playing like a team opening their season on the road.

That said, this game was served up on a silvery-Red platter. Defense played well, general offensive execution was good, penalties were few and the Blackshirts again were Blackshirt-solid, at times seeming to run downhill and through a talented and veteran offense. These things are well and good but a bitter pill to swallow when a measly four points separate the only statistic that matters: Final score.

The possibility of NU unleashing a blitzkrieg on the SoMiss defense like we did to Western Illinois was about as likely as the Pope hosting a weekend-long Doom3 LAN party. Yet in light of this, the comments of Norvell stating that we left "easily 600 yards of offense on the field" due to mistakes and missed opportunities is nearly as frightening as blasting a room full of Wraiths, taking off the headphones, walking to the kitchen and finding a room full of Wraiths. It's frightening for two reasons: Firstly, that kind of potential yardage ripe for the taking-'cuz-we-want-it should scare foes; after all, USM came prepared, had the right game plan, and yet could not track the deep routes-despite the fact that NU did not have the speed we will have to stretch the field vertically when Amos, Fluellen and LeFlore return.

But there was a square cubit available all day, and it was not taken. That's sheer horror to any team that manages to rack up an already impressive 476 and yet manage to drop a contest. Missed opportunities are disturbing; missed opportunities to the equivalent of six touchdowns is the stuff nightmares are made of.

This is the startling negative from Saturday-not just that there were mistakes made, but they were the same mistakes from the week prior, and in a few cases, much worse. Good defenses will do that to a young QB, which is exactly what Dailey is. Southern Miss's blitzes didn't hit Joe too much, but they accomplished much worse than that. They made him uneasy in the pocket, and his presence of mind faded almost as quickly as his confidence. That's as deadly to an offense every bit as much as stuffing the run.

Speaking of the run, we again saw an effective one in this game, even after the point when it became predictable. That was pleasant to see, and while a tip of the hat should go to the OL, a majority of the kudos goes to Ross. The Rose/Fiala two-headed monster remarked recently that Ross makes it look a lot harder than it is. Falser words were never spoken. In fact, Bill Gates declaring the Internet "a fad" in the early nineties comes to mind. Ross makes impossible situations look insta-effortless and no-win carries look like first downs. He is able to find holes that even on replay do not appear to be there. You have heard of NFL backs buying nice watches for their linemen at the end of the season? This pipeline owes Pork Chop a rack of ribs any time he wants it. We have not had a 1-2 combo like Ross/Green since Phillips/Green, and not such young talent since what seems like ever.

Until Dailey settles into his role and settles down in the pocket, his every step will be vivisected. However, his performance thus far is not out of the ordinary. If he had taken over at some point last year, these mistakes would be cause for much alarm. However, the decisions to force throws, not look off receivers and especially bolt from the pocket when he should be stepping into it are the fruits borne of inexperience. Dailey is the best we have, and I would go so far as to say he's the best we have, period. There is always the chance that Ryan Goodman is a wrestler-turned-phenom just as Kurt Warner was grocery-boy-turned-phenom, but I'm not one to leave things to that kind of chance.

Of course, wishful thinking and nonsexual man-crushes on the Kalifornia Kid continue. After Jordan Adams's spleen-tastrophe heals, if this season at all, the question will be one of experience. If Dailey has a half-season under his belt, will Adams's prior knowledge of the WCO be quickly adaptable to Callahan's system, enough to surpass Dailey's command of it by then? To be sure, we haven't even seen Adams in action, but the vibe on him has been nothing but positive. Then again, so has it been for every QB recruit we've landed in the past geological era-especially Dailey. Lest we forget, he was Syracuse's next Donovan McNabb.

But make no mistake, if there was a better QB available on the roster, even one whose lack of mistakes would make up for a shortage of talent, this coaching staff would hand him the ball. We have already seen this staff burn redshirts like Nazis burn books. The talent inertia we're still accustomed to is knowing there's some young guy sitting on the bench who could really do something special if he got the chance. Such is not the case anymore; if you can play, you will play. That is one of the fundamental differences between the red-then and the Red-now. It's time to recognize that and not devolve into some preposterous depth-chart presumptions.

So it's Good Guys 1, Bad Guys 1 heading into the first road game. Graduation and the NFL made violin strings out of the guts of this Pitt Panther team, and I expect the Blackshirts to control the game as Pitt struggled to find offensive personnel in the offseason and has dealt with injuries. The Panther defense should be improved over last year, but that isn't saying much as they were one of the nation's worst and lack depth this year. Ross will continue his run onto next year's Heisman watch lists, Green will continue to make a red and white uni look Green and green and yellow and Joe

Joe will keep those flashcards handy on the plane ride east.