Watching the 'Cats from the stands at Ryan Field, I noticed something. It was during the second quarter of the game-- something felt different about this team. The 'Cats have changed. And I believe that this change is the last thing the 'Cats needed to compete on the next level.
And one play sums it up.
As time was expiring in the first half, I looked around at my friends. We had the ball at around the 25, with around 10 seconds left, if I remember correctly. My friends all had an exasperated look on their faces. We all knew what the play call would be. We'd either run it up the gut in one last half-hearted gasp for the end-zone, or simply put 3 on the board. We'd seen it happen countless times before. It's our M.O. Then, as we were all wearing our smug grins, the grins of fans that know their team well enough to predict the next play, the offense lined up. We exchanged looks. This isn't the victory set, the jumbo set, or the I.
The snap came. Suddenly, our smug looks were completely wiped off our face. Trevor Siemian. Christian Jones. Touchdown.
"This is different", we all thought. Or, we would have, had we not been busy yelling and high-fiving. We would have noticed that finally, thankfully, this is a team that is not afraid to score touchdowns. To step on the throats of teams before the half. To have the presence of mind to know the difference between ensuring a victory and running up the score.
Yes, we gave up more than we should have in the 3rd, and yes, there still are a couple worries on our O-line, but the simple fact of the matter is that we hurt 'Cuse so hard in the first half that we essentially turned the entire second half into garbage time. It was wonderful.
The main difference between this year and last year is palpable, and shouldn't change as we face our B1G conference schedule-- because it's a difference in decision making. We're making teams pay much more for their mistakes, and calling the right plays (most of the time) to close them out. We'll need that this year.
See you at the Rose Bowl.