Surely, round one has given all the nations a chance to test their mettle against foes in the flesh and blood, but who will make the biggest improvements between Thursday and Sunday?
Here are our thoughts & notes:
- Korea‘s offense was nearly non-existent. Five first downs and only 69 yards of total offense aren’t going to cut it against Brazil. If quarterback Kim Tae Hoon doesn’t return, or another offensive option isn’t found, it might be long afternoon for the Koreans.
- Brazil‘s defensive stepped up in the second half, giving up only one long run to the athletic French side. Also, quarterback Ramon Cerqueira started to find his receivers, Felipe Fernandes and Rodrigo Pons, and move the Onça offense. Starting faster should be their focus against the Koreans.
- Australia offensive coordinator Paul Manera says this is the best group of players ever to participate for the Outback. 247 yards rushing says he’s probably right. With mobile quarterback Jared Stegman at the helm, and a hard hitting defense led by linebacker Ryan Ottens, the Aussies may surprise folks Sunday against the French.
- France came out of the gates hot against Brazil when wide receiver Anthony Dablé went for an IFAF-record breaking 102-yard kick-off return. Quarterback Paul Durand and MVP wide receiver Guillaume Rioux shined in the first half. Workhorse running back Stephan Yepmo quietly gained 109 yards. But 15 French penalties took wind out of their sails in the second half. One half may not be enough against the Aussies on Sunday.
- Mexico‘s defense showed flashes of brilliance stuffing the USA’s running game much of the first half. They also probably have the best kicking game, led by José Maltos, at the tourney. However, the Mexican offense sputtered. One cannot expect to win with 87 total yards, especially with -6 yards on the ground. The Aztecas need to get their running game going, particularly Allan Rosado & Jonathan Barrera, against their next opponent on Wednesday.
- Japan is still a bit of an unknown going into the weekend. After stopping by their Friday practice, speedy wide receivers Noriaki Kinoshita and Takashi Kurihara looked fresh. The Japanese have huge lineman on both sides of ball. USA’s defense recorded eight sacks against Mexico, so Japan’s offensive line will be tested Sunday night.
- USA did not hit their stride until the second half when quarterback Kevin Burke got on roll. USA’s receiving and rushing corps shared duties by committee and, plainly enough, the USA just didn’t make many mistakes. However, head coach Dan Hawkins and staff are too smart to think the USA can just roll out the red, white, and blue Sunday night against Japan and expect victory. We hope to see more fireworks from the USA this weekend against Japan.
The Sunday schedule starts with Brazil v. South Korea at noon, followed by France v. Australia at 3:30, and capped by USA v. Japan. All times are EDT.