The Cardinal have gone through three phases this season. First they were the shaky 3-0 team through four weeks who outscored teams 75-36 in those games. McCaffrey ran well but there were clear problems along the offensive line and at quarterback, the games were close and the Cardinal had a lot of mistakes, both in penalties and play calling choices.
Then they hit teams who had all their positions figured out and played mostly mistake free. They went on a 1-3 run and were outscored 44-106. McCaffrey was hurt and when he did play, never reached 100 yards on the ground or the end zone. Ryan Burns floundered and the offense and defensive lines were rolled over. Meeks and holder suffered injuries, weakening the secondary and the coaches play calling looked confused.
But then the offensive line came together, the coaches made the switch from Ryan Burns to Keller Chryst, the secondary and McCaffrey got healthy and the team looked like the Cardinal team we have grown accustomed to watching.
While some may have lost hope, the turnaround for this team was inevitable. They have a great secondary with Justin Reid, Quenton Meeks, Zach Hauffpair and Alijah Holder when he is healthy. The linebackers finally made plays in space and Solomon Thomas and Harrison Phillips are ending strong. They had all the pieces there for success.
On offense McCaffrey got healthy and started doing serious damage to opposing defenses. Bryce Love was given a larger roll in the offense and the offensive line jelled. But the biggest difference was the change at quarterback. Ryan Burns never seemed to have fully won over the starting job with all the opportunities Chryst kept getting when Burns was starting. So when Chryst did get the job he locked in quick to keep himself from getting replaced. The team as a whole seemed to get a gut check, remembering nobody’s job was secure if the play was poor. This also gave their offense more diversity because Chryst is willing to push the ball down the field and spread the defense out.
The season turned around, the offense was dangerous and the defense locked opponents up. The last three games the Cardinal went 3-0 and outscored opponents 112-52. this team seems to be back and really looks promising going forward, especially with how well Love has played. He and Chryst will be a big part of this teams success next season.
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