Forensic Football: Breaking It Down

Was there really any progress made, any improvements shown, between Carolina's first and second game? ...

This is not rocket science. The gameplan was a simple one and we clearly stated Carolina's required objectives if they were to have a chance to win the game. (The Keys To The Upset)

First of all we said that South Carolina needed to establish a running game and they failed as far as that was concerned. Their backs are able but for now their offensive line is not. They are worthy pass blockers but horrible run blockers and unless that problem is remedied very soon, there will be many more close losses this season.

We said South Carolina needed to rush for a combined 100 yards from any number of their backs. That was not asking too much and few reading this will deny the fact that had they simply hit that lowly century mark - it would have made a major difference in the outcome of that ball game.

We worried about a lot of holding calls being called against Carolina as there have been in past games in Athens. This year the table seemed turned for a change. And while the refs missed some holding calls on Georgia early in the game, they caught on later and the calls were fair. No complaints there.

As we expected, Spurrier used a balanced attack in terms of field position. He ran right and left and left and right with balance. It is the sign of a good offensive coach. See it for yourself. Spurrier does it very well and if you chart the plays you will notice how even they are called to both sides of the field by game's end. Mission accomplished.

Limiting mistakes was another big key and the Gamecocks managed a couple of whoppers at the wrong time. The called-back touchdown and the missed extra point were two doozies. There was an unsportsmanlike conduct call against Syvelle Newton that was very costly. Syvelle knows better. Stanley Doughty drew two offsides penalties that could have been prevented if he would watch the ball instead of listening to the quarterback. (When is Blake Mitchell going to use the snap count to draw someone off sides?) Give Duckee credit, it was his enthusiasm that made him do it. And two of the worst mistakes of the day were Blake Mitchell's throw to the Georgia safety for an interception, and the missed two point conversion.

Now, before you say were are picking on Blake consider this. Blake knows those two were his. He has to own them. And both Steve Spurrier and Blake Mitchell know, (as well as every fan with an ounce of an understanding of the game of football), that good quarterbacks make those plays in close games. Blake should have never thrown that intercepted ball. It was not even close. And he should have hit Rice on the two point conversion because Rice was wide open and a lot depended on making that play. It is as simple as that. And there were other times when Blake should have gotten rid of the football rather than take the sack and he has to learn that in a hurry. Learning to dump the seed is a basic quarterbacking skill that even good high school quarterbacks master by the end of their senior seasons.

Blake demonstrated a cool confidence today as the game wore on. He has an enormous upside. He throws a catchable ball and he is slowly securing his number one spot for seasons to come. But he has a lot of work to do and much of it appears to be grasping the very basics of the position. You make natural throws to your receivers without having to think about it, and that only comes through repetition which develops muscle memory and a second-natured reaction to an opportunity given on the field. You get rid of the ball rather than taking a sack. You study your opponent and are confidently prepared for anything they might throw at you to the point where calling an audible also becomes second nature.

Blake had the ability to win the game in Athens but he was ill-prepared as far as his responsibilities are concerned. He absolutely must work harder than he is doing right now, that is evident. His mistakes are mental, regrettably those are often the most costly.

So the next two questions are; did the Gamecocks really improve from week one to week two? And what must they do in order to beat Alabama?

Fans are under the mistaken idea that Carolina was vastly improved from week one because many expected a blow-out in week two and instead they managed only a two point loss. That kind of thinking is pitiful and desperate. The truth of the matter is that there was not a lot of improvement statistically. South Carolina rushed for fewer yards. They gave up more yards on the ground. They passed for fewer yards. They had more penalties and subsequently more penalty yards assessed against them. They led at halftime but lost the game. They scored fewer points than the previous week.

Not good. Exactly where did they improve?

Our bottom line keys to pulling off the upset were simple ones. If South Carolina rushes for 100 yards. If the Gamecocks pass for 280. If the Cocks make fewer mistakes, especially those that negate big plays, and if they score 24 points, then you have to like South Carolina's chances for a big upset.

They failed on all accounts. Had they accomplished any two of the above, they would have won the game.

But there is hope because the one major positive you take away from Athens is the number of youngsters that saw action and made major contributions in that game. There were a lot of freshmen and sophomores out there hanging with the big dogs on their own porch today. That bodes well for South Carolina's future and it also bodes well for the Gamecocks this season because those younger players will be less likely to dwell on a loss like the one in Athens. Instead they will be much more likely to forgive themselves and forget about their mistakes and move on to the next game. The younger players are less set in their ways and they will absorb the corrections the coaches will try to instill in them this week prior to the Alabama game.

And the keys remains the same if the Cocks want to upset Alabama, although we have predicted all summer that the Bama game will be too close for the bookies to call and will probably end up being a pick'em, if not South Carolina a favorite.

The Gamecocks have a long way to go. A long way to go. But they have potential and they have an outstanding coaching staff to milk every ounce of effort out of them. All they need now is a big upset win. If Bama comes in the underdog or as a pick'em, and the Gamecocks win, that will not be considered a big upset.

South Carolina needs this win against Bama and then they need to move on to Troy before hitting the road against Auburn. That will be the next chance for a big upset win. These next two should be wins for the Gamecocks. That is if they can counter Alabama's running game by establishing a running game of their own.

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