Frisby's Corner: Week Two
Ryan Clary and I sat speechless in the Williams-Brice Stadium press box as we tried to comprehend what we had just witnessed in the preceding sixty minutes, an 18-0 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs. We could not determine if we had ever been witness to a more decisive 18-point loss in Gamecock history. This was to be the year. We had come so close the previous two years. The Gamecocks would take a step forward tonight and finally take their rightful place among the elite in the SEC East division. The defense had played outstanding against MSU and Coach Spurrier would get the offense in gear tonight. Carolina would prove the Lee Corso's of the world wrong who said that Steve Spurrier couldn't win in Columbia. NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND!!
As anticipated the pass protection was much improved Saturday in comparison to the MSU game. Surprisingly, the O-line was able to neutralize Georgia defensive end's Quentin Moses and Charles Johnson and did not give up a sack until reserve Justin Sorenson was inserted in the fourth quarter. However, while capably prepared for their pass blocking duties, the O-line obviously neglected to practice many run blocking techniques. Georgia's D-line exposed this glaring weakness throughout the night Saturday, as they continuously stuffed Gamecock rushers. This was never more evident than in the 3rd Quarter when from first and goal at the Georgia five we could not produce a touchdown on four consecutive running plays. This series seemed to sum up the Gamecocks night. The drive to the Georgia five consisted of nine plays, eight of which were passing plays. The only running play (Boyd) resulted in a not surprising two-yard loss. So what do we do when we get to the five? We run off four consecutive running plays of course! I don't know about you, but after the first two running plays netted four hard yards, I'm thinking pass or run wide. Hmm, maybe a play action pass to freeze the defenders, QB option, bootleg, or a possible toss-sweep. Obviously, we're getting no help here from our O-Line. The next play is Cory Boyd up the middle again for no gain. OK, this is four down territory, so I know we have a clever play up our sleeve now. Yes, ughh, No!! The ever so physical Blake Mitchell attempts a QB sneak into the teeth of the Georgia D-line. Game Over. Honestly, one series did not make this game but the accumulation of miscues from the offense was more than enough to lose it.
Once again Cory Boyd seemed to be the only Gamecock back running to play with any passion and a sense of urgency. Regardless of that fact it became obvious early in the game that the problem would be finding a place to run period. Gamecock runners were intent on trying to find holes between the tackles where none existed. How many times do we have to run into a brick wall before we decide to run around it? As I predicted, we tried to get the backs in space and utilize short passes with opportunities for runs after the catch. This seemed to work well with Boyd being productive from his receiving opportunities. We did not get much productivity out of Mike Davis once again. I can only see Mr. Boyd usurping more authority in the backfield as Davis continues to struggle. I believe we could have utilized Bobby Wallace and his speed much earlier in this game. He ended up with a nice catch and run in the fourth quarter although it did end up being fumbled. We may even see Taylor Rank in the upcoming weeks as we try to find our identity in the Gamecock backfield.
As predicted, O.J. Murdock received much more playing time Saturday. I explained that Coach Spurrier would use O.J. to stretch the defense vertically creating openings for underneath routes. I also thought that we would take some chances deep. The first of my predictions was correct. O.J. indeed enabled Blake Mitchell to find Kenny McKinley underneath on numerous occasions. However, O.J.'s presence did not create the deep threat that we would have all liked to see. We seemed intent on playing a horizontal passing game most of the night utilizing Syvelle Newton on screens and Sidney Rice on short routes. Obviously as mentioned in last week's column, we must get the ball into the hands of Syvelle Newton on a more regular basis. The bottom line is that he is one of the few offensive players that is making things happen on the field. Mike West caught one pass and was not utilized the rest of the night. We still have still yet to figure out how to effectively incorporate the talented Jared Cook into our gameplan as well. Moe Brown made a late cameo appearance but was obviously not part of the regular rotation.
Blake Mitchell turned in a less than memorable performance Saturday night. Many in the Gamecock Nation would like to point the finger at the junior for Carolina's inability to move the ball. However, Carolina did move the ball on Saturday night. The problem was the offense's inability to finish and critical turnovers. Blake was responsible for two of the three Gamecock turnovers. One resulted from a broken play in which Mitchell correctly scrambled, but then failed to utilize the QB's best friend (The hook slide). Another resulted from his ill-advised QB sneak at the goal line. Both turnovers were costly in the final outcome of the game. All that being said, I believe Blake remains the most viable option for Coach Spurrier at this time. However, look for freshman Chris Smelley to further close the gap, which will eventually lead to a two-quarterback system. Also, don't rule out the return of Syvelle Newton to the QB position. Honestly, with the lack of O-line protection, I truly believe that the gamecocks need to utilize their most mobile quarterback. If our QB is literally going to have to make decisions on the run, then who better to be at the helm than one Syvelle Newton?
If I had to make a pick between our two lines I would have to give the nod to the D-Line. Once again we received a solid performance from our secondary. Fred Bennett led the way with his second interception in as many weeks and solid tackling. Chris Hampton also played well again registering his second interception. Stoney Woodson (1 interception) is rounding into quite a player in the secondary, and Captain Munnerlyn played a solid game in coverage as well. Carlos Thomas turned in a solid overall performance and never broke technique throughout the night.
However, all was not well with the gamecock D-line. Georgia exploited our line and exposed a weakness against the run. Ryan Clary and I watched numerous times as the Georgia line moved our line around like chess pieces on a board. The result was gaping holes for the Bulldog runners to sprint through. The D-line did show a resiliency and a "bend but don't break" attitude. Stanley Doughty played a much more prominent role Saturday night and hopefully he will receive increasing playing time as he whips into shape. We will need Doughty's run stopping abilities with the season ending injury (ACL) to Marque Hall.
The "Brinkley Boys" were solid but quiet Saturday. Georgia played a lot of max protection on the line that neutralized the gamecock pass rush. We were able to hurry the young Georgia quarterback on occasion, but often Marvin Sapp would rush too hard inside causing him to lose containment.
Coach Spurrier will have some difficult decisions to make in the upcoming weeks. Coach said in his post-game conference "changes will be made."I know Coach Spurrier to be true to his word. Players will be challenged this week to think about what it means to be a Division I football player in the SEC. Do they possess the commitment that it takes? Do they possess the heart that it takes? Do they understand the sacrifices that will need to be made in order to right the ship? Players will lose their starting positions; some may never play again this season. Coach Spurrier will evaluate his players and put the most deserving eleven players on the field next week. Count on it!!
We go into the Wofford game uncertain of the direction of this Gamecock Team. We are (1-1) in the SEC. Coach Spurrier will play many unproven players over the next two weeks in order to evaluate them. These non-conference games will prove to be a measuring stick as to how we perform the rest of the season. I look for Coach Spurrier to get the offense on track and playing with confidence. Don't be alarmed by many of the player combinations you will see. Hopefully we can find some surprising contributors in the coming weeks. Let's take care of business and return to conference play 3-1. BEAT WOFFORD!!
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