Frisby's Corner: Week Six
If there was ever a time I would not have wanted to be in the South Carolina locker room, Saturday evening in Kentucky would have been that time. I did not like the expression I saw on Coach Spurrier's face as he exited the field in Lexington. The expression on the face of the 'Head Ball Coach' told me that something was not right, and he wanted some answers now.
The game itself was a tale of two halves. The first half was dominated by the Gamecocks offensively, as well as a solid defensive effort. The second half was dominated by defensive lapses and a lack of killer instinct on both sides of the ball.
Don't get me wrong. This was a vastly improved Kentucky team that the Gamecocks played Saturday evening. However, this was a team South Carolina should have put away by no less than two touchdowns.
As promised, the offensive line is improving every week. The emergence of Syvelle Newton at quarterback is lending an assist to Coach John Hunt as he continues to fine-tune the line. Newton's intangibles allow many of the line's mistakes to go unnoticed because of his elusiveness. This allows Coach Hunt to go to the films and make the necessary adjustments to correct assignments.
I will note that the offensive line is much improved in both run and pass blocking. The line is beginning to win battles in the trenches and is getting a good solid push off the ball. The line is also allowing Newton the time to stay in the pocket longer and go through his progressions. Syvelle was able to check off up to three levels at times on Saturday evening.
Cory Boyd has emerged as "the man" in the Gamecock backfield. Coach Spurrier can no longer deny Boyd's combination of hard nosed running style and pass catching ability. Coach has been very patient hoping for Mike Davis to emerge or at least show consistent signs of his late season '05 form, but Davis has been unable to get on track this season, and now his playing time will continue to be drastically reduced as Spurrier looks for production.
I feel that we will see more of Boyd from the slot position as the season progresses. Cory has been very effective, as has the offense from the empty backfield look.
Much like the O-Line, the Gamecock backfield is emerging with an identity. However, USC still finds themselves in need of a consistent #2 back. Who will step up to fill this role?
How do we get Sidney Rice involved in the offense? Sidney is too big of a weapon to squander on one catch for fifteen yards! I believe Sidney must be utilized much like Georgia Tech uses Calvin Johnson. At times Georgia Tech force feeds the ball to Johnson, regardless of coverage and allows him to utilize his tremendous athletic ability to make the play. Now I'm not proposing forcing the ball continuously into double coverage, but the Gamecock offense needs to take some shots downfield and let Sidney be Sidney.
Kenny McKinley continues to shine from the receiver position. Kenny makes the tough catches over the middle and showed his arm off a little on Saturday as well. Kenny has the ability to spin cornerbacks like a top with his footwork. He used this uncanny ability and a double move to spring himself for a long gain on Saturday. McKinley will need to continue his production whenever Carolina is not finding a way to get Sidney the ball.
Moe Brown stepped up and made some big catches. I like Brown's toughness and yardage gained after the catch. Moe keeps his legs moving and is not afraid to give up his body. Remember that Brown is all of 5'10,160 pounds.
O.J. Murdock continues his increasing involvement in the receiver rotation. O.J. came up with a big catch on Saturday to extend a drive. I am looking for Coach Spurrier to start taking some shots down the field to utilize Murdock's speed.
Noah Whiteside has not adjusted as fast as I had projected. Noah is still struggling with some formations. I think this can be attributed to his lack of work with the first team. I look for Noah to straighten things out and get back to making plays.
Jared Cook still has the ability to be a game breaker this season. I believe Coach Spurrier will look to include this tight end weapon in upcoming game plans. Jared showed glimpses of what he is capable of doing in the Auburn game, and don't be surprised to see him used in critical situations again this year.
What else needs to be said about Syvelle Newton? While everyone else was calling for Chris Smelley to be inserted, I was calling for Syvelle. Now everyone is being hypocritical in his or her praise of Mr. Newton, as if they wanted him behind center all along. Please, give me a break. As a teammate, I felt that Syvelle was not given a fair opportunity to win the position in the spring of 05'. I credit Syvelle with not making waves and being a team player, as Coach Spurrier experimented with Blake Mitchell. And let's face it, if not for the poor performance of the offensive line and a bar fight, The Gamecocks still may not have seen Syvelle behind center. However, the college game has changed, and with it the prototypical quarterback. Matt Leinart aside, this is the age of the Michael Vick's, Vince Young's, Troy Smith's, and Syvelle Newton's at the quarterback position. These QB's not only allow their teams the opportunity to win, they cause opposing defenses nightmares. Look for Coach Spurrier to dig deeper into his playbook as Newton becomes increasingly more comfortable behind center.
A solid first half performance gave way to a skittish third quarter and a mistake ridden fourth quarter. The Gamecock defense took the brunt of Coach Spurrier's post game verbal daggers. Secondary Coach Ron Cooper played the role of Lucille Ball (Lucy, you have some 'splaining to do) on Saturday night, as Cooper's defense inexplicably failed to execute the three deep zone (prevent defense) and almost prevented the Gamecocks from winning the game. Coach Coop explained that the secondary was not communicating well with each other. This is where senior Fred Bennett must step up and take charge. He must huddle the defense and make sure that everyone understands their assignments. If not, these lapses will eventually cost South Carolina a game this season.
Overall the defense played well on Saturday. The Gamecocks seemed to be able to muster a pretty good pass rush and confuse Kentucky with their blitz packages. Eric Norwood had a good night and spent a good amount of time in the Kentucky backfield.
Ryan Brown made some good reads off the end and made solid tackles.
Stanley Doughty played well in the trenches and seemed to be getting good penetration throughout the night. Overall the defense confused Kentucky quarterback Woodson for much of the night and caused him to rush his passes.
Once again, the Gamecocks fell prey to a fake (fake punt). How we are consistently caught off guard in the kicking game is beyond me. Hopefully we have learned our lesson this year and we stay vigilant in upcoming 4th down punting situations and on kickoffs. Instead of blaming the defense, let's levy some blame on the special teams coach for being caught with his pants down once again. That fake changed the momentum of the game and gave Kentucky a glimmer of hope.
I will be adding a weekly sidebar consisting of my opinions of the Clemson Tigers and their weekly performance. First, let this be known. I will never be mistaken for being on the Clemson butt-kissing bandwagon. There is already more than a fair share of chapped lips to go around. I am like Howard Cosell, "I tell it like it is." I simply call it how I see it in regards to Clemson. I am not contractually obligated to be nice to Clemson, I have no sponsors that pressure me to be nice to Clemson, and therefore I can say what is really on my mind.
I will come up with a word to describe a team now and then. My word to describe Clemson as a team is "SUSPECT". Much like South Carolina exposed Auburn, Wake Forest exposed Clemson to future opponents. For three quarters, Wake exposed a Clemson team that is susceptible to misdirection plays and any semblance of a passing game. Remember, Clemson was supposed to be more than two touchdowns better than this Demon Deacon team.
Bottom line; slice it any way you like. Clemson should have lost a football game to Wake Forest Saturday afternoon. Ron Morris said in his column "Good teams find a way to win." I find that to be a ridiculous statement in regards to the Wake/Clemson game. Wake Forest simply found a way to lose that game Saturday. If Wake handles the snap and makes the field goal to go up 20-3, then the game is over. End of conversation. Tommy Bowden's cheese eating grin at the end of the game can't fool me. Wake beat Clemson like a redheaded stepchild for a good portion of that ballgame.
Clemson has a fine running game, but their passing attack leaves much to be desired. James Davis and C.J. Spiller are above average backs. However, teams will begin to stack the box and make Clemson beat them in the air. I, for one, don't believe Clemson can beat teams in the air. Much like the team itself, their secondary is "SUSPECT".
Clemson has four major contests still looming on their schedule (Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, NC State, and South Carolina). Let me be the first to predict that they may lose all four, if not three out of the four.
Tommy Bowden dodged a bullet on Saturday in Winston Salem. I hope for his sake he is wearing a bulletproof vest for the remainder of the year.
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