Fan Reaction Doesn't Acknowledge Good Start

Many have predicted 2007 as the year of the Gamecock breakthrough in the SEC, and South Carolina's season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette started the season the right way – with a win. But for many of the fans who watched, their reaction was one of concern, disappointment, criticism, and second guessing. Are their concerns justified? Read inside for analysis by Duane Everett.

Gamecock fans have had their hopes dashed for many seasons in the past. Could it be déjà vu, with high expectations resulting once again in an average or poor season? Tons of South Carolina fans walked back to their tailgate spots looking as if the Gamecocks had lost to a division II program.

My take: Those reactions are far from justifiable, and warrant a clinic on major college football, and possibly a lesson on opponent scouting and evaluation. The early line of 29 points may have caused false expectations, and many USC fans came into this game expecting to see a route of a program that has talented scholarship athletes that beat the University of Houston last season, the same team the Gamecocks defeated in the Liberty Bowl. Ron Morris didn't help any when he added 6 more points with his 38-3 prediction.

While USC will have to address tackling on defense, Rickey Bustle, a great coach, prepared his talented offense with a lot of junk movement and option sets. That made a very quick USC defense react to misdirection, delays and frankly some nifty footwork by a very elusive QB, Mic Desormeaux, and a quick Tyrell Fenroy, a tailback who rushed for over 1100 yards during the 2006 season.

The Gamecock defense revealed some promising results in denying the Ragin' Cajuns any points after two time-consuming drives in the first half that kept USC's spread offense off the field and did not allow the continued bombardment by Steve Spurrier's "Cock-n-Fire" offense, and teased the home crowd as USC jumped onto the score board with two quick scores on two possessions in the first six minutes of the contest.

Once Coach Bustle settled his team down and began to run the junk offense, the USC defense appeared vulnerable to their running attack, often hitting high and failing to wrap up ball carriers to complete the tackle. The result was an apparent poor showing by the defense. The lack of points or the absence of a blow-out brings questions to some about USC's offensive potential.

Let's examine the team's performance, the key points of the game, and the true results of the win. South Carolina's offense scored on its first two possessions. The first, a seven play, 64 yard drive took only 2:54 off the clock. The second drive only took 1:25 off, using five plays to cover 50 yards. A third drive was thwarted when QB Chris Smelley missed his open receiver in the end zone by throwing outside the post, delivering a gift to the visiting team.

Otherwise, the score becomes 21-0, and a possible blowout could have been ignited. Instead, the USC offense was then kept off the field by the ball control running scheme that Bustle employed, letting Desormeaux lead a 15 play, 80 yard drive that consumed 6:09.

The Gamecock offensive line had a productive outing, but a key sack that proved to be one of the few let downs by the line resulted in a stalled USC drive. The Ragin' Cajuns then took over on their 11 yard line and used another time-eroding drive to score on 11 plays in 4:38.

The next USC drive went to the ground successfully, but ended with a missed 47 yard field goal. The Gamecock defense then made a few adjustments and forced the Cajuns to go three plays and out, holding them to one yard. The USC offense scored again, traveling 65 yards in 5 plays in just 1:52, closing the half and securing control of an otherwise even ball game. This drive was key in possibly revealing the character of this team, which showed no signs of panic.

The second half produced another defense and tackling clinic, with the Ragin' Cajuns being held to 0 points and 126 yards on 30 plays for the half. The offense, on the other hand, actually did dominate; and while the score was not a blowout, it was a statistical advantage around which a team can build a championship season: 41 rushing plays produced 195 yards, a passing offense with a 72% efficiency rating that amassed 238 yards and only gave up one turnover. Since when could Carolina fans turn their nose up at these types of numbers?

Cory Boyd could not be tackled by a single defender; Mike Davis powered his way to 94 yards on 15 carries. The 72% passing efficiency tells the story for Chris Smelley and Tommy Beecher. Beecher also showed some slick footwork on two occasions, gaining 18 yards. Captain Munnerlyn now emerges as a solid return man, revealing good hands, great running balance and a player who is hard to tackle. I predict he'll break one soon.

The offensive line was solid, and downfield blocking made the highlights as well. The 5 yard adjustment on kick-offs did not hinder Ryan Succop, who placed 4 of his first 5 kick-offs in the end zone for touchbacks. Andy Boyd and Jared Cook, from the tight end position, participated in over 17% of the passing, a new addition to a USC offensive attack, much of which was downfield.

Opening day for college football brought about a few stunning surprises. South Carolina faired extremely well; if you don't think so, ask the fans in Ann Arbor, Michigan or South Bend, Indiana. Wonder what was being talked about at their post-game tailgates?

To discuss this article, visit The Cockpit, our free forum, or The Golden Spur, our premium forum.

Gamecock Anthem Top Stories