Frisby's Corner: Week Four
So we lost the LSU game. We lost to a team who is superior to us at this time - Superior in talent and superior in attitude. The lingering question is: What have we learned from this loss? What good, if any, can we take from this defeat? What have we learned about our team and its players? I know I sure learned a few things watching the game on Saturday afternoon. Let me share a few of my observations and share my perspectives of where this Gamecock team is at:
First, the offense is clearly not where it needs to be at this point in the season. We continue to have inconsistent play from our offensive line, quarterback position and receivers. Not surprisingly, our offensive line was clearly dominated by the LSU defensive line as the game progressed. LSU quickly discovered that our passing game had no downfield threat. This allowed them to walk their safeties up in run support and cancel out our running game. All-American Glen Dorsey consistently defeated double teams, had his way with our linemen, and stuffed our run.
Cory Boyd and Mike Davis were clearly frustrated about the lack of holes being produced by the O-Line. Cory and Mike spent more time running into their own line than they did LSU's. We didn't help the cause by consistently trying to run into their strength. Although they had great team speed, I thought a toss sweep or bootleg might have served us better in those 4th-and-short situations.
I really don't think Coach Spurrier foresaw the problems that we are encountering at the receiver position. He knew that Sidney Rice would be hard to replace. However, I sincerely believe that he expected this team would be able to utilize a receiver by committee approach.
Kenny McKinley understood that he would have to shoulder a huge amount of the responsibility, and in Kenny's defense, he has upheld his part of the bargain, even against increasing double coverage. We have not, however, seen anyone willing to take hold of the #2 receiving spot. Neither the running backs nor tight ends should be the #2 receivers in this offense. How do we fix this? Unfortunately, the time is now. We have to look at the immediate future. Where do we go?
Freddie Brown is a good possession receiver. He is reliable, but we simply can't expect him to stretch the field. He will be valuable in his current role and in the red-zone as the year progresses.
Moe Brown is simply not ready for the big stage yet. Moe is a good kid, but he is just not ready. He reminds me so much of Travis Lee that it is scary. He has speed to burn, but can't seem to put his feet and hands together. I really hope that it is psychological and that Moe can break out of his funk.
In retrospect, the LSU game might not have been the game to try out Jason Barnes. I jotted down a few things about Jason as the game progressed. First, unlike the #4 before him, he does not come back to the ball with a purpose. This allows the defender to recover ground and get back in position to make a play on the ball or jar it loose. Secondly, Mr. Barnes is not using his 6'4 frame to his advantage. If you can remember, Sidney Rice always placed his body between the ball and the defender. He used his basketball skills to literally box the defender out of the play (we call this technique Ball-U-Man.) This allowed Sidney to either make the catch or cause the defender to play through him and receive an interference penalty. We must remember that Sidney used a year on the practice squad to develop his body and his skills. These current receivers have no such luxury. Many of the "faux pas" we are seeing are true freshman mistakes and can be corrected with coaching and time. Keep your head up, Jason.
Larry Freeman is MIA. We all expected big things from Mr. Freeman, but it seems that he too is suffering from a lack of confidence in his game. I will tell you this as a fact: Steve Spurrier's offense is not for the faint of heart. You either produce or he will find someone who will. There is obviously something about Chris Culliver that prevents Coach Spurrier from using him in passing situations. Route running? Hands? I don't quite know, but it seems he can be more helpful than a few end-arounds.
I think that Mark Barnes could be the answer at receiver for now. I don't think it would hurt to give him a shot. Speed is what the offense needs, and yes, it may be helpful if we could also catch the ball.
Oh my, the quarterback situation. What a tangled web we weave. Blake Mitchell vs. Chris Smelley. I still think Blake should be the starting QB, but what do I know. Coach Spurrier has decided to go with Smelley next week, and I wish Chris well. Blake needs to keep his head in the game and be prepared to come in at a moment's notice. Blake has been through this before and is capable of playing well after a benching. Being a senior, I hope he gets another shot at quarterbacking this team. I don't believe the offensive woes are purely Blake's fault. Hopefully this will play out well for all concerned, and we can continue to improve our offense.
The defense played well in spots on Saturday. The secondary played extremely well I thought. Not surprisingly, we did a good job of getting pressure on the passer. However, unlike the Georgia game, we could not consistently bottle up the run for any period of time. Our great secondary play was nullified by the inability to stop the run. It didn't help that Jasper Brinkley was injured during the first series. He did not move well and was not very mobile after that injury. We definitely felt the loss of Nathan Pepper. We missed his pass rush and ability to plug holes in the line. LSU's O-line was very effective in opening huge holes and getting their runners to the second level of defense. There were also too many missed tackles. This came as a result of the defensive lineman not getting off blocks. LSU did a good job of not allowing our lineman to free up their lead tackling hand, resulting in missed initial tackle opportunities.
Our special teams let us down once again? This is simply a matter of discipline. You always must be aware of the fake. As a team we have been burned too many times in the past to continue to fall for these tricks. It was somebody's job to keep containment, and they blew it. That pivotal play was enough to seal our fate. Enough said.
Many thought at the beginning of the season that this upcoming stretch of games would be the easy part of our schedule. We all know now that there are no "gimme" games on this schedule, though. Mississippi State has beaten Auburn, Kentucky has beaten Arkansas and Louisville, and Vanderbilt played Alabama very tough. Although Arkansas has no passing game, they are still dangerous with McFadden and Jones in the backfield. Tennessee, well they are Tennessee. We always expect a tough game with them. We have our work cut out for us, folks. There is no more important time than now to live by the philosophy One game at a time. No looking ahead. Frankly, we can't afford to.
The fact is, we are still in great position to make a run at the SEC East title. Do we have it in us as a team? These next few weeks will tell.
I really can't comment too much on our upstate neighbors for one reason - they haven't played anyone yet. They have not been tested yet. Unfortunately for them, and unlike South Carolina, they have not played a quality team as of yet. And due to the weak watered down nature of the ACC this year, they may not be tested anytime soon. This week Clemson faces a Georgia Tech team that just lost to a mighty Virginia squad. Looks like Virginia Tech may be their first test of the season. Other then Va. Tech, the only other serious threats on the schedule are Boston College and South Carolina in the season finale.
I always give credit where it is due and call it like it is. The Clemson defense is very good. Rather impressive I must say. They are very capable of keeping the Tigers in games all by themselves. Cullen Harper has been a surprise so far this season. He seems to be handling himself with poise and has not been rattled yet this year. Another surprise I must admit too is the emergence of Aaron Kelly. I really didn't see this coming. He had been such a non-factor the last two years, I nicknamed him the "invisible man." I mean this guy was on the all-airport team (he looked real good carrying his luggage and was an imposing figure in his uniform on the sideline and all), but he has stepped it up so far this season.
There has been more thunder than lightning so far this year, but I see there were a few lightning strikes against an unimposing N.C. State defense this past week. Clemson will still be faced with teams stacking the box until their passing game can pose a threat. Harper has been very good thus far in knowing his limits. He has not cost the Tigers a game as of yet. Hey, you better keep an eye on those special teams, they may cost you yet. All in all, this season is just what the doctor ordered for Tommy Bowden. Enjoy it while you can.
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