Frisby's Corner: Week Ten
I made it a point not to look at any press clippings of Saturday's Carolina/Arkansas game. I did this for two reasons: First, I didn't think anyone would have anything to say that I didn't already know. I don't need stats to tell me what I can see with my eyes. Secondly, I wanted to be able to write this piece without any outside influence whatsoever. This process allows me to vent my frustration or channel praise appropriately towards those so deserving.
To say that these last few weeks have been frustrating would be a huge understatement. Watching this Carolina team free-fall from the #6 team in the nation out of the top 25 has been nothing short of maddening. To compound the problem, it seems that much if not all of this misery has been self-inflicted. I'm known as the Howard Cosell of sports writers - "I tell it like it is." This week will not be an exception. I would like some questions answered, and maybe my readers can be of some help to me this week. So consider this an interactive column, a sort of open-ended question and answer session with my readers:
What exactly is going on with our offense? Why is it that we seem to be capable of only playing one half of football on offense per game? Maybe we're sandbagging until our appearance in the MPC Computer Bowl in Boise, ID? I don't quite understand how our offense consistently operates like a light switch... it is either "on" or "off." Let's take a look.
Offensive Line: The offensive lines in the Spurrier Era have gotten better as the season progressed. That is until this year. We have not seen any consistency from our front five at all this year. It's like a game of musical chairs, except the music never seems to stop. Some weeks we can run and others we can't. There are weeks that we get a semblance of pass protection and the next week our QB is running for his life. Our QB running for his life would not be half bad if we had one who could run. It seems our QB's idea of avoiding the rush is taking a drive crushing sack. Something has got to give. Either we recruit an athletic QB who can pass and throw (see Vince Young or Oregon's Dennis Dixon), or we recruit big and athletic lineman who are capable of pass and run blocking. Maybe the Ball Coach's offense has to be revamped to reflect the talent operating within it?
Quarterback: Blake Mitchell was great for a half. Was he inconsistent? Yes. Especially on various corner routes. Could Chris Smelley have done any better? No. Coach Spurrier was correct in his decision to let Mitchell go the distance. Spurrier says he wants his QB's to look at the defense and audible into better plays based on the defensive alignment. Blake should have taken his advice and audibled into some running plays near the goal line. Why not utilize the hard running Cory Boyd and Mike Davis when we are down that close? If we insist on passing, go to a five receiver set and spread the defense all over the field. We have become too predictable in the red zone. We get down there, we throw a fade on first and goal, try to run between the tackles on second down, normally there is confusion and a timeout on third and goal at which time we try a slow developing pass play where the defense is applying all out pressure on our QB. Whatever happened to a simple toss sweep to one of the best running backs in the SEC and having a race to the pylon?
Running Back: Cory Boyd does everything this team asks of him. Mike Davis seems to be following his lead and will lay it all on the line. Lanard Stafford throws crushing blocks and gets all he can from his limited athletic abilities. If there is one unit on this team giving its all, it is the running backs. I really empathize with Cory Boyd. I can feel his frustration. It is hard to sit around and watch your team struggle when you know there is something you can do about it. I did it for two years so I know exactly how he feels. The coaches have all the instruments in the world to measure everything from speed to strength. But they still have not come up with a tool to measure a player's heart. We need to put the game in the hands of our players who have the most heart. Then maybe, just maybe, we can finish.
Receivers: It has been the same story throughout the year. We get consistency from Kenny McKinley. We get some extraordinary plays from Jared Cook when utilized and Freddie Brown will give us some quality short yardage plays. We may be seeing the emergence of another quality receiver in Dion Lecorn. The kid shows some potential. Unfortunately, we still can't throw deep. Our offense will continue to stall if we can't provide a balanced attack. More importantly, we must keep defenses honest with a viable downfield threat.
Defense: Opposing offenses are continuing to realize that our defensive line is woefully undersized. We are extremely fast, but nevertheless undersized. Not one of our defensive linemen demands a double team. We can't get off blocks, and our leading tackler is safety Emanuel Cook. It was only a matter of time before he was injured in run support. I would like an answer to my one and only question. How can we know that a team is going to primarily run the ball and not be prepared for it? Not only were we not prepared for it, they set a rushing record. I really like and respect Coach Tyrone Nix, but I need that question answered, please. If Arkansas was going to beat us, it should have been with the pass. I don't care if we had to play man to man on their receivers all night. You have to make them beat you through the air.
Why does it always have to be firsts with us? We hadn't beaten Florida since 1939. We hadn't won a game at Tennessee. We give up over 500 yards rushing to a team we knew was going to run? It always has to be feast or famine with us. This is not what we expected in year three of the Spurrier Era. We have painted ourselves into a corner. To make matters worse, it seems that six wins will not get you an automatic bowl bid this year. We need to win one of these final two games to secure even the worst of bowls. Quite frankly, I am tired of excuses. I'm tired of the talking. What we need is some accountability for this team's performance or should I say underperformance. Everyone from the coaching staff to players needs to reassess themselves and do some soul searching. In the meantime, I'll be waiting for some answers.
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