Brown, Gamecocks view Vandy as statement game
Carolina's 34-0 whitewash of N.C. State this past Thursday night featured a Steve Spurrier offense that proved to be nothing short of abysmal in the first half, racking up a grand total of three points by halftime, thanks to a Ryan Succop field goal set up by a Wolfpack turnover deep in their own territory. The proverbial floodgates opened after intermission, as the Gamecocks coupled four touchdowns with another Succop field goal to provide, in thespian parlance, the "Mr. Hyde" to the first half's "Dr. Jekyll".
And with a dangerous Vanderbilt squad eager to make it two in a row over the Gamecocks when the SEC foes square off this Thursday night in Nashville, Carolina can ill-afford an encore presentation of last week's early offensive ineptitude.
According to a prominent role-player in the offense's second half resurgence, the Gamecocks' slow start is no cause for alarm. USC wide receiver Moe Brown, whose 47 yards receiving contributed to a balanced passing attack, maintains Carolina's slow start against State was nothing more than, well, a slow start.
"It was just a culmination of stuff," the Anderson, S.C. native explained Sunday. "You've got your first game in the heat of the battle in front of 85,000 fans at Williams-Brice stadium; you've got a lot of emotion, a lot of nerves. I think it was a feeling out process. Once we got through that and said ‘this is football, let's go out here and play and have some fun', we started loosening up a little bit and started clicking a little better."
"The slow start was a combination of a lot of things, and it doesn't look good to (those on) the outside," Brown continued. "But to us on the inside, we know what was going on and it wasn't as bad as it looked. Football is a complex game."
Brown is refreshingly honest when looking ahead to facing Vandy later this week. After all, it was the Commodores who embarrassed the Gamecocks 17-6 last October, igniting the well-documented season-ending slide that saw Carolina go from a #6 national ranking to being left out in the cold when bowl bids were doled out.
"Whenever you lose to a team, you always want a chance to play them again, especially when you were in a situation that you feel like you should have won," the Westside High School product said. "I believe that going into this game, a lot of people are going to be playing with a chip on their shoulder with a lot to prove. I think its going to give us an extra boost. I really want to go in there, and I think our team really wants to go in there and make a statement."
The Commodores opened play last Thursday by winning 34-13 over a favored Miami (Ohio) team, Vanderbilt's largest margin of victory on the road since 1991. And while film revealed a capable Dores defense, Brown said he would expect no less. After all, this is the SEC.
"From what I've seen, they're very disciplined," Brown acknowledged. "They have corners that tackle very well. They look pretty good, but that's what you are gonna get with any SEC defense. You've got to find a way to pick ‘em apart and be able to pick up there blitzes and hopefully get the ball to where you need to get it."
After demotion to second team quarterback following a five interception Spring Game, Chris Smelley is back as the starter against Vandy, partly due to Tommy Beecher's injured shoulder and partly due to his own fine performance against N.C. State in the opener. Either way, Brown is effusive in his praise for Smelley's demeanor both on the field and off.
"I think he handled (the demotion) wonderfully," an emphatic Brown stated. "Smelley is a great guy. He's one of those types of people you would do anything you can for. I guess he was anointed the next starter after Blake Mitchell and he kind of lost that over the spring. But he stayed upbeat about it. I had a couple of conversations with him... he's kept his head in the right place and stayed mentally focused."
One thing is for certain. No matter which quarterback is under center, Brown and the rest of the Carolina receivers are intent on duplicating or exceeding the offensive output displayed in the SECOND half of last Thursday's season opener and burying last season's Vanderbilt loss once and for all. Right beside "Dr. Jekyll".
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