Frisby's Corner: Vandy recap, UT preview
If you were looking for a "W" in the win column from Saturday night's game against Vandy, mission accomplished! The 'Cocks were able to come out on the winning side of a 14-10 scrum. However, if you were looking for some answers to lingering questions concerning this 2009 Carolina team... "Not so fast my friend."
I think we were left with plenty of unanswered questions. The problem was not production against the Commodores, with USC racking up 431 yards total offense. The problem once again was consistency on offense and the inability on defense to control the opposition's ground game. Throw in a major breakdown on special teams, and you had the recipe for a devastating upset. Simply put, Vanderbilt was able to stay in the game because they were able to sustain their ground game. Granted, there are no weekends off in SEC conference play. However, a team fighting for the #2 position in the SEC East behind Florida must be prepared to dispose of an inferior divisional brother with some confidence and authority. I believe we could have been more confident and authoritative on Saturday night.
Let's take a look at how the contest against Vanderbilt unfolded:
Consistency aside, there were some spectacular moments on offense. Alshon Jeffery seems to be here to stay. The freshman receiver once again displayed his Sidney Rice-esque qualities with one spectacular catch after another. He finished the night with 8 catches for 161 yards. None were better than his game sealing 43 yard 4th quarter touchdown reception. From what I could see, he basically ran a deep in-route and was able to work underneath the Vandy safeties who were playing considerably deep all night. I was very surprised that Carolina was unable to recognize this trend earlier and exploit it.
D.L. Moore only had two catches on the night, however his biggest reception was a perfect strike by Stephen Garcia for a 35 yard 2nd quarter TD. Tori Gurley once again showed us his potential. He only caught 3 passes on the night but saved his best for a 43 yard one-handed grab that moved Carolina from its own 1 yard line out to the 44 yard line. The grab displayed the tremendous athletic ability possessed by the Gamecocks' young group of talented receivers.
Stephen Garcia is not Danny Wuerffel. Steve Spurrier will probably never have another quarterback such as Wuerffel who he can "Vulcan Mind Meld" with. So what can Stephen Garcia do to become Spurrier's Spock? For one thing, he can continue doing a great job of not losing games for Carolina. For the most part, he has improved tremendously on his pass selection, not forcing throws into coverage. He has stayed in the pocket and gone through his progressions as requested. He is steadily making the improvements needed to become a premier SEC QB, although he still takes too many sacks which really chaps Coach Spurrier's butt. Timing is everything for a quarterback. Garcia must continue to calibrate his internal clock. When the time on that clock expires, get rid of the ball. He can't continue to take sacks that flip field position and take the offense out of field goal range.
That said, it was not a bad night out of Garcia. 22 of 33 for 312 yards passing is not bad at all. We continue to take what is given to us offensively. Plenty of dinking and dunking in the pass game. Unlike past years, we have the weapons and mismatches to stretch the field.
Surprisingly, Spurrier seems to be taking a measurably more conservative offensive approach. He has been accused of trying to force the ball down the field in previous years when we didn't possess the weapons to do it. Now with the weapons in place, he seems to err on the conservative side, choosing not to risk the turnover. It kind of makes you scratch your head a little, but I would like to think Coach has a method for the madness.
Running back Kenny Miles had a very nice night. We can live with 102 yards on 18 carries with a 5.7 yards per carry average! I like the way he runs North and South, keeping a low pad level and legs churning. He gets every ounce out of his slight 183 pound body. Add in 5 receptions for 27 yards and you get a complete effort. Now, only if we could get a few other backs to join in. Once again the combination of Jarvis Giles and Brian Maddox contributed only 11 yards on 6 carries. Throw in 29 yards for Garcia on 11 carries and we have a combined 40 yards on 17 carries. As stated in previous articles, "That's not going to get it done for us in the SEC." We were once again out-rushed as a team 163-119.
Can someone please tell me why we can't get Jarvis Giles out on some routes? And for that matter Bryce Sherman! I am beyond frustrated on this one. Please, someone write in and give me one good reason. Unless these guys can't catch, there is no reason they should not be utilized more in this offense. I have nothing at all against Stephen Flint. I played with his brother Mike who happens to be a friend, but if we can play Flint in the slot we can give Giles and Sherman a few opportunities also. It's become apparent to me that Giles in particular is not going to factor significantly in our run game this year.
The defense held it together long enough on Saturday night. However, we were unable to effectively control the run for a second consecutive week. Couple that with the fact that we are not getting enough pressure on the QB and that could spell trouble with our future schedule. It's bad enough we can't slow down teams we know are going to run, but if we can't pressure the QB, eventually someone is going to pick us apart. We have three outstanding QB's coming up in the forms of Arkansas' Ryan Mallet, Florida's Tim Tebow and even Clemson's Kyle Parker to some extent. We're going to have to come up with consistent pressure to be successful in those contests.
One positive on defense against the Commodores is that we didn't give up the big play. And even though we were not able to get to the QB as much as we would have liked, the pressure was sufficient enough on occasion to make life difficult in the pocket for Vandy QB Larry Smith.
Linebacker Shaq Wilson led the way with 12 tackles on the night, making quite a few nice open field take downs. Cliff Matthews and Nathan Peppers also had decent nights, registering 8 and 5 tackles respectively. Eric Norwood made good use of himself by being a nuisance all over the field. Norwood keeps offenses on their toes with his constant movement. Eventually we hope this is going to turn one of our other defenders loose for a big day. The young secondary played outstanding again, letting nothing get behind them. I love their discipline. Only good things happen if you can keep the offense in front of you.
I would be remiss if I did not mention a disturbing trend that continues among TV commentators. They continually like to credit teams with inferior athletes such as Vandy for staying in games because their athletes are supposedly intellectually superior. That is a bunch of B.S. For the most part, football is an instinctual game and the team with a huge advantage in superior athletes usually wins the contest. Now, I have seen the smartest athletes make the worst decisions possible on the field. I have also seen players who could barely read a sentence play spectacular games on the field. What it boils down to is the fact that a coach such as Bobby Johnson makes the best of the players he has. He and his staff do a great coaching job. Vanderbilt's success or lack of it has nothing to do with their intellectual abilities. If I could get one commentator to stop perpetrating that nonsense, I will have done my job.
Tennessee is next week's opponent. They will have a simple strategy. They will come out and attempt to run the ball right down our throats. If they are successful, they will continue pounding the ball until they are no longer successful.
UT quarterback Jonathan Crompton can be a very effective passer if given the time. If we can't establish pressure it could be a long day. That's pretty much it in a nutshell. The Vols possess a very stout defense. We will need to establish some continuity on offense or they will flip the field on us and work with a short field. It is imperative that we take advantage of what seems may be limited opportunities on offense.
Obviously we are going to need to establish a running game early to keep the Volunteers honest.
Coaches, you have your work cut out for you. Get to game planning. Go Cocks, beat Tennessee!
You can read Tim's blog at frisbys-corner.blogspot.com/
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