Well, I got one thing right in my preview...the first ten minutes did in fact give a good indication of how the game would go. The first ten minutes were ragged and disjointed, thanks in part to an officiating crew that was incompetent even by SEC standards and a play clock that reminded me of early-season Sanford Stadium games. That raggedness continued in a game that, as good ole' Jim Ross would say, was BOWLING SHOE ugly.
Once again, the collective reaction from the Bulldog Nation after the 'Cocks game....WHEW.
- Knowshon Moreno. This guy continues to bring it every week. His touchdown run was a tremendous display of balance, strength, and vision, and he ran hard all day, as usual.
- AJ Green. This guy catches EVERYTHING thrown anywhere near him. That first catch was not nearly as easy as he made it look. He's already the second-best receiver we have on the team, only three games into his career. He is going to be special.
- The rushing defense. The Gamecocks had no room to run all day (18 yards on 16 carries) and all but gave up on the running game late in the day. In the 4th quarter, the Gamecocks had 2nd and 2 at the UGA 32 and went incomplete pass, incomplete pass, incomplete pass. For the day, they threw the ball 40 times and only ran it 16. This is an area where I thought we might miss Jeff Owens the most, but we got good penetration all day against the run, and the SC coaching staff was obviously frustrated late in the game with their inability to run the ball.
- Brian Mimbs. Mimbs may have been the MVP of the game. The 78 yard punt was a BOMB, with no wind to help him, at exactly the right moment. What's not getting as much attention is that the next time he was called on, he kicked a 50-yarder that Munnerlyn had to fair catch at the 10. The way the SC offense was moving the ball late in the game, the fact that they were forced to go the length of the field on each of their last two drives may have saved the game for us.
- The pass defense. The fact that we can not get pressure on the quarterback with our front four has to be a concern now. We are getting a little push up the middle, but our DE's can't seem to even get close to the quarterback. This is a huge concern as we go to Tempe next week, since one of the real advantages I thought we were going to have in that game is our ability to get to Carpenter.
I was also obviously wrong about our linebackers' ability to cover Jared Cook. That was a total mismatch all day, and I'm not sure why our coaching staff didn't realize that after the first couple of interference penalties.
- Kickoff coverage. I'm afraid that this may be a problem all year. For some reason, Walsh does not seem to be able to get the ball deep enough or high enough for the coverage to do their job. Wonder if the league will let us let Stafford to throw the ball for the kickoff, the way we used to do in the backyard?
THE JUST OK: Everything else. Stafford made big plays several times during the game, but he was also pretty inaccurate at times. Chandler is taking crap from several fan sites today for "drops," but the first two were almost certainly not his fault...the first one was high, hard, and behind him, and the second was tipped right before it got to him. Nothing like the problems he had last year, when passes were hitting him in the chest and bouncing off.
The offensive line was inconsistent...Cordy had a couple of obvious blown assignments, and in general the offense was thrown off balance a little bit by the fact that our o-line was not blowing guys off the ball. Carolina's defense is tough and physical, so it's not particularly surprising that we struggled with this young offensive line in their first SEC road game.
I was a little disappointed in the offensive play calling...I didn't think we spread them out nearly enough. Not enough screens, swing passes, etc. They were pretty effective for the most part when we did run them. I also thought we ran the QB zone-read running play too often. We hit it a couple of times, but then they started looking for it and we were still trying to run it in crucial situations....like third and goal from the 7?!?!?!?
Overall...we're 3-0. 1-0 in the SEC. I do NOT think we looked like the #2 team in the country, but the good thing about this schedule is that we don't have to look good every week. Just survive and advance. And if you could say we accomplished anything yesterday, that was it...we survived.