Well, that wasn't pretty. In a game in which the norm for both offenses was off-kilter offensive play, defense ruled the day, and Alabama's big interception return on the first drive and their ability to run the ball fairly consistently helped the Tide to a 20-6 win. The game was a close one, and you really have to give our defense credit for keeping us in this thing. I was impressed with how Ellis Johnson's group didn't crack after numerous aborted offensive series. They kept 'Bama out of the end zone until the very end of the game, and they came up with several turnovers. That's the recipe for success in a game like this.
Unfortunately, our offense failed to capitalize on the numerous opportunities to score that the defense produced, and you have to recognize that both our coaches and players simply didn't do a great job in this game. The play calling was questionable for most of the night. Why continue to run draw plays that 'Bama has held in check all night? Why run a play three straight times on first and goal at the five? For his part, Stephen Garcia, although he made a noble effort, played very poorly. A lot of his throws were a little off and he didn't do a good job of avoiding sacks. The interception looked like the receivers fault for running the wrong route, but it goes on the books nonetheless. It was possibly the difference in the game. Finally, some of our receivers suffered from the dropsies. Just an all-around poor offensive showing.
The question now becomes what to make of this one. You can, of course, call it yet another missed opportunity and worry that the wheels are about to come off. And that's a valid response; we've been there before, and while I expect to beat Vandy this week, nothing will come easy after that. Some of our problems, such as the offensive line play, will probably continue to haunt us. Depth will only become more of an issue on both sides of the ball as the season progresses.
However, this loss doesn't have to mean that the season is falling apart. This wasn't a game that many people expected us to win or even to keep close. We were playing what's possibly the best team in the nation in their house. Despite having an off night offensively, though, we kept it closer than most folks expected us to. If I'm Steve Spurrier and his staff, I'm telling this team that they're right there, so close to being able to win the big one. I'm also telling them that this team is still in position to achieve its goals for the season, and while the schedule is daunting, all of our remaining games are winnable. That includes Florida, who looks vulnerable right now and won't have the luxury of playing us at home. (Although they might enjoy other luxuries, such as biased officiating and broadcasting commentary. Yeesh to that game yesterday.)
In the end, I still think we're where we were this time last week. We're searching for that game when it all comes together. This week, it was the offense that was off. We've seen Garcia bounce back from off nights before, and I think we'll see him do it again, hopefully next week against Vandy. If he can do that and the rest of the team can come to play, as well, then maybe we can get a little retribution against the 'Dores and gain some steam as we head on the road to take on Tennessee and Arkansas.
A few more thoughts on the game.
- As I expected, Ellis Johnson played the run aggresively all night, and it worked for most of the game. Kudos to our staff for their gameplan and to the players for executing it.
- Even with Akeem Auguste coming back, I think C.C. Whitlock has earned a place in the starting lineup. He played another good game and is finally showing us why he was considered such a good prospect.
- If I'm Vandy's coaching staff, I'm thinking the only way my generally incompetent offense is going to move the ball is to get in the wildcat and run it up the gut. Our defensive coaches need to be prepared for that next week, as it's given us fits now for two straight weeks.
- After running the ball well against Kentucky last week, we looked like 2008 Carolina this week. At some point, I think Spurrier is going to have to diversify his offense a little bit to incorporate more power formations. Everyone can see that draw play coming from a mile away, and unless the rest of our offense is clicking on all cylinders, good defenses can shut the play down pretty easily.
- On that note, not having Jarvis Giles hurt us more than I thought it would. Having a good outside runner like Giles would have given us another option in the running game.
Jason Barnes finally had a good game. Hope he can keep it up. (After today, please don't remind that Barnes could have been the hero if not for a bad Garcia throw.)
- Kentucky beat Auburn at Auburn last night. Perhaps the 'Cats are a pretty good football team and a nice scalp for our team.
- On the other hand, N.C. State certainly isn't making our victory over them look like it means anything.
- Finally, all my best to Moe Brown. Get well soon, buddy.