A little personal disclosure: I really don't think I've ever felt as dejected after a loss as I did last night. That's saying something, because we've lost a lot of games like this over the past few years. This one, though, really stung, probably because I was 100% positive that we were going to win when we got into the red zone on the final drive. UGA's defense was spent, Spurrier was dialing up some good plays, Garcia was making throws; everything seemed to be going well for us. Then the drive stalled and we lost. It was, needless to say, tough to stomach.
The fact that we not only could have but absolutely should have won this game made matters worse upon further reflection. In saying that, I'm not trying to take anything away from Georgia. The 'Dawgs played a good, gritty game and made the plays they needed to make to win. However, if we could have put the brakes on one of the handful of big plays they made, we win. If we could have scored a touchdown one of the several times we settled for a field goal, we win. If we don't commit stupid penalties and have touchdowns called back, we win. If we don't give up a blocked extra point, we win. In short, this game was there for the taking, and we didn't take it. It's tough to think about. A quick look at the box score will show you that we beat Georgia in every aspect of the game other than special teams and the one stat that counts, the scoreboard.
All of that said, this is young team, and we knew that there were going to be some losses this year. In this loss, though, we did see some positives develop. First of all and needless to say, Stephen Garcia played a very good game. I saw that he had improved from last year during the N. C. State game, but today we began to see what this guy is really capable of. Other than the interception, he made good decisions all night and, for the most part, he threw the ball well. His timing on deep balls is still a little off, but hopefully that will come around, especially if one of our receivers steps up. I came away from this game believing that Garcia is going to have a great career here.
Continue reading after the jump.
Second of all, this offensive line is night and day better than the last two years. If they continue to grow under Coach Wolford, the combination of great pass protection and Garcia's wheels are going to mean a lot less sacks and tunovers than we used to see. That should equal wins. You have to say, too, that Garcia seems confident in this line, even more so than he did last week against the Wolfpack. He didn't take off unless he had too. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see much more of what this line can do for the run, as we abondoned the ground game while we were playing catch up in the second half. Expect to get a better glimpse of that next week against FAU.
As far as the defense goes, I'm not really sure what to think. On the one hand, I really thought we would be able to get some pressure on Cox and the big plays our secondary gave up hurt us. It was disappointing to see us fail in those regards. On the other hand, we were without two starting defensive tackles last night, both of whom should be back for Ole Miss. Having them will help us shore up the pass rush and run defense. Moreover, you have to give credit where credit is due on some of the long catches. A. J. Green is one of the best receivers in the country and made some highlight reel grabs last night. It's hard to stop a guy like that, especially for our young secondary. They'll be OK, I think, although they may need some time to grow.
All in all, it's hard to know what this game means in the grand scheme of things. I don't know how good Georgia really is, so it's hard to know how good the Gamecocks really are right now. However, I can say with confidence that if our offense continues to play like it did last night, this team will be dangerous. If that happens and the defense comes back around, this team can win any game on the schedule. We're now 1-1 after a tough pair of road games. Let's tune up this week against FAU and then take out Ole Miss the next week. If we do that, every reasonable goal for this season will be in reach.