You probably felt the same way I did. You remembered the 2006 and 2009 Florida games, and you said, "Here we go again. We've seen this before."
Well, maybe we hadn't exactly seen it before. Certainly, we've seen Carolina play elite teams close, but watching us dominate the first half was something new. However, the feeling at the beginning of the second half was similar. We were in position to take the game, but a mistake--Stephen Garcia's choice to take a safety instead of falling on the ball and playing to punt--seemed to signal a shift in momentum. It felt like those blocked kicks and Justin Trattou's interception against UF in 2006 and 2009. I thought our chance to make history was slipping through our grasp.
This time, though, we responded to the bell. The defense got big stop after big stop, and the offense made play after play to keep drives alive and score more points. It was a great performance, and it was undoubtedly cathartic for the many Carolina fans who have watched us fail to take a victory like this for so many years.
It was, in fact, the kind of performance that makes you believe that we may have a great team on our hands. Folks have been talking about this being the year to win the East because the traditional powers are all down, and, certainly, they are all suffering right now. (Thank LSU and The Hat for what they pulled off last night; I didn't think they had a chance in that game and am ever so glad to be wrong.) However, after beating the favorite to win the conference and national titles by two TDs, it's worth suggesting that maybe the East isn't down at all--maybe we're not just a team with a chance in a bad league but rather an elite team that can play with the best of the best.
Follow the jump for some quick thoughts and analysis.
Our much-maligned defense answered the call yesterday. If you had told me yesterday that we would stuff 'Bama's running game like that, I would have told you that you were crazy. They stepped up, though, and challenged Greg McElroy to beat us downfield, which was exactly what I thought we had to do to win. McElroy made some good throws here and there, but he also seemed generally hesitant to challenge us vertically and consequently got clocked a few times. Plan executed.
I've seen in a few places where 'Bama fans are saying that Alshon Jeffery might be as good as Julio Jones. Folks, time to wake up--Jeffery is the best receiver in the league and a legit Biletnikoff Award contender. He made jaw-dropping catch after jaw-dropping catch yesterday, with the best being the one-handed grab down the sideline to help us put the game away.
Let it never be said that Steve spurrier is too hard on his QBs. Spurrier expects excellence from his QBs, and when he got just that from Garcia yesterday, he showered him with praise. You can reasonably disagree with his decision to yank Garcia at Auburn, but you have to admit that something Spurrier is doing seems to finally be registering with Garcia.
Garcia's performance, on the same token, was one for the ages and a huge moment of redemption for a guy who has struggled to put it all together. I think what was most impressive was that he didn't fold after the weird safety to start the second half. He stood in there and made perfect throw after perfect throw, oftentimes while facing the Alabama rush. He's become a legitimate All-SEC candidate; right now I'd put him on the third team behind Cameron Newton and Ryan Mallett, and I think he has an argument for second. That may be hard to believe, but it's true. He's now in the top five in the nation in passing efficiency. I can't believe I just typed that, but, again, it's true.
The offensive line also deserves a lot of credit for turning the conventional narrative on its head and playing the game of its life. I don't know what Shawn Elliott told these guys during the off week, but it worked. They played hard and they played smart, dominating the line of scrimmage against one of the best defensive fronts in the nation.
Last but not least, Steve Spurrier deserves credit all around for what they did yesterday. Most folks talk about Nick Saban as the best coach in college football, but yesterday it was Spurrier making all the right calls and Saban looking like he was at a loss for how to respond to the clinic Spurrier was putting on. It's worth noting that several recruits--including the coveted Javedeon Clowney--were in attendance yesterday, and others likely saw USC on College Gameday and us watched get a convincing win on the CBS Game of the Week. Those young men are all undoubtedly now more interested in coming to Carolina to play for Coach Spurrier.