After last night's heartbreaking loss to the Auburn Tigers on the plains of eastern Alabama, Gamecock nation is in utter disarray. Considering the extent of the weeping and gnashing of teeth, you'd think that we just lost to Jacksonville State or James Madison. Folks are calling the season over and want coaches' heads to roll.
Everyone, we need to calm down a bit.
The loss last night was tough. Really tough. This was a chance to put ourselves in the Top 10 and to step up in the race for the SEC Eastern Division title. We had lots of chances to win it, and we simply failed to make the key plays that you need to make to win a game like this.
However, the only goal that's off the table now is an undefeated season and a national title, and if you thought we were going to do either of those things this season, you're crazy. You can hope, yes, but you can't expect those things at this point. All of the other, more reasonable goals are still within reach. Before the season began, I saw Auburn as the third most difficult game of the season, with only Alabama and Florida being tougher. The Tigers are a good team; they'd probably win the East if they were in it. Arkansas will also be tough, but at least we get them at home. Clemson I'm still not sure about. But at any rate, all of those games are still winnable. I'm as worried as anybody about what we saw last night, but the coaches can fix the problems, and if they do, we're still going to have a good season. Most importantly, we still control our own destiny in the East. Considering how Georgia and Tennessee are playing, Florida is now our only competition, and they're likely to lose next weekend against 'Bama. We're right there with them for now.
What we learned last night is that we're not perfect and that we have a long way to go. But if you were a realist, you knew that already. Let's just hope the team and coaches can get it together over this off-week.
Analysis after the jump.
We've gone over the game in detail in the comments threads, but there are a few things that I want to comment on / reemphasize. I'm going to leave the Garcia / Shaw discussion for another day, because that one has gotten enough attention for the time being.
The defensive coaching was atrocious. Not at all what I'd expect from Ellis Johnson. The saddest part is that we didn't even make Malzahn beat us. Auburn basically abandoned the downfield passing game in the third quarter, but we never adjusted and started stacking the box and playing closer on the screen and wheel routes. Watching us give Auburn's backs and receivers a seven-yard cushion when we knew--or should have known--they were trying to dink and dunk us was pretty depressing to watch. We have to be more aggressive if we're going to win games like this.
This is probably the most worrisome thing about last night. We're used to counting on the defense to help us win games, but they dropped the ball last night. I would expect Alabama, Florida, and, heck, Kentucky to all lineup in the Wildcat and try to force us to stop it. And why not? That's basically all Auburn did in the the second half last night, and they ran it against us at will. Mark Ingram must be licking his chops.
Last rant--can we bench Chris Culliver until he gets his head screwed on straight?
The offensive coaching was spotty in the second half. I'm concerned about how quickly Spurrier abandoned the run, which I was hoping wouldn't be an issue for us again this year. True, the zone-read run with Marcus Lattimore up the middle wasn't working well. We knew it wouldn't against Auburn's interior. But some of the other plays worked a bit better. Brian Maddox had a bit of success running outside the tackles, which is Auburn's soft spot. Maybe we should have played him some more. He certainly looked fired up and ready to make some plays. At any rate, I didn't like that we reverted to the Arkansas 2009 gameplan, i. e., throw it up to Alshon and see what happens. This isn't to say that it didn't nearly work, but we didn't need to get desperate until the final drive, and considering that our QBing options were a rattled Stephen Garcia and a true freshman in Conner Shaw, perhaps we shouldn't have completely given up on the running and short passing game so quickly. Of course, as good as he looked in other spots, Shaw couldn't seem to complete a short wheel route to save his life, so there's that.
It's gotten so bad that you almost expect it now, but the officiating was pretty biased last night. Several no-calls on obvious Auburn holds and pass interferences, but no such favors for us. Sadly, this is typical for SEC officiating now; if you're the underdog and the away team, you just have to be prepared to deal with that. I'm sure we'll have to deal with this again.
That's a wrap on this one. Luckily, we have an off week to figure out how we're going to beat 'Bama. Let's hope we use it well.