September 8, 2012; Columbia, SC, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks wide receiver Bruce Ellington (23) makes a reception in front of East Carolina Pirates linebacker Jeremy Grove (53) in the first half at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-US PRESSWIRE
Prior to the game, if you had told me that Dylan Thompson would start and that we would win 48-10 with Thompson passing for 300+ yards, I would have said I'll take that every time. And I would--we played a great game today, and I'm very pleased with the outcome. However, we're a tough crowd here at GABA, as we feel that it's incumbent upon us to give you the bad with the good. So, without further ado:
Five Things to Dislike
--We gave up over 300 yards passing. Yes, quite a few of those came off of flukey tipped balls that all seemed to go straight to an ECU receiver. Yes, a large portion of ECU's yardage came late in the game, after we put the backups in. And yes, the secondary did many good things, things that were punctuated by Jimmy Legree's beautiful pick-six. That said, it was far from a flawless defensive performance, and secondary play had a lot to do with that. In particular, open-field tackling wasn't as good as it could have been. Moreover, considering our depth at corner, it would have been nice to see the backups play a little better than they did.
--This game further confirmed that Marcus Lattimore is a bit rusty. Granted, there weren't a lot of running lanes open today, both because ECU was playing the run hard, and because our offensive line struggled in run blocking. That said, Lattimore appears tentative on his cuts and missed a couple of nice opportunities to make a nice gain on cut backs. While Lattimore looked rusty running the ball, he deserves a shoutout for his all-around play today. In particular, he did a lot of the little things well, including placing a couple of nice blocks to help out his QB.
--Run-blocking, as mentioned, was pedestrian today. That was partially because ECU was primed to stop Lattimore, but, still, our offensive line should have done better against ECU's defensive front.
--Nick Jones's drop on the screen pass to end the first half. The play might have gone for six, and there was really no one around to disrupt the reception. An inexcusable drop in an otherwise promising performance by Jones.
--Not a problem with our team, but it's absolutely driving me crazy that the officials have, as far as I can tell, stopped calling holding. Jadeveon Clowney was being held probably a dozen plays in this game, but holding was never called. Then, on a play where he fought through a hold to sack the quarterback, the refs called facemasking on him on what looked to me like pretty incidental contact with the QB's facemask. (Maybe I didn't get get a good look at the facemask from my seats, though.) If holding is still on the books, they should call it. Of course, they're not calling it in other games, either, so I guess you just have to say, it is what it is.
Five Things to Like
--Dylan Thompson played extremely well. Granted, ECU's secondary was horrible, and we had receivers running wide open more or less constantly throughout the game. Thompson, though, made his reads and delivered some nice throws, more or less doing what he had to do to move the ball. I don't think there's any question that Connor Shaw is still the starter for this team, but I am glad to see that we have a quality backup in case Shaw goes down. If you haven't listened to the post-practice interviews with Thompson, BTW, you should. This guy is an impressive individual, a kid who came in unheralded but has worked hard to become a reliable backup. Kudos to him.
--Clowney only recorded a couple of tackles in this game, but he was more productive in many ways than he was last week. He frequently drew attention from multiple blockers, and his QB pressures led to bad decisions by the ECU QB. And let's face it: He probably gets multiple sacks in this game if not for all the holding.
--He never made a big catch down field, on one play due to pass interference (something else the officials don't seem to call as much anymore), but I liked the move to get Shaq Roland more involved in the game. We're going to want to increasingly give him more space in the rotation as the season progresses, and I liked seeing us start that process today.
--Although I called out the secondary play above, Legree really deserves a round of applause from Gamecock Nation. He's been asked to come in and play in the place of Akeem Auguste, who many of us thought would be a key cog in a successful season. When Auguste went down, many cringed at the thought of Legree starting. But he's proven himself to be a completely competent cornerback. I feel fairly confident in him going forward.
--Most of our receivers played well today, but the overall MVP for the group has to go to Bruce Ellington. The kid is a play maker: He's always open, and he gains yards after the catch. The more we get him the ball, the better.