If you had told me that we would win this game 24-17 the day before the game, I would say that that would be great. However, I'm hardly ecstatic about this win. When you look at the stats, you see that we outgained the Cats in total yards 348-218. However, we only scored 10 real offensive points; the other fourteen came from special teams play, seven from a block FG return and seven from a long kickoff return that set up a one-play TD drive.
The fact is, we should have won this game by two or three TDs. Why didn't we? A lot of the fault goes to the usually reliable Ryan Succop. Two of Ryan's misses were from 50 out, so it's hard to blame him for those. But two were from closer in. Spurrier and Rychleski have different theories explaining Ryan's problem yesterday. I'm going to lean towards the idea that Ryan's abdominal injury is hurting him more than he admits and hope that he's feeling a lot better next week. Whatever his problems are, I have a lot of faith in Ryan coming through for us eventually.
Succop's not the only one at fault. Anytime your team has to kick five FGs, you know that you have problems getting the ball into the end zone. Some of these aborted drives (including the one that started on the KY 38 after Rich Brooks elected to kick an onsides kick to open the second half--what was he thinking?) occurred with Smelley still in the game, which explains things. Smelley had an awful day, as cocknfire pointed out. I'll have to admit that Smelley puzzles me. He seems to play great when his job is on the line, but stinks up the field when things seem to be going well for him. He has trouble with prosperity, it seems. For the time being, he's done--Garcia looked a lot better than he did yesterday, and Spurrier is going with Garcia against LSU.
We did see some good things against Kentucky, of course. The defense was great, especially in the second half. The Cats couldn't get anything going when they came out of the locker room, which again attests to how good Ellis Johnson is. The days when we were heartbroken over losing Brian VanGorder seem long gone, don't they?
We also finally saw Ray Rychleski's special teams acumen come through. Our kick return game has looked a lot better all year, and yesterday we saw a truly great return when Captain Munnerlyn took one all the way to the Kentucky red zone to set up an easy score. The blocked FG was also huge.
And of course we saw Stephen Garcia come through big time. There's now good reason to believe that the hype that's surrounded Garcia ever since he stepped on campus has been legit--this guy is a good QB. I don't think we've seen the end of Chris Smelley--Spurrier keeps a short leash, and Smelley seems inexplicably to transform into Joe Montana when he comes off the bench, so expect to see him again at some point. However, Garcia has for the time being lived up to his status as our main guy for the next few years.
Garcia's reward? The chance to lead us to our biggest victory since we beat Georgia early last year. A win in this LSU game would be HUGE, and the game looks very winnable after what happened in Gainesville last night. So stay tuned this week for previews. I'll also be putting up my midseason report tomorrow or the next day.