Although we did some good things, the Gamecocks were not impressive Saturday night. They failed to cover the large spread and tended to make some of the same mistakes that have plagued them all year. An inability to capitalize on good field position, poor offensive line play, poor QB accuracy esp. on longer throws; all these issues continued to rear their ugly head against the Blazers, a hapless team that I hoped we would be able to exorcise some demons against. Spurrier probably summed it up when he said that now we're going to have to go out and try to win some close games, because, needless to say, if we can't put up more points against UAB, we're going to have trouble doing it against teams like Ole Miss and Kentucky.
There were some positives out there. The defense, first of all, played an incredible, dominant game. They held Blazer QB Joe Webb, who has had some success as a dual-threat QB, to only 22 yards rushing. Dual-threat QBs have been a problem for us in the past, but, once again, Ellis Johnson's squad proved that we're no longer going to suffer the trials of the Tyrone Nix era. The Blazers had only 207 total yards, and we probably would have held them to under 200 if not for poor play by the second-team defense that resulted in a late garbage TD for UAB. The Blazers had been at least competent on offense so far this season, even gaining almost 300 yards against the Vols.
This Gamecocks defense is good, folks, and even if the offense doesn't light it up, the defense will probably be able to win us enough games to get a ticket to Shreveport or some similar locale. Auburn has been winning for the last few years based on their defense alone, and this Gamecocks outfit looks capable enough to play at the same level. The difference between our D and that of the Plainsmen is, of course, depth. If we suffer a few key injuries on defense, the wheels will likely come off the season. However, we've stayed healthy so far, an indication that the team's offseason focus on strength and conditioning has paid off. Let's hope it continues to.
Another bright spot was the turnovers our defense created and the field position our special teams produced. We're going to need to continue to get help in this department, because the offense isn't likely to move the length of the field all that often.
Finally, what did everyone think about Stephen Garcia? Reviews will undoubtedly be mixed. Garcia gives us a ground option at QB, which will be useful if the line continues to play like it has been. However, Garcia proved that he is a long way from being a competent force as a passer and, indeed, I think Smelley is still a little stronger in this area. That said, I personally think we should either go with Garcia next week or utilize a rotating system. Our line is pitiful and Garcia's scrambling ability could be our only hope until we start getting some protection. Plus, Garcia's poor throws may have been bad due to first-game jitters. This guy hadn't seen major PT since high school.
We're in for a major test next week against Ole Miss, who is high off of one of their biggest wins in years. We've never had much luck against Houston Nutt, although I expect that he'll find Ellis Johnson's defense less inviting than the ones we've field the past two years. Stay tuned later this week for more info on this big game, which will probably be a good indication as to this team's future.