First of all, I'd like to recognize the effort and skill displayed by the S. C. State Bulldogs last night. Buddy Pough's team came ready to play. Despite being outmatched in size and athletic ability at most positions, the Bulldogs hung with our Gamecocks through the first half. That's an impressive accomplishment. I wish S. C. State luck as they make their push for MEAC and FCS championships.
Now, on to our own performance. It's difficult to take too much away from these games. Play calling is typically vanilla, as coaches don't want to show too much of their hand and don't want to put important players in harm's way. The ultimate goal is to get out with a respectable win while managing to avoid injuries. In that sense, we were successful, and trying to say much more about our performance is likely an exercise in futility, as what you see in these games isn't really representative.
That said, I'm a sports blogger, and my reason for being is finding something to say about all things USC athletics, even when I know that what I end up saying may be invalid. So, here goes.
- Our overall offensive numbers--especially the 6.8 ypp and 6.1 ypc--betray a sub par performance considering the opponent. Typically, you just expect more sustained drives and more big plays against an FCS opponent. We didn't get that consistently last night until the third quarter.
- S. C. State was able to generate more pressure up front than I would have liked to see, logging two sacks and a couple of hurries. Considering that our offensive line likely had an average of 50 pounds on the guys lining up across from them, you would like to see a more or less flawless performance in the trenches. However, the facts that (1) S. C. State was fairly aggressive defensively, (2) we were without Quentin Richardson, and (3) Garcia appeared to be trying to avoid scrambling probably helps account for the poor performance somewhat.
- Our defense played well against an team that, at the very least, was talented at the skills positions. (I should say that I was fairly impressed with Bulldogs' QB Malcolm Long.) However, we allowed the Bulldogs to convert some third-and-longs when we should have gotten stops. I guess we can chalk this up to the team being less focused, which is understandable in a breather game. I know we can do better than this, so I'm not too worried on this front.
- Jason Barnes continues to be a non-presence in the passing game, and Tori Gurley was fairly absent, as well. These two are our most physically imposing receivers, but they continue to underperform. I'm willing to give Gurley a pass, as he's new to the position. Moreover, he's had some bad luck in having some of his best plays negated by penalties. Barnes, on the other hand, should be further along by now. I'm afraid you might see him begin to lose playing time as Alshon Jeffery matures.
- This last point isn't directly related to last night's performance, but it's definitely a negative. Akeem Auguste has been suspended for at least three games due to a violation of team rules. Auguste has really let his team down when they needed him most, with big SEC games coming up against Kentucky and Alabama. I have confidence that C.C. Whitlock and DeVonte Holloman will step in and perform in Auguste's stead, but we really needed to be full speed for these games. A depleted secondary running against Randall Cobb and especially Julio Jones is not ideal.
Continue reading after the jump.Positives
Moe Brown has really asserted himself in the past couple of games. The fumble in the first half wasn't exactly highlight reel. However, that touchdown catch in the second half was probably the best offensive play we've run all season, and Brown made some other nice plays on the night. I like that we're using him so much on the reverses and end-arounds. It's great to see Brown, who has garnered a fair bit of criticism over the years, take a leadership role in his senior season.
- Stephen Garcia wasn't exactly overwhelming last night. However, he was fairly efficient, which is more than Blake Mitchell can say about his performance against S. C. State. He also threw a nice ball on the long touchdown pass to Brown. Garcia still isn't playing great, but he's certainly adequate, which, again, is an improvement from what we've seen in the past under Spurrier.
- Eric Norwood didn't get any sacks, but he did pad his awards resume with an interception and a blocked field goal. I like the idea of using him more on special teams. The guy obviously has a knack for getting past blockers, and he's put that to good use with two blocked kicks in the past two games. That punt block against Ole Miss was very close to being a touchdown for us, and it's only a matter of time until he makes a huge play on a punt.
- The run game wasn't as overwhelming as it was against FAU, but it was solid. The line got us a nice push, and all three of our main backs had nice runs. Kenny Miles's touchdown run was a thing of beauty.
Next week brings the Kentucky Wildcats to Columbia. The 'Cats actually played OK against 'Bama yesterday, but they killed themselves with turnovers. If they can play a more mistake-free game against us, they could challenge for the upset. I'll have much more to say about them over the course of the week, so stay tuned.