I'll start this off by saying that we all knew that this was going to be a transitional year. We graduated a large crop of talent last year, our team is young and our depth limited, and we're breaking in several new coaches. No reasonable person expected us to contend for the SEC Title this year. That being the case, we shouldn't be surprised that we're struggling down the stretch. We're beat up and we had to go on the road to face two tough teams. I would be OK with losing these games if I thought we were improving. We'll be better equipped to win them next year.
However, the way we've lost is what really bothers me. We've seemed unmotivated and generally unprepared in both games, leading to multiple boneheaded errors that have cost us any chance at gaining a win. We certainly haven't seen a team that appears to be improving. I'm not OK with that. As my colleague says, it's not good enough. This is year five of the Spurrier era, and while I'm willing to give the coaches and team some allowance for youth, I'm not going to give them a free pass for horrible, uninspired play. We can reasonably expect better than that. This team has the talent in place to compete with teams like Arkansas and Tennessee, but it's not happening. That reflects poorly on the coaching staff.
Is it time to start thinking about a new coach? I'm honestly not sure. On the one hand, I'm unwilling to make any judgment calls right now, as I would forgive a lot if we could get a win against Florida or Clemson, and I do think we're capable of winning either or even both games if we play to our potential. I also think we should probably give Spurrier a chance to show what he can do next year, when this team will be deeper, more mature, and when the other teams in the East will be going through transitional seasons.
However, if we lose out, then I will call this year an unqualified failure, and the coaching staff needs to be held accountable for that. It'll at the very least be time to start thinking about what way to best pursue our future if that ends up being the case.
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Some more particular thoughts on the game:
- I'll say that I don't like Weslye Saunders calling out the coaching staff, but I agree with the general sentiment. I thought playcalling in this game was atrocious in the second half. In the first half, we moved the ball with relative ease using a balanced approach. In the second half, we completely abandoned the run and to some degree even abandoned the short passing game. That was understandable late in the game when we were trying to make a comeback, but the score was still close until late in the third quarter. Why weren't we running the ball when we have four high-quality backs to choose from? Why weren't we looking for Saunders or the running backs underneath? Why does it seem like we always go for the homerun as soon as we get to the opponent's 35 yardline or so? Why haven't we figured out how to get Tori Gurley and Alshon Jeffrey on the field at the same time? Why don't we do more to take advantage of Stephen Garcia's mobility, especially considering that we seem to have a lot of success when we do? I just don't get it. This predictable, impotent offense is not what we hired Spurrier for.
- The offensive line played like crap yesterday, period. I'll grant that Eric Wolford has improved our running game, but the number of offensive line penalties, bad snaps, and general miscues is just inexcusable. It's really a miracle that Garcia ever completes a pass. He'd be an All-American if he had a good line.
- I didn't think the defense played terribly until late in the game, although some of the missed tackles were frustrating. I thought, though, that we should have blitzed more often. Blitzing seems to be the best way to can Ryan Mallett, who is going to kill you if you give him time. Why we didn't rush him more aggressively was beyond me.
- I think we're good enough to beat Florida and Clemson. However, the Gators are the number one team in the country and Clemson is playing extremely well right now. If we play like we have over the past two weeks, we're going to get slaughter in both of these games.
That's all I've got for right now. Hopefully we'll figure something out this week. I don't know if I can take another shellacking at the hands of the Gators.