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Saturday News and Notes: More Musings on Ole Miss-USC and Other News from Around the SEC

  • Dr. Saturday sums up my thoughts on our red-zone issues pretty well. It's not only frustrating that we're not getting it done inside the 20; it's perplexing. We have a mobile quarterback, several huge receivers that should be able to catch the jump ball, and two bruising backs in Brian Maddox and Patrick DiMarco that can both run, catch, and get yards after contact. We would appear to be well-equipped to score TDs on the goal line, yet we aren't doing it. Part of the problem, of course, is that we're killing ourselves with penalties. Not only did we have yet another Tori Gurley TD called back on a penalty Thursday night; we also lost goal line opportunities when penalties pushed us back behind the 10. We also, though, just aren't gunning as aggressively for the end zone as we might be. Spurrier and his crew have this offense working like a machine between the 20s; they need to figure out how to maximize their ability inside the 20, too. If we can start converting more often, this team could transition into a legitimate threat to win the conference.
  • I said it after the game and I'll say it again: Spencer Lanning deserves a lot of credit for his performance against Ole Miss. The tackle he made on Marshay Green showed a lot of heart and changed the game. And while none of them were long kicks, he continued to get it done kicking field goals. He also had a couple of impressive punts. Great performance.
  • Also on the topic of special teams, I thought we did a good job with kickoffs against Ole Miss. It wasn't pretty, and I'm not happy that we're content to use gimmick kickoffs to make sure we stop returns around the 30, but, at the same time, anything is better than what we saw against Georgia and Florida Atlantic.
  • As you probably know, Travian Robertson is out for the year. Robertson was playing well and it's really a shame we lost him. However, with Ladi Ajiboye back, Nathan Pepper likely as close to full speed as he'll ever be by the Kentucky game, and Melvin Ingram playing well, I think we can weather losing Robertson for the time being. If we lost any of those three players, though, we're going to be in big, big trouble.
  • Some rival fans have represented Stephen Garcia's performance in a bad light. I disagree. True, Garcia wilted a bit late in the game. However, he was obviously playing hurt, and likely just ran out of steam. Until that point, he had played a pretty good game, all the while taking a serious beating from Ole Miss's defensive ends. He deserves credit for playing well as long as he did. Moreover, he deserves credit for not throwing any interceptions. While we need to improve in the red zone to truly take the next step as an offense, we can likely continue to at least be competitive if Garcia and the offense protect the ball, score a reasonable number of points, and let the defense do the real work. Last year, Garcia and Smelley threw so many interceptions that the defense never had the chance to do what they did against Ole Miss. That's not the case this year.
  • Speaking of interceptions, our secondary needs to learn to catch the ball. They played a great game, but this could have been an epic defensive performance if we could have pulled in the three or four easy interceptions Jevan Snead served up.
  • I've long thought Houston Nutt is an overrated coach, and this game certainly didn't change my opinion of him. Having 12 men on the field on the last play aside, I'm most perplexed by how little he got the ball in Dexter McCluster's hands. McCluster is obviously that offense's best player, and it showed when McCluster started getting carries late in the game. Where was he through the first three quarters? And why wasn't he getting the ball more on the final drive? Nutt is, and has always been, a great motivator and decent coach that is capable of playing the spoiler role pretty well. However, he's never had much success while in the spotlight, likely because he just can't hack it with the big boys. Ole Miss fans got to see the best of Nutt last year; this year, they may get to see the other side of things.
  • Alabama and Arkansas are going at it late in the third quarter, and the Tide has shut down what appeared to be a great Arkansas offense. I'm dreading playing the Tide in a few weeks. That's what a top five team really looks like.
  • Speaking of defense, our "brethren" from the upstate are currently battling TCU right now in Death Valley. The score is 14-10 TCU, but the Tigers are driving. I'm not really sure what to make of this Clemson team, other than that C. J. Spiller is one of the best all-purpose athletes in the country. I'll sure be glad when he's gone next year.