My post last night more or less sums up my thoughts on the game in Nashville, and not much has changed since then. I don't like the way the first half went down, but I'm generally pleased with the way we played in the second half, and if the team carries that level of play and what seemed to me like a clear boost in confidence back to Columbia, we should be good for a win against a struggling Tennessee squad next weekend in the friendly confines of the Cockpit.
We're now halfway through the season, and it's reasonable to begin thinking about what we need to do from here on out to have a successful season. These next two games are likely going to define us. Win these two, and we're almost guaranteed (barring a loss to Troy) the eight regular-season wins we've been searching for the past few years, and we'll have a good chance to get one or two more against pedestrian Florida and Clemson teams, although that, of course, will require better road play than what we've shown ourselves to be capable of. Moreover, it's very possible that we can wrap up the SEC Eastern Division by winning the next two games. I like Georgia to beat Florida in the Cocktail Party, and if they do, we can, assuming a victory over the Vols, clinch in Columbia with a win over Arkansas. This is all to say that these next two games are among the most important in the history of the program. Take care of business, and we can make this a season to remember.
One thing that should make you feel confident about the rest of the season is the team's health. It's often said that Carolina suffers late-season slides because our depth can't hold up as well as the rest of the conference's elite. Although I think this is to some degree a myth Georgia fans uses to excuse their periodic struggles against us, there's also some truth to it; certainly, we don't have as much depth as Florida or as Tennessee used to. Well, this Carolina team, which entered the season as one of our most talented ever, is going into the Tennessee game at full strength. We get Marcus Lattimore back, and everyone else, save Shaq Wilson, of course, is also healthy. That, along with the fact that Tennessee, Florida, and even Clemson are hardly as good as they usually are, has me thinking that we are set up well to avoid the usual November swoon.
A few more post-Vandy thoughts after the jump.
The offensive line is getting a lot of heat for the first-half performance, but I don't think they played particularly poorly. It's difficult for any line to consistently give a QB more than a few seconds to throw when a team is blitzing as aggressively as Vandy was. At that point, it's the coaches' responsibility to draw up some plays that offset the blitz. When Spurrier adjusted to the blitz, the line all of the sudden looked like worldbeaters--surprise, surprise. Sometimes it's all about whether or not the coaches put guys in position to look good.
By the same token, as glad as I am that we eventually adjusted to the blitz, those of you who say we should have done so earlier are right. It shouldn't take an entire half to realize that you need to make some changes. The coaches should see what's going on and make an adjustment, and the QB has the ability to call audibles at the line of scrimmage if he doesn't like what he sees. If we had adjusted in the first half, we might be looking at a more impressive margin of victory.
Can we drop the end-zone fade from the playbook? I think it's worked all of once or twice (I seem to remember Garcia throwing a nice inside-shoulder fade against Auburn), yet we continue running it. Stephen Garcia doesn't seem to be capable of throwing it, and we have other plays that we've had a lot more success with. Enough is enough.
Well, that's a wrap on this weekend. On to the Tennessee Volunteers.