Well that was a pretty miserable way to open up the home slate this season, wasn't it? In case you somehow missed it, the Kentucky Wildcats beat our South Carolina Gamecocks for the second season in a row. After getting off to a very slow start and down 24-7 at half, Perry Orth came in for the 2nd half and nearly rallied our Gamecocks to victory. But a late interception as we were driving down the field pretty much sealed our fate and we fell by a score of 26-22. As usual there are a number of things that we can take away from this ball game; let's look at what some of the bigger points were.
I was wrong. So so wrong.
Last week, I wrote a piece on why Connor Mitch would turn in a much better performance this week against Kentucky. My reasoning was he struggled a bit against UNC because it was his first game, perhaps he was a bit jittery, and Steve Spurrier QB's have a history of vast improvement between their first and second games. Well, I was wrong. Mitch finished 4/7 for 43 yards and 7 yards rushing with a touchdown. And if you watched the game you would know that he played much worse than those numbers (not that they're great to begin with). He was jittery, didn't throw passes where receivers would be, and often just looked out of sync. Say what you want about his infection and shoulder possibly affecting him, while that very well may be true, I just don't think he has the confidence right now to be the leader of this offense. He's just flat out not ready. The light may turn on for him one day; maybe it won't. I don't know. But when he gets back from injury (which for his sake I hope is very soon; never like seeing players get hurt) he needs to be the understudy to Orth and possibly even Lorenzo Nunez, depending on how those two play in the coming weeks.
The Orth/Nunez Era Has Begun
Orth got his chance in the 2nd half on Saturday, and he largely capitalized on it. 13/20 for 179 yards and a touchdown isn't too shabby in your first significant playing time down 17 points. In vast contrast to Mitch, Orth looked cool out there, was confident in his decisions, and we saw a significant uptick in performance from the offense when he came in. If Orth can play at that level next week (which will be difficult; on the road at UGA is a different animal), then we might have a chance. Even Lorenzo Nunez looked pretty good in some limited playing time. That dude is a physical monster. 6'3 210 and runs like a 4.5 40 yard dash. When he took off on that Hail Mary play at the end of the first half he looked like a natural (learn to slide, man; you're gonna get yourself killed out there). When he learns the rest of the offense, which may be awhile as Spurrier (reportedly) has a complicated passing system, Nunez is going to be a legitimate threat in this conference. Mark it down.
Run The Dang Ball (And Don't Be Vanilla With It)
Despite being down 24-7 at half, Carolina had many opportunities to win this game. Instead of scoring 3 touchdowns on pretty impressive drives in the second half, Carolina had to settle for field goals. Whether it was a stupid personal foul penalty (looking at you Alan), bad play calling (several drives), or poor execution Carolina just could not quite punch it in the endzone until the fourth quarter. I was thinking during the game that why are we not putting Lorenzo Nunez in inside the 10 at least once or twice. Line him up as the QB in basically a wildcat look, put #BashAndDash in as split backs, Pharoh Cooper in at the slot, and Jerrell in as an H-back. You've got 4 different legitimate running threats, and two deadly receiving targets to complement it. I could draw up about 15 or 20 different plays right now to run out of that formation; so I know Spurrier could draw up even more. Oh, and give Brandon Wilds the damn ball. The man had 15 carries for over 100 yards with 9 minutes left in the 4th quarter. He touched the ball exactly one time after that. ONE TIME. I don't understand it. Even on that last drive, we weren't exactly pressed for time. We had ample time to run a balanced offense.
Jekyll and Hyde
Decide who you're going to be, defense. Are you going to be the defense that doesn't tackle and gives up 300+ yards in a half to Kentucky? Or are you going to be the defense that wrecks havoc, puts the fear of God in opposing QB's, and holds Kentucky to under 100 yards in the 2nd half? I hope you pick the latter. Because you guys have the talent and, when you want to, you can hold your own out there. You guys are fast, you fly to the ball and when you play with heart you can stop people. You forced Kentucky to punt four times in the second half. FOUR TIMES. You held them to 27 yards of offense on their four drives before Orth threw the late interception. Kentucky may not have the best team in the SEC, but they have a fairly effective offense. Great job in the 2nd half, guys. Now just go do it for four quarters against UGA and everybody else. Oh, and Hoke/Ward, disguise the damn coverage from now on.
There's a lot to improve upon, guys. And if we play a first half like we did last week against UGA we'll be down 35 points at half. But there were also signs of life on this team. Let's hope the light goes off before we make that trip to Athens, GA. To Hell With Georgia and Go Cocks.