Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Kentucky: NOT a Mirror Image of SC

If the University of Kentucky Football team looks in the mirror and see's the University of South Carolina staring back at them...their mirror is broken! I have read quite a few articles and heard one too many analyst try these past few days to equate the SC and UK football programs. And if you believe that these two programs are comparable you may have had a little too much Cat Chow yourself. South Carolina has beaten Kentucky nine (yes nine) straight times. It's been a decade since Kentucky last beat Carolina. Bill Clinton was still President for goodness sakes! Talk about a one trick pony. If the game were being played in Rupp Arena I might give UK a fighting chance. However, it's not and I won't. Steve Spurrier is 16-0 versus the Cats'...4-0 with SC, and I don't see the trend changing anytime soon. Sure, pundits would like to compare the history of the two programs. Yes, both programs do have about a .500 overall winning percentage in their program history. But the only history that is important in the SEC is "recent history." This is the "What have you done for me lately conference?" And lately (last 10 years) Carolina has been kicking UK's but from Columbia to Lexington with consistence. Of course you will have your classic Carolina worry warts who feel that this is a "Trap Game." Well that "trap" must be no damn good because nothing has been caught in it for ten years now! As far as coaching goes, Steve Spurrier coaches circles around Rich Brooks. The only thing comparable between these two coaches may be their age. Brooks claim to fame is taking Oregon to the 1995 Rose Bowl were he was pummeled by Penn State 38-20. Were as Steve Spurrier has won a National Championship and seven (that's 1,2,3,4,5,6,7...SEC titles!) He has also continued to increase the talent level and improve the facilities at SC to compete with the SEC's elite. So please stop comparing these two programs. South Carolina is a program on the rise. Kentucky...look closely in that mirror again...the only thing there is you!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Let's get the swagger back in NCAA Football

Last Saturday's contest between LSU and Georgia highlighted the ridiculousness of the NCAA excessive celebration rule. Yes, this is a sports contest, but it is also entertainment. I find it absurd that college football's ruling body finds it necessary to punish a player or team for instinctual acts of celebration. It's as if the NCAA is saying "How dare they entertain" or find joy in their accomplishment. I for one loved the University of Miami's antics during the 80's and 90's. There were some classic battles that were hyped and fueled by on-field celebrations. To name a few we had the classic Catholics vs. Convicts 1989 Notre Dame/Miami game. We had the PSU/Miami National Championship game filled with trash-talk and great plays. The list goes on and on, but my point is the celebrations, trash-talking and pregame hype created rivalries, increased in-game intensity and kept the fan's on the edge of their seats. Now, I must say that there may be cause to throw an excessive celebration flag in isolated cases (i.e. Miami's Lamar Thomas running out of the stadium and through the tunnel (followed by a cameraman), only to return with fingers pointed simulating six-shooter's blazing. Which is my point exactly. Save excessive celebration penalties for truly excessive celebration.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Second Half Knockout!

Thanks to a mysterious (only televised game in the country effected?) power outage in Columbia, SC last night the television audience only got to see one half of football. That was truly appropriate since Carolina only played one half of football! However, despite last nights halftime score (10-7) the game was never in question. This after all was an SC State team who hadn't scored so much as a touchdown on a BCS opponent. For all the claims of how close this game would be and the compliments from both sides extended throughout the week the outcome was never in question. The only point of contention was whether the Cocks would cover the 36 point spread (they did not.) But as expected the Gamecocks were able to crank it up in the second half and snuff out any delusions of an upset by SC State.

Five games into the 2009 season and we know as much about this team as we knew after the first game of the season! So what do we know? We know that the running game is better than the last two years. We know that Stephen Garcia, unlike last year, is not making the kind of mistakes that will cost us games. We know that this team is experiencing the kind of growing pains that come from a team with only eight returning seniors. We know that the Offensive Line is about the middle of the pack in the SEC and they better tighten it up going into conference play. And of course we know that the defense is the teams saving grace...although I do sense some developing problems in our defensive secondary.

Last nights offense was a tale of two halves. The first half was forgettable with the offense amassing only 149 total yards. We need more consistency offensively from Stephen Garcia. We can't continue with these Jeckle and Hyde halves of football. A total of 44 passing yards in the first half against an FCS school is not acceptable. The second half was more of what was expected with 28 points registered although Garcia still finished with only 132 passing yards. Once again we utilized a running back by committee approach. We need someone to step up as the featured back fellas. How many more games is it going to take? All three running backs had respectable if not outstanding games. Kenny Miles had a good game with his limited (10) touches. I saw an explosiveness in Maddox's and Miles running style missing on past teams. Miles had some nice runs while sharing the ball with Giles in the first half . To be fair the backs did not find the kind of holes they were expecting to be created by the O-Line in the first half. Jarvis Giles...this is not "Dancing with the Stars" or "America's Best Dance Crew" the preferred direction of travel is North and South. SEC defenses are too fast and your Usher routine will not work in this conference. That being said...I see some big runs in his future if he ditches the twinkle toes act. Brian Maddox ran with a chip on his shoulder last night. I take it he was not pleased with being demoted to the third option in the run game. I still believe we need to feature a steady dose of Maddox and Miles in the backfield and utilize Giles more in the slot to get him touches in space.

Moe Brown continues to show leadership in the receiving corps. I have not been his greatest fan over the past few years but he has slowly won me over with the perseverance and resilience needed from a senior leader. I will just have to live with the fact that he will never have the best hands though he does seem to make the plays when needed. Where were the Tight End's last night? Weslye Saunder's was non-existent. Wide Receiver Tori Gurley was also a non-factor last night. We must have balanced productivity in this offensive machine to make it work and those two are key cogs. We cannot afford to have players taking the night off. I don't think Tori is fully aware of the gifts he possesses at the receiver position. When he learns to use his body and height to his advantage he will be a force to be reckoned with. I guess last night was a good opportunity to see if Dion Lecorn is game ready. He isn't. Based on his performance I have to assume that his leg is still an issue. He does not seem comfortable out there and his weight may also be a factor. Truthfully, he may have outgrown the receiver position. Hopefully he can make some contributions as the season progresses. Let's find a way to get Alshon Jefferey some more touches. If he is limited in his offensive knowledge, so be it. We can run the young fella in off the sideline with the plays until he gains a command of the offense.

We are starting to ask too much of our defense. The first half could have been a disaster without their efforts. I must applaud Eric Norwood for imploring his troops to step up as the game progressed. I know at times it can be difficult getting up to play an inferior opponent, however, our defense recognized that SC State had enough weapons to keep them honest. Tackling and speed to the ball remain strong points for this unit. Shaq Wilson and Eric Norwood seemed to be all over the field and were impressive from sideline to sideline. The defensive line played solid assignment football and kept the ball between the tackles for the most part. State's Will Ford was limited to short yardage gains and State's quarterback duo was ineffective on the ground for most of the night. Akeem Auguste's absence in the secondary was noticeable. The Cocks employed a zone defense for most of the night and did not gamble in man defense too much in Auguste's absence. Buddy Pugh should receive some credit for taking advantage of the zone and exploiting the seams for a few big plays. With Auguste gone for at least three games or more Carolina will have to find an answer at corner. I think we dialed up the pressure when absolutely necessary but not enough to keep State totally honest. I would like to see 45-50 minutes of hell per game. That is keep the opponent weary that you could bring pressure on any down. I don't think that is happening at the moment and it is allowing teams to settle into an offensive rhythm.

Up next are the Kentucky Wildcats. They played a respectable game against a very talented Alabama team on Saturday. We can't overlook this team, however let's hope we don't have another week of of exchanging pleasantries between teams. I understand not providing any blackboard fodder but enough is enough. Coach Spurrier has never lost to Kentucky. I don't think this week will be any different. Let's get to work on the game plan, iron out a few areas of concern and kick some Cat Butt's around. GO Cocks.

THUMBS UP: Moe Brown, 121 all purpose yards, 100 receiving yards. Alshon Jeffery, 1st career touchdown. Eric Norwood, overall defensive presence and blocked field goal. Carolina running back's, 230 yards combined rushing.

Thumbs Down: Buddy Pugh for having his starters in against the Carolina 3rd and 4th team defense on game's last drive. Get some of your non-starter's and walk-on's in in what will probably be their only chance on this big stage, the game's over dude! Your big brother is suppose to win the fight...it's a law of nature.