South Carolina and North Carolina State kicked off the 2009 football season last night and it showed in each team’s lack of focus and execution.
I heard the word “inauspicious” thrown around a lot, which I thought was veritably appropriate from a viewer’s standpoint. This game was defined by penalties, miscues, missed opportunities, turnovers, and costly mistakes.
I think it’s safe to say that there is a consensus among people who follow the sport that there are generally more discrepancies in the first game of the season.
Teams are breaking in new players, new schemes are being used for the first time, and often times teams bring in new coaches, etc. so generally mistakes are to be expected in the early part of the season.
However, there is a fine line between shaking off the rust from a long and protracted offseason and coughing up the ball on the first play of the first possession of the season…which is exactly what State managed to do.
Speaking of the Wolfpack, let’s analyze how their offense did in the team’s first four possessions.
As previously pointed out, they fumbled the ball on their very first play which led to a Gamecock score. They followed that effort up by getting a punt blocked the very next time they took the field.
(I think I already saw a couple passionless, disloyal, and disinterested fans already start to leave the stadium…)
For an encore they went three-and-out on their third possession. And when it finally looked like they were starting to get in some kind of rhythm the next time they got the ball, they get a 38-yard reception called back by a penalty, and end up having to punt the ball again.
Now, I’m no football coach but if I had to give a grade for my offense with this performance it would unquestionably be an F.
Oh and for all you Gamecock fans out there laughing…your offense wasn’t exactly “high octane” either. Sure you scored on your first drive, but you got the ball deep inside State territory because of a State turnover.
After that your offense failed to do much of anything the rest of the half (and the game for that matter).
Among other mistakes, the Cocks managed to miss a field goal on one attempt, while on another the holder couldn’t handle the snap and they didn’t even get the attempt up.
They got a touchdown called back when the receiver pushed off on the State DB right in front of the official. Every time they got in the red zone the drive seemed to stall via penalty, or loss of yards. Nothing seemed to click for either offense.
Needless to say, this game wasn’t exactly the first game fans everywhere were hoping for.
To be fair, there we’re positives on both sides that the coaches will be able to take away from.
From South Carolina’s standpoint their defense looks awesome. The front seven is as fast and athletic as they come.
Eric Norwood, the senior middle linebacker, is an absolute stud. Along with his eight tackles he had two sacks and almost had a fumble recovery that was ruled out of bounds.
Their secondary looks good as well. They shut down the State receivers and all of them looked like they could start for most SEC teams.
By and large, their defense looks the part of what you would expect from an SEC team—big, fast, physical, and athletic.
Also, freshman Jarvis Giles, a top RB recruit out of Tampa, looks promising. He had a couple of big runs that turned some heads in his first game in a Cock uniform last night.
State’s defense looked better than average as well, especially in the red zone. Every time it seemed the Gamecocks got down on their side of the field the D would stiffen up and force a Gamecock field goal or punt.
Their defensive line needs work though. The Gamecock offensive line was pushing them off the ball all game.
However they did much better in passing situations. They got to Garcia multiple times, sacking him, hitting him, or making him move outside the pocket.
Redshirt freshman Mike Glennon (brother of former VA Tech QB Sean Glennon) is a good looking prospect as well. (He's a big kid at 6’6", 211 pound, with a good frame and nice arm.)
In conclusion, both of these teams need lots of work if they plan on keeping their heads above water in their respective conferences. For State, finding any type of balance on offense and better offensive line play is a must if they plan on being relevant in the ACC.
For Carolina, the running game looks promising but they need to make more plays down the field and do a much better job in pass protection. (If they can’t protect Garcia vs. NC State, what’s going to happen versus SEC defenses?)
I wasn’t very impressed with either of these teams and wouldn’t be shocked if neither one of them ends up in a bowl game.