Revisiting My Preview for the USC/NC State Game

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Revisiting My Preview for the USC/NC State Game

I'm finally back from Raleigh, and am ready to look back at my predictions for the game.

Late Wednesday night/early Thursday morning I wrote a preview of the South Carolina/NC State game on.  In that preview, I broke down who had the edge at each major area on the field.  Some of these predictions were right, some weren't.  Now it's time to go through and see how I did.

Quarterbacks

Thank you, Russell Wilson, for making me look like an idiot.  I said that you should get some Heisman hype before you're done in Raleigh, and you went out and looked confused and afraid.  Clearly Wilson is good when he's playing in the ACC, but when he faces an SEC defense he looks like the two-star recruit he was coming out of high school.  Wilson was brought down six times and never got into any sort of rhythm.  He went 12 of 23 for 74 yards (a beautiful 3.2 yards per attempt) with no TDs or picks. 

He was also horrible on the ground, with 11 carries for -17 yards, although a lot of that came on sacks.  Maybe the State fans should have been chanting "MIKE GLENNON" instead.

For USC, Stephen Garcia looked pretty good, despite what the stats say.  His 13 for 22, 148 yard, one pick performance doesn't look that great, but Garcia managed the game well.  His pick was made on a great play by the NC State DE, and he missed few open receivers.  The thing I was most impressed with was how he stayed in the pocket, only scrambling when it was absolutely necessary, and often picking up yards.  He also avoided a lot of tackles, and had one where he hurdled an NC State defender.  Would I like to see more?  Yes.  Was I satisfied with his performance overall?  Yes. 

While he didn't show us anything to imply that he will have a breakout year and dethrone Jevan Snead as the second-best quarterback in the SEC, he has definitely matured and will help lead the Gamecocks to a good season.

Running Backs

I predicted that USC would have the edge here, and I was right.  State's backs didn't look too bad, but they definitely did not perform up to the standards needed to have a competitive year.  On the otherhand, USC's backs looked very solid, especially in the first half.

Brian Maddox was a bruiser in the first half, often getting hit at or near the line and still driving forward for five or more yards.  He cooled down a bit in the second half, but overall he looks to be a solid starting running back in the SEC.  Jarvis Giles also looked good.  Other than one play where he tried running backwards like it was high school and ended up losing a big chunk of yardage, Giles made some big plays, including a long run on Carolina's last possession that helped seal the game.

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise was Patrick Dimarco.  The fullback who was an afterthought last season had a couple of good runs, helping establish the run early in the first half.

While Carolina's run game looked good in the first half, the second half was hard to watch—with the exception of Giles' long run.  I think most of this was due to the fact that this was the first game of the season and the players weren't used to going up against a good team for 60 minutes.  Hopefully Spurrier & friends can work that out in time for Georgia.

Receivers

I picked USC, and I was definitely right here.  State's receivers dropped several easy balls and looked like they belonged at a DII school for most of the night.  Although Wilson played poorly, when he did get his receivers the ball they did nothing.  Part of this can be attributed to USC's strong defense, but part of it was also a lack of skill or focus.

USC's receivers looked great in contrast.  Tori Gurley is the next Sidney Rice, Weslye Saunders pretty much backed up his pregame trash-talking, and Moe Brown made the catch of the game late in the 4th quarter. 

First let's talk about Gurley.  He looked great all night (four catches for 34 yards), showing off his size and hauling in balls with great skill.  He did have one offensive pass interference call, but the contact was minor and a no-call would not have been ridiculous in that situation. It was also impressive how he pulled the ball into his body after catching it, protecting it from the defense. 

Saunders also looked good, pulling in four balls for 50 yards.  He did have one drop, but he also broke multiple tackles and provided Garcia with a good middle of the field threat. 

Brown was the best of the bunch, pulling in three catches for 54 yards, including the big catch that sealed the game late in the fourth.  Brown looked pretty good all night, providing hope that he will be the solid senior leader Carolina needs him to be.

Offensive Line

I picked NC State here because I was unsure about USC, but USC came out and looked great.  The line put together a solid runblock, pushing the NC State defenders back as the rushers came storming up the field.  In addition, the pass protection was marvelous.  Garcia was pressured some, but mainly had time.  I was impressed with the offensive line, and if the continue playing like this they will help USC make some noise in the SEC.

On the otherhand, you had NC State's line.  State gave up six sacks of All-ACC QB Russell Wilson, a scrambler.  When Wilson wasn't getting sacked, he was getting chased by one of many USC defenders who lived in the State backfield all day.  A poor effot by State's O-line plus a stifling effort by USC's defense led to this being a mismatch.

Defensive Line

After the fantastic play by Devin Taylor and Travian Robertson, many fans are asking Clifton who?  Taylor had a great game, forcing a fumble and blocking a punt to go along with six tackles (three for a loss), one sack, and the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week award.  In his first college football game ever.  Because of this, Taylor has earned himself the starting spot next week, where he can hopefully make another game-changing play or two. 

The rest of the line played well, especially Cliff Matthews.  It seemed like he was chasing Wilson around the field all night, and even ran him down a few times.  Travian Robertson and Nathan Pepper also played well, putting pressure on Wilson all night.  Overall, the line had four sacks.

NC State's line looked good as well, but not as good as USC's, proving my prediction right.  They got some pressure on Garcia and really stepped up in the second half to stop the run.  Other than that, they were relatively quiet, not doing anything to lose their team the game but not making any gamechanging plays either. 

The notable exception was the great pick by DE Michael Lemon.  Noticably absent from any big plays was Willie Young, the trash-talking DE.  It seemed the only time I heard Young's name was on the videoboard for a "Get To Know The Wolfpack" feature during a timeout.

Linebackers

Carolina dominated here, with Eric Norwood leading the way.  Norwood had two sacks, putting him only 2.5 away from breaking the school record.  He was in the backfield with Shaq Wilson and (for a short period of time) Rodney Paulk all game.  Despite the good play of the linebackers, there was one downside: Paulk's injury.  Paulk tore a ligament in his knee and will be out for the year, again.  You have to feel bad for him, because this is the second time he's suffered an injury like this; last year he had a bad knee injury that limited him to the first four games of the season. 

His replacement, Shaq Wilson, was a monster though, flying all over the field making plays.  The real thing that impressed me about the linebackers wasn't the pressure they provided, but how they stopped the run whenever it got by the D-Line.  Even with the loss of Paulk, the LB corps will still be a force to be reckoned with.

NC State's linebackers looked good here, but not great, leading to another correct prediction for me.  In the first half, the linebackers were relied on to stop the run as the line seemed to have no answer for it.  They answered with mostly positive results, occasionally letting the back get into the secondary.  Overall, they did their job, but were not nearly as dynamic as Carolina's unit.

Defensive Backs

I said that Carolina had the edge here, and I would say I was right, but just barely.  Carolina looked good, but occasionally sloppy, giving up two defensive pass interference calls and whiffing on a ball that would have been the go-ahead TD if NC State's receiver had held on.  Other than that, they shut down State's receivers and made several big plays, most notably Stephon Gilmore's pass breakup on 4th down late in the game.  Darian Stewart also may have saved a touchdown on a punt return with an (illegal) tackle that stopped the returner in his tracks. 

Devonte Holloman looked great in his first game, breaking up multiple passes and getting flagged for a questionable pass interference call where he might have tipped the ball first.  Chris Culliver, Stewart, and Akeem Auguste looked good as always, keeping the ball out of State's receivers' hands.  C.C. Whitlock also had a pass breakup.

State's defensive backs didn't give up much, although they were not tested much.  They looked good overall, but just good, with no dynamic plays.  Also, on a critical USC 4th down late in the game, they gave up a 33-yard completion to Moe Brown that sealed the victory. 

Kickers

NC State had the edge here, as I stated, mostly because South Carolina does not have a proven kicker at this point.  Spencer Lanning's punts were great, but he also missed a 27-yard field goal.  Adam Yates performed relatively well on kickoffs, especially considering it was his first college game ever.  Yates is apparently healthy now and could challenge Lanning for the placekicking role.

State's only score was a field goal, and their punts weren't awful, but weren't good.  Overall, they looked mediocre, while South Carolina looked bad, so they get the "win" by default.

Returners

Definitely NC State, as I said (I'm doing pretty good).  Carolina looked okay on it's returns, but NC State had that one return that could have possibly been the go-ahead TD if not for a questionable tackle by Darian Stewart.

Coaching

Spurrier by miles.  He could have called a halfback dive every play and outcoached Tom O'Brien in this game.  O'Brien didn't utilize Russell Wilson's running ability at all and called an erratic game.  Spurrier had a very conservative playbook, but you don't need a lot of glitz when your D holds the other team to three points.

Motivation

I thought NC State would be more motivated but I think USC was by gametime from all the trash-talking and the ridiculous amount of hype State put on this game.  I think part of State thought that they would have an easy win because they were at home, the Gamecocks had lost a lot of players, and Russell Wilson would play the entire game.  They got a little complacent and were punched right in the mouth from the opening kickoff.

Crowd

The NC State students were loud, but the rest of the crowd (where I was sitting) was dead for much of the game.  Add in the fact that Carolina's section was extremely loud, sometimes drowning out the rest of the stadium, and I would say that Carolina won this one.

Recap

I incorrectly predicted four areas (QB, OL, Motivation, Crowd), but think I did pretty well overall.  The only thing that matters is that in the four areas I was wrong, I picked NC State and Carolina ended up having the edge, helping them win.  In the end, by my account, NC State only outplayed us in special teams, which is an important part of the game but not when the other team's D is choking you.  I look forward to seeing what we can do against UGA on Saturday, and will write a preview within the next couple of days.

Picture is from GoGamecocks.com

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