Each week, Garnet Report’s Zach Crowl recaps the Gamecock’s last outing, analyzes the positives and negatives to take from the game, and reveals what to be excited about for next week’s matchup. Stay tuned every Monday to hear Zach’s take on the game.
Each year it seems that the Gamecocks kick off the season with an unnecessarily close game against an inferior opponent, and of course 2012 was no different. The good news is that it’s thankfully over—Gamecock fans can sleep a little better this weekend knowing that the team survived the annually nerve-racking first game. It certainly wasn’t pretty, but it was a win, which was the ultimate goal. However, there are a couple of areas the Head Ball Coach needs to focus on in the upcoming weeks if Carolina plans on making an SEC title run.
Room to Improve
Cementing the Holes in the Offensive Line
This offensive line is both huge and extremely athletic, making it surprising how easily Vandy’s front line ripped holes in them play after play, blitz after blitz. Shaw was constantly on the run and rarely got the opportunity to stay in the pocket to plant and throw a strike to a receiver downfield.
Creating a Passing Game
To say that the Gamecock’s offense was rush-heavy on Thursday would be an understatement. After Connor Shaw’s first pass of the game was intercepted, it seemed as if he was hesitant to pull the trigger the rest of the contest, resulting in the fewest passing yards in a single game since Spurrier took over as coach.
Finding Depth After Shaw
Coach Spurrier says that Connor Shaw is having a tough time moving his throwing arm and most likely won’t practice until at least Wednesday. It is very possible that Shaw may not be able to play Saturday, so Dylan Thompson might have to take his spot as the starter. Thompson struggled in relief of the injured Shaw against Vanderbilt, producing a total of negative four yards, not exactly the most comforting statistic for Gamecock fans heading into week two.
Eliminating “Bonehead” Mistakes
The ‘Cocks were plagued by a few mental errors against Vanderbilt that need to be fixed if they want to contend against tougher SEC opponents. Brison Williams missed a key tackle in the open field against Jordan Matthews that led to the Commodores’ first touchdown. The final mistake made by the Gamecocks went unnoticed by the refs as Swearinger interfered with a pass from Rodgers to Matthews on the Commodores’ last drive. These mistakes, though seemingly insignificant, can’t be repeated if the Gamecocks want to win in big games on the road this season.
The bright spot for the Gamecocks on Thursday was the defensive line. Clowney and company racked up five sacks against the Commodores. This will likely continue as both Clowney and the young defensive tackles gain a better grasp of the defense.
The linebackers set the tone by stuffing Vanderbilt’s rushing game. Heralded leading rusher Zac Stacy was held to a measly 48 yards and the team totaled only 62 rushing yards. Linebacker Shaq Wilson also came up with a huge interception that sparked a crucial change of momentum, leading to Carolina’s first touchdown.
What would a Gamecock recap be without mentioning Marcus Lattimore? In his first start back, Lattimore looked solid despite losing a fumble and seeming hesitant at times. He was still the heart and soul of the Carolina offense, leading the team in rushing yards, receiving yards, and touchdowns.
What to Expect in Week Two
Week one was shaky to say the least, but don’t expect the Gamecocks to make the same mistakes against ECU. A tough first game is nothing new to Carolina, so they should be ready to move past it. Connor Shaw may not be healthy enough to start, but Dylan Thompson should be ready to step in against an ECU defense that gave up 300 passing yards last week to Appalachian State. Coach Spurrier will have Thompson prepared to start if necessary, so expect him to step into the role confidently. After a little coaching, the offensive line should provide much better protection for the quarterback, whether it be Thompson or Shaw. As long as the Gamecocks continue to improve and stick to the game plan, they should cruise to an easy week two victory.