Monday, September 3, 2007


It was a tough night for the Gamecocks in Montgomery; almost nothing went right. There were some segments of good football, head coach Jack Crowe said at his Monday news conference, but the whole affair was "disappointing" and perplexing.

They did win the kicking game, but if they had been able to finish on offense, they would have been trading extra points for Gavin Hallford's school-record four field goals. As many times as they made it to the red zone, they should have scored 55 or 60 points (at least that's what the formula says).

The two (or is it three) quarterback system needs work. On one hand, you have a QB who can grasp a game plan quickly; on the other, you have one who seemingly can make plays (although Matt Hardin did show an ability to make some plays with his legs) -- at least that's the way the coaches see it. If the Gamecocks could find a way to merge the two, they'd have a Payton Award candidate. Look for Hardin to start Saturday against Chattanooga.

But that's not the only thing that needs fixing. The thin offensive line broke down too often for anyones liking; the nearly two dozen missed assignments resulted in three sacks and 14 plays for negative yardage. And the defense played pretty good until the last possession of the first half, and then the dam completely broke.

Let me say something about Alabama State. The Hornets' defense was good and fast, perhaps as good as any the Gamecocks will see on their level this year. And, while I'm not one to tell a coach what to do, if I were ASU coach Reggie Barlow, I'd turn Chris Mitchell into the starter pretty quick.

Now back to the Gamecocks. Unfortunately, none of what they have wrong can be fixed with personnel changes. They have what they have and there's nothing more --- you can't go to the Wal-Mart to pick up a new player --- so they'll have to live with it until the players get comfortable. And, as you might expect, they're confident it will come around.

Besides, in the grand scheme of things, losing these non-conference games isn't going to keep them out of the playoffs, but then, you wonder if they stay on this track, how will their psyche be by the time OVC play starts.

Two years ago, they started 0-3 with two losses coming in the closing seconds --- not minutes, like Saturday --- and I-A UAB, then they went 6-1 in the league before losing to Eastern Illinois in what became a conference title game. This year, they lost to Alabama State in the last three minutes, have Chattanooga --- the same second team in 2005 --- and upper division Memphis. Hmmmm.

Speaking of the OVC, the league took a beating in the opening week. Austin Peay and Samford beat non-Division I opponents and Eastern Illinois beat an OVC opponent. But the rest of the league went 0-6, with losses like 59-3, 73-10, 50-10. Ouch.

That's all for now --- isn't it enough? Look for the deeper numbers in this morning's Star and what the team plans to do about fixing them.

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