Boy, that Merritt Hall analogy sure came in handy.
First, the easy part: congrats to South Carolina. The ‘Cocks wanted to come in and prove a point and they did. They controlled Georgia in every phase of the game. If anything, the final score didn’t reflect how dominant they were.
Second, the obvious part: that was the worst loss of Mark Richt’s head coaching career. Not just because of the lopsided score. Not just because the gap between the two teams’ preparation and execution was even larger. And not even just because his team fell on its face on a national stage. No, the worst part is the confirmation that the program has been passed by South Carolina in the East. If Muschamp has the Gators back on track – and we’ll know more about that by month’s end – Richt could find himself in the same place Jim Donnan found himself over the last five years of his Athens tenure. That’s not a great place to be.
I’m not going to bore you to death here with a bunch of detailed bullet points breaking down the game, because I’m not really in the mood. If someone else wants to take solace in Ken Malcolm’s stats in garbage time, be my guest. Instead, you’ll have to settle for some general observations.
- The defense. It turns out that Tennessee was a warning, not a mirage. Clearly, this unit has regressed from last season. It’s still disjointed – at least two of SC’s scores came off painful breakdowns, but it’s also not consistently physical. The Gamecock offensive line hasn’t been anything special this year, but it looked like world beaters as the night went on. The topper was the complete breakdown in composure that led to the Carolina’s last score. There is no excuse for a defense with this much talent to look as bad as it has the past two weeks. And more than anyone else, the blame for that lies with…
- Todd Grantham. For the second straight week, I don’t get the game plan. Last week, it was worry about the deep pass über alles. Last night, it was selling out to stop Marcus Lattimore. I knew going in Grantham was going to take his chances with defending the deep ball, so I wasn’t surprised at Carolina’s success there, but how do you ignore Shaw’s ability to hurt you with the run? Sure, he made adjustments, but the horse was already out of the barn by then. Grantham seems to be taking it on faith that his players are going to handle things that they aren’t capable of handling so far. He needs to reconsider his approach and fast.
- Aaron Murray. He was awful last night, plain and simple. Granted, he was getting little support from his offensive line and his receivers struggled to get open. But that doesn’t totally excuse the breakdown in his mechanics – if I never see another sideline screen pass, it’ll be too soon – and his decision making (how did he not see the defense crash on Gurley as he was running the read play on the failed goal line series?). Maybe it’s a cheap shot, but when Georgia was down 21-0 in the first quarter, I thought about David Greene keeping his head in 2004 when his team fell behind 16-0 in Columbia. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t see Murray pulling that off.
- The offense. If the defense looked confused, the offense looked downright intimidated. How does a team scoring at a record pace go into a shell from the start? That’s a question for…
- Mike Bobo. I understand the line got crushed, but it’s not as if South Carolina did anything new on defense. They just went after it. How do you not have anything in the game plan to answer? Bobo’s certainly seen an all out approach from a front seven before – that’s the hand he was dealt in both last year’s SECCG and bowl game. And in both cases, he had more to show for it than last night. The plan was bad, but so were his adjustments. Why did it take Gates being eviscerated over and over again by Clowney to realize he needed help? And why keep calling those freaking sideline passes that Murray simply couldn’t throw properly?
- Special teams. I take it nobody bothered to look at the South Carolina – Missouri tape. McGowan does a great Logan Gray fair catch impression. But, hey, at least the PAT attempt was uneventful.
- Mark Richt. When your team fails to show up for its biggest regular season game in years, ultimately that’s on the head coach. I’m not a particularly big Kirk Herbstreit fan, but Richt should be made to listen to his late game criticism.
I suspect what’s going to gall me the most about last night after the season is over is that South Carolina will have dominated Georgia more than every other SEC opponent it played this season. Remember, the ‘Cocks managed to trail both Vandy and Kentucky in the second half of those games. Georgia was effectively done last night before the end of the first quarter. Mark Richt can try to spin that all he wants, but that’s far more on his team than on Spurrier’s.