Posted on: January 1, 2011 1:35 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
South Carolina loses Marcus Lattimore to an early head injury and can't rally from a 13-0 hole, falling 26-17 to Florida State.
Offense: The Seminole offense rarely looked like a well-oiled machine, particularly after quarterback Christian Ponder left the game for good with a first-quarter concussion, and a few more touchdowns in place of field goals would have salted the game away sometime in the third quarter. But in a game defined by blown chances and mistakes on both sides, that the 'Noles managed not to screw up four potential (and eventually converted) Dustin Hopkins field goal opportunities counts for a lot, and backup E.J. Manuel's two clutch throws on FSU's game-clinching fourth-quarter drive -- one on third-and-eight to set up first-and-goal, the other to score the touchdown -- count for even more.
But what counts the most was the 218 yards rushing stunningly piled up on what had been the nation's eighth-ranked run defense. Even without any real passing threat once Ponder left the game, the Seminole line blasted hole after hole in the Gamecock front seven, and Chris Thompson took advantage to the tune of 147 game-changing yards. GRADE: B
Defense: When FSU corner Greg Reid -- the game's best player by a wide, wide margin -- walloped Lattimore on Carolina's first drive to dislodge the ball, end a Gamecock scoring threat, and (cleanly) knock Steve Spurrier's biggest weapon out of the game, the tone was set. Maybe the Seminoles were going to give up some yards here and there (414 in all by the time the whistle blew), but it wasn't going to matter as long as they had a big play waiting ... and they nearly always did. The 'Nole pass rush recorded only two official sacks but harassed Stephen Garcia into poor throws all game long; the defensive backs turned three of those throws into interceptions; and Reid, a demon all night, separated Alshon Jeffery from the ball as well late in the third quarter for another crucial turnover, Carolina's fifth of the game. In short: yardage allowed, schmardage schmallowed. GRADE: A-
Coaching: In a game where both teams appeared equally motivated and (almost) equally sloppy, the star of the game from a coaching standpoint was FSU defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, whose blitz packages the Carolina offensive line never developed an answer for. But credit also goes to Jimbo Fisher and his offensive staff for never asking the clearly-limited Manuel to do too much. GRADE: A-
Offense: Particularly considering they were forced to play nearly the entire game without the linchpin of their offense -- a situation that had already seen the Carolina offense roll over and die a couple of times this season -- the Gamecocks as a whole weren't that bad. 414 yards of offense ought to be worth a lot more than 17 points. But it's not when your quarterback has the kind of nightmare game Garcia had, throwing three picks-to-zero touchdowns, missing multiple open receivers, and generally looking every bit as lost as he'd looked in his previous two bowl starts (blowout losses to Iowa and UConn).
He didn't get a whole lot of help -- no Lattimore, Jeffrey's fumble, blown assignments in pass protection, etc. -- but it was Garcia's loose screws that first let the Gamecocks' wheels come off. GRADE: C-
Defense: There shouldn't be much shame in the Gamecocks' defensive performance; allowing only 308 yards of total offense should be enough to win most games, and if not for a whole series of huge stands from the Carolina D following offensive (and special teams) miscues, the game would have been well out of hand before the halftime whistle.
At the same time, there might have been more time for a Gamecock comeback if not for all the clock burned off by Thompson's runs, and allowing Manuel to go 7-for-7 on the deciding touchdown drive directly after the offense had scored to cut the lead to 19-17 will stick in coordinator Ellis Thompson's craw all offseason. The Gamecocks were good, but it's not true to say they were good enough. GRADE: B
Coaching: Spurrier's perenially lackadaisical approach to blitz protection caught up to him again, but aside from that, there's not much to take issue with in Carolina's coaching performance; the coaches can't be held responsible for Lattimore's sudden injury, Garcia having one of those games, the defensive line getting beat straight up in the running game, etc. Unlike the last two years, the Gamecocks at leats played like they wanted to be at their bowl game. GRADE: B+
FINAL GRADE: The 2010 Chick-Fil-A Bowl provided some drama in the late-going, but between the insistence on South Carolina's part to hand the game over to Florida State and FSU's insistence on politely kicking another field goal to keep the Gamecocks in it anyway, you can't call it a classic. And with the final five minutes an anticlimax following Manuel's final touchdown toss, this blogger isn't sure he'd even call it "good." Grade: B
Posted on: December 21, 2010 11:03 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder had the second surgery on his throwing elbow last week, and generally when you have two surgeries on the same elbow within a month, it tends to put your ability to play in a football game in doubt for a few weeks. Which is where Florida State and Ponder currently find themselves only ten days away from taking on South Carolina in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
There is some good news for the Seminoles, however, as after Ponder had the second surgery the hope was that he'd be able to return to practice a few days before the game, and that would increase his chances of playing. According to a release by the school on Monday, it seems that Ponder is on track to return to practice next week.
“We’ll probably let him throw some a bit the next three or four days before he goes up there, then turn him loose on the 26th and see what happens,” said Jimbo Fisher in a school release.
Ponder had a protective brace removed from his arm on Monday as well.
Should Ponder not be able to play in the game, E.J.Manuel -- who has taken the majority of reps in practice -- would once again get the start. Still, even though Manuel has had more practice, you have to think that if Ponder can play and wants to, Fisher will start Ponder. He is a senior, after all, and nobody wants to spend the final game of their college career in a baseball cap on the sideline.
Posted on: December 16, 2010 12:29 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Since polishing off South Carolina to win the SEC Championship Game and claim their berth in the national title game, the coaching staff at Auburn has stayed in the headlines. Unfortunately, it's been for reasons other than their coaching prowess: Gene Chizik's hitting the incentives jackpot , Gus Malzahn's hot-and-heavy flirtation with the Vanderbilt head coaching job, and now assistant head coach Trooper Taylor is in the news for suing his son's school over his hairstyle :
With the Auburn City Schools board standing by Tolbert (who is black), the suit is expected to be heard in court on Dec. 21.
Whether any of this -- Taylor's suit, Malzahn's Vandy discussions, even Cam Newton's Heisman win and subsequent media victory lap -- has any impact on the actual football to be played in Glenale is highly, highly debatable; with 25 days still to go until Jan. 10 and virtually all of the Tigers' planning and preparation still ahead of them, there's still plenty of time for Auburn to put any and all distractions behind them and focus on the task at hand.
Nonetheless, if we're wondering which team's head coach is happier with his team's break from the practice grind, we're betting Oregon coach Chip Kelly will take the relative calm around Eugene over the relative hubbub that seems to be surrounding Chizik's program at the moment.
Posted on: December 15, 2010 10:03 am
Edited on: December 15, 2010 10:08 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder entered his senior year with hopes of putting a nice cap on a mostly successful career at Florida State. He was on the watch list for most major awards, and even was the ACC's endorsed Heisman candidate. Ponder has put up impressive numbers, throwing for 20 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions in 11 games of action. He will fall well short of last season's 2717 yards passing, but that is more a credit to Florida State's rapidly improving rushing attack. When all healthy, the three-man attack of Chris Thompson, Ty Jones, and Jermaine Thomas wore teams down and allowed Ponder to put together yet another efficient season.
But Ponder has struggled with an elbow injury in the last half of the season. On Friday, Ponder underwent his second surgical procedure in four weeks to remove scar tissue from the elbow. Last time, the doctors operated on his elbow and drained enough fluid to "fill a 16-ounce soda bottle." Despite the frustrations of undergoing another operation on the nagging injury, Ponder was all jokes for reporters on Tuesday. When asked about the operation, he informed reporters that his arm had been amputated.
"I'm probably going to put it on eBay," Ponder said of his right arm, which was concealed in a sling under a baggy sweatshirt. "See if I can make some money off it."
Ponder will miss all of Florida State's practices until arriving in Atlanta for the Chick Fil-A Bowl on December 26, then they will reevaluate the situation. If Ponder cannot go against South Carolina, E.J. Manuel will once again get the nod. Manuel filled in for Ponder earlier this season in the 16-13 last minute victory over Clemson. Ponder dressed, but watched from the sideline as Manuel helped lead the Seminoles on a victory drive that would eventually help clinch the Atlantic Division crown. When Ponder was a last-minute scratch for the ACC Championship Game against Virginia Tech, Manuel put together an impressive performance against a talented Hokies defense. It might have been a good experience for the sophomore signal-caller, especially if he has to face the SEC runner-up on New Years Eve in the Georgia Dome.
Posted on: December 9, 2010 2:15 am
Edited on: December 9, 2010 2:20 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Are you excited about the Las Vegas Bowl? You should be! Boise State and Utah are squaring off, and even though Boise's heavily favored and Utah got blasted 47-7 by TCU in Week 10, we should see plenty of offensive fireworks. Oh, and Utah's going to pull the upset.
What? Don't believe that we're seriously calling this one for the Utes right now? Well! We happen to be working with inside information -- namely, the testimony of Utah DE Christian Cox. Here's what he told Utah basketball fans Tuesday night, according to the Deseret News:
Now, here's the thing: Utah probably will not beat Boise State. It probably won't even be close. Crazy things do happen in bowl games all the time, though. Boise State has a fantastic track record of showing up big in big bowl games, but it's also a team that dropped a bowl game to an 8-3 Boston College in 2005 and a 7-5 East Carolina (the Chris Johnson coming-out party, if you'll recall) in 2007. If the Broncos are still bummed about getting bounced from the BCS on two horrifying missed chip shots and don't take this game seriously, Utah is still good enough to give them fits.
And should Cox's guarantee come to pass, the one team that will be howling with dismay is TCU, whose national standing suffered after a "lackluster" 40-35 win over San Diego State that was never really that close. Sure, Wisconsin will probably beat TCU, but if the Horned Frogs can go 12-0 in the regular season with a 40-point win against a Utah team that can beat Boise State and still have no shot at the national title (to the point where many wondered aloud if Auburn losing the SEC Championship to South Carolina would actually be enough to drop the Tigers to No. 3 if TCU's waiting there), then there's really no reason for the non-AQ conference teams to participate in the BCS bowl system, is there?
So yes, there could be some wide-ranging ramifications to the Boise State-Utah matchup in the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl. And they'll all come to pass, because Utah's definitely going to win! Christian Cox even said so, you guys!
Posted on: December 4, 2010 6:23 pm
Edited on: December 4, 2010 6:37 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Auburn is 30 minutes away from the BCS National Championship Game, up 28-14 on South Carolina at halftime of the SEC Championship game. But if the second 30 minutes are half as back-and-forth as the first, the Tigers will still have an awful lot of work to do to earn their trip to Glendale.
But they'll at least have momentum on their side after Cam Newton' s half-ending Hail Mary was batted and then caught by Darvin Adams in the end zone:
That play answered what had looked like a game-changing touchdown drive by Carolina, one capped by Stephen Garcia hitting Alshon Jeffrey on a one-yard slant to bring Carolina within 21-14 with 16 seconds left before the break. With the Gamecocks getting the ball first in the second half, the underdogs looked like they had recovered from a disastrous defensive first quarter that saw Newton account for three touchdowns as the Tigers racked up more than 200 yards in the first period alone.
One of those touchdowns was this 54-yarder to Adams:
But Adams also played a large role in letting Carolina off the mat, dropping a certain third-down conversion and later a touchdown pass Newton had floated in with precision. But he wasn't alone in making mistakes for the Tigers: Newton missed multiple open receivers, a Phillip Lutzenkirchen holding call negated a 3rd-and-1 inside the Carolina 5, and Wes Byrum missed a 36-yard field goal. The Tigers have been by far the dominant team on the stat sheet --- outgaining the Gamecocks 348 yards to 196 -- but as they learned themselves after coming back against an Alabama team that allowed missed first-half opportunities to become a huge second-half letdown, that didn't matter much with the boot never applied to the Gamecocks' throat.
The Hail Mary might change things. (At the very least, it redeemed Adams, who finished the half with an incredible 7 receptions for 215 yards and the pair of scores.) But unless they administer the knockout blow, they might still need a little more magic to seal their bid to Glendale.
Posted on: December 3, 2010 2:30 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
There are many things you could say about Cam Newton , and by now, nearly all of them have been said.
But even given that Newton ranks second in the country in passer rating, given that he's rushed more often than he's thrown in one of the country's strongest rushing attacks, you wouldn't expect "we fear him more as a passing threat than a running threat" to have been one of those things said. It turns out that's exactly what South Carolina was saying to themselves as they prepared to face Auburn the first time:
South Carolina's coaches saw a 6-6, 250-pound quarterback who wanted to throw first and run second. The new JaMarcus Russell, they called him. That's what film against Arkansas State, Mississippi State and Clemson had shown them.Newton solved that problem right quick, going for 176 of Auburn's 334 yards on the ground. Obviously, when the two teams meet again Saturday in the SEC Championship Game (exclusively on CBS!), the Gamecocks will be a little more focused on making sure Newton has to beat them through the air rather than on the ground alone. (Whether they can succeed is debatable given Carolina's struggles in their 100th-ranked pass defense and Newton's 12-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio since midseason, but when given two evils, one has to be the lesser.)
But the question has to be asked: what film of Mississippi State and Clemson were the Gamecock coaches watching? Against State , Newton threw 19 times and rushed the ball 18 times, with many of those rushes going for critical first downs and one of his passes an ugly interception into end-zone triple coverage. Against Clemson , Newton threw just 14 times (with two more interceptions) while carrying the ball 17 times.
Certainly, many of Newton's passes in both those games went for huge plays (he averaged a remarkable 29 yards per-completion in the comeback against Clemson) and both the Bulldogs and Tigers kept him largely bottled up in those 35 attempts on the ground. But if Carolina really expected Newton to be a Russell-like pocket passer, you have to ask what they thought they were seeing over the course of those games ... and whether the same staff is up the challenge of Gus Malzahn and Newton this time around.
Posted on: November 30, 2010 10:56 am
Edited on: November 30, 2010 1:22 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Stephen Garcia left the first meeting between Auburn and South Carolina a little worse for wear, taking a knock to the head (though not one severe enough to be ruled a concussion) that helped prompt Steve Spurrier -- who said Garcia was "woozy" -- to turn to true freshman Connor Shaw for the game's final two drives. Shaw threw interceptions on both those possessions, ending any chance of a late Gamecock comback, so Carolina knows already it will have to have Garcia healthy and at his best to keep pace with the Tigers' SEC -best offense.
Unfortunately, Spurrier announced yesterday that may be a luxury they simply won't have:
Garcia hurt his right thumb in Saturday night's victory over Clemson when his hand struck a Clemson defender's helmet, an injury he addressed after the game. However, USC head coach Steve Spurrier revealed late Sunday afternoon that Garcia has a 'banged-up' left (non-throwing) shoulder as well.If Spurrier's expecting him back at practice by midweek, Garcia remains likely to play in Atlanta. But if you're a Gamecock fan, "He should be OK, we think" can't sound encouraging, particularly given Auburn's penchant for knocking opposing quarterbacks (Ryan Mallett , Greg McElroy , Jarrett Lee , Garcia) out of the game. There's also been a credible report that Garcia's injury is severe enough to put his arm in a sling on Sunday. (For those of you interested in such things, Vegas has reportedly taken the game off the board in response to Garcia's status.)
When all is said and done, expect Garcia to suit up, take the field against the Tigers, and deliver the same kind of gutty effort that's always marked his tenure in Columbia. But if he's not 100 percent, Carolina's already long-seeming odds against the Tigers will get that much longer.