BLACKOUT SMOKEOUT, WHAT NOW?
I planned to get this up on Sunday night, but got too sleepy. Then I was in Kansas City for two days. I am now finally going to be home for a few weeks with no business travel. My kids are happy about that, and so am I.
What happened? At this point, nobody wants a detailed break down of the debacle Saturday night, so I will sum it up in one sentence. We got manhandled on both lines of scrimmage. Their big uglies whipped our big uglies. This is the first game where we truly got punished for the absence of Sturdivant and Owens and Battle. We have a very young O-line that is still trying to get all of the parts of the machine working properly and effectively. The talent is there, but the three new starters need more experience and unfortunately that means OJT. The defensive line held up well against the run most of the night but again we couldn't muster any pressure on the QB - especially in the first half. The defensive scheme failed and that failure primarily snowballed from the lack of pressure. I won't bore you with any more about the negative parts of the game because I am now more concerned about the "What Now?" question.
The few positives...
In the second half, our team showed that they were not quitters. Rennie Curran and Matthew Stafford deserve medals for their fearless service above and beyond the call of duty. It seemed like Curran made every tackle. He was officially credited with 14. That can't be right, but I don't have the game on video for review, so it will have to do. Anyway, he was playing like a missile and at one point got up from a tackle stumbling like he was punchdrunk. CJ Byrd tried to convince him to go to the sideline and he shook him off then made the next tackle. After that one, he could hardly stand up and did leave the field for the rest of the series. He returned later. What a warrior. Meanwhile, on offense, in the second half, Stafford stood in the pocket waiting for downfield routes to open and threw 40 yard darts into double coverage drilling the receivers in the chest hard enough for the ricochet to be heard 53 rows up in section 127. He got pummeled time after time. Naturally never drawing a late hit flag. At other times, he moved out of the pocket and made precision downfield throws with velocity while on the run. If any doubters keep wondering why NFL draft experts say he has the most NFL potential of all the college QBs, watch the second half and note the accuracy on those long throws while under pressure. Very Brett Favre-ish. Staff took a beating but he never quit even when it was clearly too late to win the game. Curran and Stafford played their hearts out and that should not be overlooked in this colossal disappointment.
What Now? First, we need an army of doctors, physical therapists, trainers, faith healers, usui reiki practitioners, accupuncturists and ngangas to help heal our growing cadre of injured players. Assuming we can assemble enough players to take the field against Tennessee on October 11, we will have to play every series as if our backs are against the wall because they are. They will be against the wall the rest of the season. If, and this is a huge if, but if we win all the rest of our games including the SECCG, we will play for the national title. But that is the last thing that our players, coaches and fans need to be concerned with.
We now must simply focus on winning the SEC East. This will require that we beat UT, VU, UF and UK and one of LSU or AU. We can lose another game to a western foe as long as we do not lose in the east. This is not the only scenario that could permit us to win the east, but let's face it, if we can't beat all of the remaining 4 teams we face in the east, we aren't a championship football team.
It is too early to worry about the LSU trip because we must beat UT and VU to make that game carry significant weight anyway. Our coaches need to spend all of their effort figuring out how to beat UT and VU and focus on nothing else right now. UT's offense has looked anemic but their defense is solid. They are supposed to have a great o-line, but they aren't scoring many points and that is partly due to the new OC trying to throw the ball too much with a QB that has yet to look any good. That doesn't mean he couldn't have a break out game against us, because he could. We better be prepared to pressure him early and often.
I have confidence that our staff will find a way to cobble together enough players and enough game plan to hobble past UT and VU. After that? I have no idea, but as my Marine buddies always say, we can Demo that bridge when we get to it.
Florida's loss was a huge break for us. But it caused me to become uneasy knowing that USC had already lost and these things seem to come in bunches.
Alabama will never cover the 16 point spread against Kentucky this week. They are due for another flat, Tulane-like performance. Bet on it.
Many Bama fans were talking a ton of shit after the game. Their team earned it on the field, but I believe they will totally need us to help them out this season with LSU or Auburn if they want to get after it again in Atlanta. I would love a rematch. Why not?
Nobody is going undefeated this year. I am not sure who will break Oklahoma's rice bowl, but it will happen. Same for Penn State. BYU may stay undefeated, but this isn't 1984.
Moreno has fallen out of the Heisman conversation for now. And, unless we can gel on the O-line, he won't reenter the conversation this year. He can't do it all by himself, though he will certainly try.
We don't need anymore blackouts for awhile. It was fun for the fans, but I think it was a distraction for the players who were expecting the magic from last year's game to materialize from the ether and it never did (at least it only did for the 12 seconds that it took Prince Miller to return that punt on the first play of the 4th quarter and pull us within two touchdowns.)
Pundits and pollsters can have a very short memory. If we take care of business, other teams will lay their enormous stinking eggs and will become the overated team du jour. We can bounce back, but we will have to get healthier, luckier and downright better.
That is all for now.