Doug Mathews Chalk Talk: Time For Gamecocks

There is a long time saying around Tennessee football that “they remember what you do in November” and never has it been truer than this year. Coach Butch Jones badly needs a good November to attain his goal of a bowl game in his second season on the Hill. South Carolina begins a four game SEC east stretch with the Big Orange needing at least three wins.

First we look back at the Alabama game and how it could affect the remainder of the season.

+ A game that had all makings of a blowout at 27-0 ended with a respectable score of 34-20. Give this team a lot of credit for continuing to play for sixty minutes and in doing so possibly gaining a shot of confidence for the last quarter of the season.

+ Clearly the storyline was the play of Josh Dobbs and of the offensive line. Getting his first snaps of the 2014 season Dobbs looked as poised and confident as a veteran for the great majority of the game. The play of the offensive line was just as significant. Only two sacks was excellent against such a top defense.

+ Exactly what the early game plan was for #9 Cooper is not clear but whatever it was needs to be deep sixed. The best receiver in the country amassed a Tide record of 224 receiving yards, most of them in the first twenty minutes. That’s 48 % of Alabama’s total offense for the night.

+ Offensively the move to a two tight end wing formation worked very well providing not only maximum pass protection possibilities but also helping in the run game. With a reworked offensive line due to injuries and the running threat of #11 as well as Hurd’s continuing improvement, a 200 yard rushing game was almost attained. All this against the best run defense in the NCAA and begs the obvious question….How? The answer from Chalk Talk… not really sure but I think #11 had a lot to do with it.

+ While pass defense was poor at the start I was very impressed with the way this defense played the run. Alabama is big, physical and strong but for the most part our defensive front stayed with them, a credit to the coaching staff. Coach Steve Stripling continues to get more out of the front four than I thought possible.

+ With #11 a running threat and #1 quickly becoming a force running inside if we can figure out a way to get the ball to #8 we might scare some of our final four opponents. It might be a good idea for our offensive staff to look at the Tide game plan and see how they got the ball to their best….#9.

+ A close look at the size and depth of the Bama offensive line gives a great measuring stick to where Tennessee needs to be to get back in the championship picture in the SEC. While strides have been made in many positions, most positions, this is the one area where there is still a very wide gap between the Vols and teams like Alabama, LSU, Georgia, actually most of our rivals in this league. This is especially true at the tackle positions where we are undersized, not strong enough and not quick enough.

SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS

+ The good news…..even Steve Spurrier is not sure how good his team is.

+ The match ups for this game are much better than the last two SEC opponents, Ole Miss and Alabama. USC does not play defense anywhere near where the past two opponents played and offensively we have a good chance to move the ball. In the passing game the Gamecocks have intercepted only four passes in eight games, we can throw the ball on these guys.

+ We will likely have to score a lot of points as they are averaging over thirty four per game. Two tailbacks, Davis and Wilds are averaging 137 yards per game but that is what we are doing best on defense….playing the run. QB Thompson can run some but not nearly as well as Wallace or Sims.

+ We must guard against South Carolina running a lot of crossing routes particularly with their backs against our linebackers. This has been a staple of Spurrier offenses against the Vols and most surely will be part of the plan this week. And history shows no team throws the deep ball against Tennessee as often or as well as Coach Spurrier.

+ Because of their strong running game play action pass is the most used passing tool. As Coach Jones likes to say “eye discipline” is very important, make sure you “see” what you see.

+ Against Alabama the Vols ran 45 times and passed 34, 17 of those runs by Dobbs. It appears around 60% runs is where this offense needs to be.

+ Look for a punt block by the Vols this week…..USC’s punt execution times are border line and a block is certainly waiting to happen. Somebody is going to get one, it might as well be us.

+ Kentucky hurt Carolina with QB runs inside the tackles….look for this early from the Volunteers.

+ We are 0-4 in the conference and one stat common to all four losses….we turned the ball over in our end of the field in each of them. My belief is that we are good enough to beat USC but will have a hard time if we do not get two things done: no turnovers in our end of the field and get the ball deep to North, Malone or Croom. We have a height advantage with these three and need to attack the Gamecocks often in this area. A running QB forces a defense to defend with a safety on running downs, this leaves corners one on one with our big receivers.