Despite scoring 34 points, for most of last night's game Steve's Spurrier's offense looked thoroughly inept. The offensive line, a big weakness last year for the Gamecocks, gave no reason to think it would be much better this year. It was porous and failed to get any push against the NC State defensive line until the game was pretty much decided after the end of the 3rd quarter.
But more important for Tiger fans, this game was an indication of what can happen when a team does not have solid quarterback play. Starting QB Tommy Beecher threw 4 interceptions before he was pulled with an "injury". He was also generally quite ineffective despite having a completion percentage north of 50%. He averaged less than 5 yards per pass attempt and got sacked a couple of times.
A quick calculation of his And The Valley Shook Quarterback Productivity Index (more on that another day) is about 0.2 yards per play. That's approaching Michael Henig levels of putrification. His lack of productivity, which is certainly not unrelated to the offensive line's inability to block effectively, meant that South Carolina could not generate any offense at all.
One play in particular illustrated a point I made here. On the play, which was shown on replay several times because an NC State player got injured on the play, South Carolina wide receiver Kenny McKinley broke off the line and got separation from the defender. He then flashed a catching zone to the quarterback. All Tommy Beecher had to do was recognize that he was open and put the ball to him and it would have been a nice gain. But Beecher didn't see it and instead was trying to move around the pocket and ended up getting sacked.
His best wide receiver was wide open and Beecher never saw him. This is why good wide receivers do not elevate the play of mediocre quarterbacks. The mediocre quarterbacks can't take advantage of what the receivers give them.
If our quarterback play is not better than that, we will have a lot of trouble.
Really, though, when you think about it, 10 of the 12 teams in the SEC have questionable quarterback situations to some degree. Only Georgia and Florida appear to be pretty solid (barring injuries). LSU, Auburn, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ole Miss are all starting new quarterbacks, and at least 3 of those teams are unsure who their starter is going to be in a month. Alabama, Arkansas, Vandy, and Mississippi State all have returning starters whose abilities are seriously questioned.
Much about the SEC will be determined by which of those 10 teams can solidify their quarterback play.