NOTE: Again, I was on a couch for this one.
I am glad we won, but we have issues.
After knocking off the rust and getting some of those first game jitters out, we saw just what we were all hoping for on offense this year. Ridley pounding up the middle and getting genuine blocking help from the O-Line. JJ stepping up in the pocket and throwing to Russell Shepard, over the middle, in coverage, for the score. The long bomb to Rueben Randle and Jefferson showing some swagger. Russell Shepard showing that Auburn game speed we all want to see every game.
And then we decided to do a victory lap in the middle of the race. We let Crowton go back to his old ways and tried to run out the clock in the 3rd Qtr instead of pounding UNC into the ground like we were clearly capable of. And the team regressed into it's old ways. Jefferson stopped checking down the receivers and got hooked on a pre-snap favorite and it cost him. And just when it looked like we may have gotten things going again at the last minute, Ridley starts showing ball control issues. It felt like the 09 offense all over again.
The Defense was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I loved the aggressiveness at the line, and I hope 4 sacks is a sign of things to come. The line was great against the rush on paper, but I not going to celebrate holding UNC's 3rd and later 4th best rushers to 24 yds just yet. On both of Yates' long passes, he was able to escape the pressure long enough to let his receiver pull away from the coverage. It's one of the risk-reward things about being aggressive that we will likely be dealing with all season.
Oh My, the pass coverage.Once UNC's OC stopped trying to Out-Crowton Crowton with inexplicable calls like all of the 3rd and mid-long rushing plays, TJ Yates turned into an all-conference passing machine, without the use of his best receiver! On the last two drives they ran that short slot pass over and over and over again, and we could not stop it. And we just plain got beat on those long bombs. 412 yds passing is nearly DOUBLE any performance Yates had last year. Pulling Mo Claiborne after he missed tackles late at least shows Chavis wont hesitate to stop doing things that aren't working, but our coverage unit needs some serous work on getting on receivers as soon as the ball is snapped. Peterson can't cover everybody.
Speaking of Patrick Peterson, I am extremely worried about what this game says for the rest of the season about him. His returns simultaneously proved and disproved the theory about having your best available players play special teams. Sure the 2 midfield returns and the touchdown were huge reasons we won, and having that kind of return game is going to keep us in games this year. But he was clearly gassed by halftime, going to the locker late in the 2nd half and not returning till UNC's second punt in the 3rd. He cramped up again on UNC's final drive and we all had flashbacks to last year's Bama game. Is it worth using our best defensive weapon on returns if he cant get back on D in the next series? With our problems in coverage last night, I'm not sure it's worth the risk. I'll wait to see him perform against SEC special teams units before taking a side in that debate.
What disappoints me most about this game was the attitude of the team after our final score in the late 2nd Qtr. For all the preseason talk from both players and coaches this year about "Finishing Strong" we flat out didn't. I said it last night, The youth of this team showed in their immaturity of acting like the game was over before halftime and it was a failure of the coaching staff to let them think that in the first place and to not correct the attitude. Hopefully, this near-loss will be a wake up call for the players, but the coaches will have to be constantly vigilant against it happening again. We can not afford to take our foot off the gas against ANYBODY. And we certainly can't do it in the 3rd quarter.
It doesn't get easy until ULM, now that Vandy has shown they have a pulse and will likely pack the house against us next week and Moo U has *rechecks figures* the league lead in pass offense and passing efficiency. What?
But hey, at least we aren't Ole Miss today.
The polls have shown the ability to be a bit more fluid in the early weeks, but I think most of the grad assistants and sports writers may have, much like our team, checked out at half time. I expect a dip, but thanks to a few teams ahead of us losing, we may still be ranked. I completely expect us to be dropped out of the BlogPoll as most of the 'net is calling for blood already.