So what did we learn about our progress in the game vs. WSU?
I'll take the defense first. There is no question that the SC defensive front 7 is one of the best units in the country. That being said, it was astonishing that we hardly put any pressure on QB Alex Brink with a WSU offensive line that was put together with spit and toilet paper. Without a pass rush two things happen, 1) the QB gets time to throw and 2) turnovers become more difficult to convert. We clearly need Sedrick Ellis to get back in hurry. He is the best player on the line and his presence and leadership are sorely missed while he out due to injury. Hopefully we will get him back in the next couple of weeks.
The secondary got all it could handle and at times was exploited by WR Michael Bumpus who always seemed to be open and WR Jason Hill who also got behind a defender in the end zone for a TD. It seemed like the secondary did really know where the ball was and ended up committing penalties in order to compensate. Without pressure on the QB, Brink had time to do what he needed to move the ball. Penalties were a big issue also. There was a number of PI calls and way too many holding calls that either helped WSU or slowed our own drives. It was not lost on me that a number of the penalties were committed by freshman, but that is to be expected, as they get more experience they will be more disciplined.
Poise = Booty
As for the offense, well Booty was cool as a cucumber and he was magnificent in driving the team down the field on that 90 plus yard drive. Booty was really patient and picked his spots. With this being is forth start it looks like he has been starting for us for years. WR Steve Smith really earned his keep and then some, catching a number of critical passes that either kept drives alive or put SC in position to score. The running game still needs some work. Of course it will come in time, but it looked like at times the freshman RB's seemed more interested in making moves and trying to juke the defender than just running the ball.
The receivers, other than Smith, seemed to have an average day. Turner fumbling the ball was terrible; he should have protected it better. It was less a case of the defender stripping him of the ball and more off Turner not protecting it and having it come out of his hands. I was also curious as to why he didn't turn up field and try to make a first down instead of turning back inside and losing the ball. Fred Davis seemed to be over-powered by the defender at times when he had open field in front of him. The line did an adequate job of protecting Booty although WSU's Broadus and Bruce combined for three (3) sacks.
We had a hard time protecting the ball. Turners fumble stopped a pretty effective drive and Booty's INT was meaningless. The 2 near lost fumbles are more of an issue as was the high snap on a punt in the 4th qtr. That is just attention to detail and Coach Carroll will work to address it. If not for the heads up play with some of our guys on those fumbles the outcome could have been much worse.
Yes it was a win, but we still have some work to do and with all the fresh young faces getting increased playing time it is still a work in progress. I think the team got the message that they need to continue to focus and that wins will just not be there for the taking. We have a tough last 4 games on the schedule so working out the bugs now is very important so that we play flawless football in the weeks to come. Lets learn from it and put it aside. Next up The University of Washington.