I held out as long as I could, which is to say, much longer than most people have. It's in my nature. I always end up being more patient with head coaches than most; I despise the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately attitude that pervades the outlook of far too many fans these days. It's self-destructive. It's how Tennessee ended up with a guy who spent an entire offseason making it a point to piss off the entire conference and make Al Davis look like the sane and rational one in that particular tiff. They ran out on a rail the most successful coach they've had since 1952, just a year after playing in the conference championship game, and they ended up with Lane Kiffin, whose first coaching move was to tell their prized quarterback recruit to get stuffed.
So you have to be careful what you wish for when you decide to turn on the head coach. Sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don't. But we're too far past that now. The Al Groh era has run its course.
I have far too much respect for Groh to act the loudmouth and "call for his firing" as the phraseology goes. I still don't want to see it. I still think Groh knows what he's doing and works as hard as ever, and given time, would pull this program out of its tailspin. The problem is, we no longer have that luxury of time. 2009 is a lost season. 2010 opens up with a trip to USC - in other words, 0-1. Our recruiting efforts for 2010 are dead in the water, and the 2011 class is going to be a tremendous challenge and another likely disappointment if this teetering on the brink continues.
We have two weeks to wallow in officially being the worst BCS team before we get another crack at anyone, and we can spend every minute of it debating whether it's a good idea to let go of the coach before the season ends or after and if before, should there be an interim coach and who should it be and what would recruits and coaching prospects think of that and blah blah blah. I think it honestly doesn't matter. When you're cruising for a 3-9, 2-10 type season - or worse - exactly when you fired the coach is the least of anyone's worries. The only opinion I have on that is that if the decision is made midseason, Groh deserves the opportunity to choose whether to continue as a lame duck or not. The other only opinion I have is that an interim coach would serve no purpose. It's not like we're 4-2 when we should have been 6-0. Barring a miracle, the season is lost, and interim coaches do not qualify as miracles. Part of the whole point of an interim coach is to evaluate him for the job - can you think of anyone on the staff you'd really want as the permanent head coach? The only ones with head coaching experience are Prince and Brandon, and neither distinguished themselves.
This is also the last time you'll see anything more than a sentence or two referring to Groh's imminent departure. Like I said: I don't want for it to happen. A better turn of phrase would be that I'm finally ready for it.
As for the game itself, well - you know me, I'm all in favor of slugging as much blue and orange Kool-Aid as you care to put in front of me. I mean, I just about had the entire offense winning a Heisman by the time I was done talking about them before the season. There are a lot of positives you could take away from this game, but I'm passing on the Kool-Aid this time around. If we were not already 0-2 going in, and if the opponent was something other than a middling C-USA team, you could point to a lot of excellent adjustments made by the offense and use it to take heart for future games.
The playcalling tops them all. The touchdown pass to Tim Smith was a thing of particular beauty. Perfect playcall at just the right time. Excellent protection. Beautiful throw by Sewell, and further, a terrific job of staying patient in the face of a rushing end. Nice separation by Smith and nice footwork to stay in bounds. Where's this been all my life?
The linemen look much more comfortable without those unnaturally wide splits, too. For the most part Sewell looked like a quarterback again. There was a running game, at least in the first half. The receivers were productive, if not especially consistent.
So much to like. But you can forget about all of it. Good teams build on what they have done well, improve what they don't, and put it together consistently. Bad teams do not. Just when the offense puts it together, the defense falls apart, the special teams fail us, and then oh by the way the offensive line once again opens up the floodgates - four sacks in the second half is totally inexcusable.
At some point this season we will put it all together, if only for a game or so at a time. There are enough lousy teams in the ACC for us to edge out a few wins. Hey, if you want to get really crazy, we're still 0-0 in the ACC - the conference championship is still out there. (Ha.) But three of the conference's four ranked teams are in our division, so.....yeah.
Postscript: Yes, Chase Minnifield hit a guy helmet-to-helmet - Rodney McLeod. Despite what the announcers kept insinuating, the Southern Miss receiver was hit with a shoulder, which last I checked you're allowed to do.