Some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s thrilling 38-35 victory over Georgia:
180. As in degrees. As in how much the perception of this Gamecock squad changed over sixty minutes against the Bulldogs.
You remember August 28, right? Texas A&M passed over, through and around us in the most unexpected and embarrassing loss of the Spurrier era at South Carolina. A modest home win over East Carolina in week two didn’t help much. There were so many questions about this team and where it was headed after having such lofty preseason expectations. Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of questions, especially on the defensive side of the ball. But the trajectory of this season has changed. We are back in control of our own destiny in the SEC East, and a team left for dead two weeks ago has new life and new purpose and a freshly dusted off set of goals to attain.
Team Thompson. Any further questions about who the leader of the USC offense is? Thompson’s 21-30, 270 yard, 3 TD performance may have been the best of his career. He was in complete control, looking confident and throwing that way for most of the night. He recognized defenses, checked in and out of plays, and threw to the right receiver on all but one notable play. On his lone interception he admitted he thought he had lost the game. But his teammates picked him up on defense, and the football gods intervened on a chip shot field goal.
It’s time to stop comparing Dylan Thompson to Connor Shaw, and it never was time to call for Thompson to be benched. He is carving his own niche as the quarterback at USC. If he and his teammates keep playing like they did last night, that niche might include a trip back to Atlanta in December.
this that state. To borrow a phrase from UGA’s rivalry with Georgia Tech, we ran that state last night. After the first series of the second half, and as the rains began to fall more steadily, Steve Spurrier relied on his veteran offensive line to lean on the Bulldogs for the rest of the game. The result was an impressive rushing performance led by Brandon Wilds that chewed up clock and eventually put the game away. We have long dreamed of having that big, veteran offensive line that wears teams down and moves the ball on the ground even when our opponent knows it’s coming. The last two weeks the group of Robinson, Cann, Knott, Waldrop and Shell have been those guys. And it is glorious.
Running Wilds. Mea culpa on my part – I said on last week’s podcast that Brandon Wilds was no more than a good, average back-up SEC running back, and we needed Mike Davis to stay healthy if we were going to have a successful run game. Wilds proved me wrong last night. When we needed him most he ran his best, racking up 93 yards on 14 carries, including an impressive 24-yard touchdown run that gave us our final points, and the winning margin. I still very much want Mike Davis to stay healthy, but I feel great about our back-up situation if he does not.
Mea Culpa Part II. I try not to criticize players much, but I’ve been on Shon Carson’s case a lot because of his failures as a kick returner. While I still think we have better options we could put back there, his 42-yard return after UGA cut the lead to 31-28 in the fourth quarter was a huge momentum changer in the ball game. It was good to see that kind of contribution out of him, and I hope he can build on it.
Bend, occasionally break. OK, so the defense still gave up 408 yards of offense last night and the periodic backbreaking third-down conversion, but overall I’m impressed by how much we’ve improved since week one. Keep in mind we’ve faced three very high-powered offenses in the first three weeks of the season, so there was never any real chance we’d have a highly ranked defense at this point. But what I liked seeing last night was the return of some attitude on that side of the ball. I’m not a huge fan of barking (pardon the pun) at the other team, especially at guy like Todd Gurley who can make you pay for it on any given play. But the Gamecock defenders showed they were not intimidated and were not going to back down from the Heisman candidate. Also, the young guys are playing with a lot more confidence and are moving around like they actually know what they’re doing. That bodes well for the rest of the season.
More Skai. Skai Moore was all over the field last night, and showed why he is an All-SEC candidate.
Que Surratt Surratt. You folks who were at the game probably didn’t get a chance to see it, but after Georgia’s initial two play touchdown drive, JT Surratt went off on the sidelines. He went to each defensive player and got in their faces to voice his displeasure with what happened. The CBS crew said he even had to be restrained and calmed down. I love, love, love that from the senior. Methinks he is our emotional leader on defense.
The HBC. Spurrier called a fantastic game last night. He seems to save his best for Georgia and Clemson, and that’s fine by me. That’s now 4 out of 5 against UGA, and evened his record at USC against the Bulldogs to 5-5. Many also noted we are now 9-1 in our last ten against UGA and Clemson. Not bad coach, not bad at all.
The Zebras. The SEC officiating crew had a less than stellar night. Some examples:
- The personal foul penalty on Jordan Diggs that extended a UGA drive that resulted in three points. It seemed obvious that Todd Gurley deserved at least an offsetting personal foul penalty with his headbutt and shove of our player(s).
- The “cut blocks” late in the game. First, Busta Anderson was flagged for a cut block that looked perfectly legal according to everyone who saw it. Does anyone know what was wrong with that play? Next, on the Thompson interception, Shaq Roland was flagged for a cut block during the return. First, how can a defender (which Roland became once the ball was intercepted) be penalized for an illegal block? Second, the replay showed Roland simply slipped under a Georgia player trying to make the tackle.
- The spot. It all worked out in the end, but I thought Thompson got a terrible spot on the final QB sneak. Georgia fans, and oddly, Clemson fans, feel like they have a gripe about the measurement, but truth is it never should’ve been that close.
On the flip side, the holding call on the Gurley touchdown run was a little questionable. We’ll just call it even and keep the victory, ok?
That’s it folks, enjoy your day and another great win over Georgia! Go Cocks!
The Georgia Bulldogs. U-G-A. The Dawgs. The Silver Britches. The Redcoats.
Call ‘em what you will, but they are coming to the WB on Saturday afternoon.
Our annual tilt with the Canines Rouge et Noir (no one calls them THAT) has grown in both importance and vitriol over the last few years. What was once a regional border clash, with only intense partisans in and around the Augusta, Georgia area, has now become one of the great traditional contests in the SEC. The winner of the game, year in and year out, should be in the driver’s seat for the East title.
Or the loser, doesn’t matter.
Not so familiar with this year’s edition of the Georgia Bulldogs? Well, its time for some ‘boning up:
Remember, these are actual colleges with actual students:
The University of Georgia is a public, coeducational, land grant institution in Athens, Georgia. “UGa” as it is universally known, has the distinction of being one of the handful of public colleges in the United States that is actually older than our circa 1801 University. The school has just over 30,000 undergraduates, making it roughly the same size as Carolina.
The school’s official motto is Et docere et rerum exquirere causas, which roughly translated means something about knowledge or learning causing something or other. Sorry, latin was never my strong suit. I’m sure its important, and I’m equally sure that its on the lips of every student that doesn’t walk through the iconic, forbidden Arch on campus.
[Help me out, gentle reader, and insert something here that you happen to know about REM, the B52s, the Indigo Girls, or maybe even James Brown, just to add some human interest to this section. Thanks.]
The weirdest thing about them:
Georgia has a bell they ring (at some point), an arch they walk under (at some point), and a guy that plays the trumpet in the upper deck (at some point). They also have an institutional-sanctioned puppy mill in Savannah, Georgia that apparently can’t produce a healthy, all-white bulldog. But the single weirdest thing about them has to be the wide-spread hatred they have of their other mascot, Hairy Dog. Every Georgia fan over the age of ten will roll their eyes at the very mention of his name. In many cases they will quickly launch into a ten minute exposition on how Hairy Dog is not really the mascot, he’s just a “costumed character” “loosely affiliated with the athletic department.” Uga, they insist, is the “official LIVE mascot” which really makes me shudder to think about what is underneath the Hairy Dog headpiece (The Walking Dead is filmed in Georgia, after all).
Oh, and they all HATE HATE HATE Steve Spurrier. Which isn’t really weird per se, but it bears mentioning.
Every year, Georgia manages to out-recruit everyone else. That is to say, unless “everyone else” means Alabama and/or teams that get sick of losing to Alabama and decide to blatantly pay for their players [cough] Auburn [cough]. Despite their recruiting prowess, however, the Bulldogs somehow manage to avoid winning many SEC titles, or even middling bowl games.
Regardless, all the talent they’ve stockpiled does show itself from time to time, and they are legitimately two deep with SEC size and speed at every position. Their coaching staff is headed by Mark Richt, who is an unexcitable (and unexciting) individual who manages to squeeze exactly 79% of the potential out of every 5 star recruit he signs.
This year’s version of the Bulldogs is strong on both lines, has athletic linebackers, and sports a stable of running backs that never ends. Potential weaknesses include a Senior QB with little experience, a M.A.S.H. unit at wide receiver, and substantial inexperience in the defensive secondary. The Gamecocks share two of those three weaknesses, however.
One wrinkle to watch for this year:
Conventional wisdom provides that the Gamecocks should stack the box with defenders and dare the Bulldogs to throw. Since such an approach would place our inexperienced cornerbacks out on lonely islands where they can get into very public trouble, I expect Georgia to start out trying to throw the ball. Short passes and/or screens have met with better than average success against us thus far, and would serve to open up the running lanes sooner or later.
Unless I’m overthinking it (which no one has ever accused Mark Richt of doing), in which case the Dawgs may just pound the rock straight at us.
Unless they don’t.
But anyway. . . .
That player you are going to hate:
Senior fullback Taylor Maxey. When starting fullback Merritt Hall was forced to give up football just weeks before the start of the 2014 season, many Dawg fans fretted about finding a suitable replacement. The answer came in the way of a rarely used, veteran walkon wearing #47. If you didn’t notice him in the Georgia/Clemson game, I guarantee you that the Tiger linebacking corps did. Maxey was the lead blocker for three touchdown gallops, and he was throwing himself at anything orange all night. Expect more of the same in our game – well, except this time with garnet. You’re gonna hate him.
Hutson Mason, quarterback. How good is this guy? Or how bad? The sample size is too small to say at this point. He managed a thrilling double-overtime comeback win over Georgia Tech last year, and then proceeded to faceplant against Nebraska in the Gator Bowl. He played at a good, solid, underwhelming level against Clemson, so perhaps he’s due for a turnover or five against us.
Freshman running back Nicholas Cornelius Chubb. He’s a blistering little load, hard to tackle, and he’s even faster than David Pollack’s mysterious weight-loss (<——–This is an oblique reference to performance-enhancing drugs).
The thing that will tell the tale:
Georgia won against Clemson because they wore the Tigers down in the second half by played field position and old-school football. Can we rotate enough defensive players and/or maintain offensive drives long enough to avoid the same fate?
William Carlos Williams explains further:
so much depends
not the one on
the one who throws
high and hard
I forgot to mention:
Some guy named Todd Gurley. Don’t worry, he’s all everyone else is talking about.
OK, consider yourself all ‘bonzed up on the Dawgs!
TRC Unleashed is back this week with a verbal review of the East Carolina game, as well as a sort of preview of the Georgia game. Among other things, you’ll hear:
- Tbone and Gman struggle with a 1989 pop culture reference
- How the defense rebounded from that game we’ve forgotten about who did we play again?
- How the return of the real Mike Davis sparked the Gamecocks
- Other offensive stars, including our starting quarterback
- Rubber Chicken Awards
- Todd Gurley gets compared to Darren McFadden oh God why did we bring that up
All this and SO MUCH more!
Click here or click the graphic to listen, and enjoy!
As stated in my Snap Judgments for the week, I’ve been somewhat surprised by how critical Gamecock fans have been of Dylan Thompson the first two weeks of the season. I only watched the Texas A&M game once (live, and that was more than enough), so I decided to take a look at the ECU game and Thompson’s performance a little more closely to see what I might be missing.
I went through all 38 passing plays, and looked at Thompson’s accuracy and, as best as I could tell with limited video, his decision-making. I also looked at the performance of his receivers and some of their route running and where there were egregious drops. I have no formula to determine how he graded out, but will allow you, the reader, to determine if you feel better or worse about his performance on Saturday.
No pass attempts
1st and 10 at SC 22 – Dylan Thompson pass incomplete to Nick Jones over the middle
Watching the game live, the first thought is “bad throw”. However, if you slow it down you’ll see that while the pass is definitely a little high, it is a very catchable ball. I think if you ask Little Nicky Jones, he would tell you he should’ve caught it. I think Steve Spurrier would say the same.
2nd and 10 at SC 22 – Thompson pass intended for Shaq Roland, tipped by Roland and intercepted by ECU
Roland runs a standard hitch route, and settles in his spot but the throw sails to his right. Probably a bad throw all the way, although only Thompson and Roland know if Shaq hit his spot. We have to at least consider the possibility the ball was where it was supposed to be and Roland was not exactly where he was supposed to be. But, we’ll put the blame on Thompson for this one.
1st and 10 at SC 30 – Thompson pass incomplete to Damiere Byrd
Byrd runs a deep post, a play he has been successful on a few times in his career, and Thompson simply overshoots him. Byrd has a corner running with him all the way, so it’s not a huge miss. Sometimes you take a shot deep, and occasionally it works. This time it didn’t.
2nd and 10 at SC 30 – Thompson pass complete to Pharoh Cooper for 5 yds
Shallow crossing route by Cooper, Thompson throws slightly high, but a linebacker is draped all over Pharoh and drops him right after the catch.
2nd and 10 at SC 43 – Thompson pass complete to Roland for 13 yds
Another hitch route by Roland, this time to the other side. Thompson drops three steps out of the shotgun and fires a strike. Good technique, good throw.
1st and 10 at ECU 44 – Thompson pass complete to Jones for 6 yds
Here we go – the first WR screen of the night. Critics will note that a high percentage of Thompson’s completions came on “easy” wide receiver screens. I’ll give you that it’s one of the easier throws he has to make in this offense. The good news is he was perfect on every one Saturday night, and we’ve seen some imperfect wide receiver screens in our not so distant past. (cough…Garcia…cough)
1st and 10 at 50 – Thompson pass incomplete to Byrd
Another deep throw, this time down the left sideline. Thompson’s throw is perfect, but Byrd’s right arm is held by the ECU cornerback so he can’t extend for the catch. ECU was the beneficiary of a similar play earlier in the game where pass interference was called. Here it was not.
2nd and 10 at 50 – Thompson pass complete to Cooper for 19 yds
Cooper runs a deep out route, and Thompson shows his arm strength with a long throw across the field. Good route, very good throw for a nice pickup.
1st and 10 at ECU 31 – Thompson pass incomplete to Busta Anderson
Interesting play here as Anderson runs a shallow cross, pauses briefly and then starts to move again. Thompson throws to the spot where Anderson slows down, and the pass is behind him. I truly don’t believe this is a bad throw by Thompson. I think it’s either a miscommunication between 17 and 81, or Anderson just ran a bad route. Color analyst Kelly Stouffer initially says it’s an errant throw, but then on replay says the route could’ve been run better.
2nd and 10 at ECU 31 – Thompson pass complete to K.J. Brent for 10 yds
Very good route by Brent here, I believe it’s a hitch similar to what Roland had run earlier but a little shorter. Brent settles into the crease between defenders and Thompson threads the needle. Nice looking play for a first down.
1st and 10 at ECU 21 – Thompson pass incomplete to Brent
There are a small number of what I would consider bad throws by Thompson on the night, and this might be the worst. Brent runs a skinny post and is blanketed all the way. Thompson trusts the route and throws to the spot where he thinks Brent will come open, but he throws behind and is lucky to not be intercepted.
3rd and 10 at ECU 21 – Thompson pass incomplete to Anderson
Thompson is flushed out of the pocket and throws against his body to Anderson about 12 yards away. It hits Anderson in the numbers and he drops it. Don’t know if he would’ve picked up the first down, but he had room to run.
2nd and 5 at SC 29 – Thompson pass complete to Jones for 4 yds
Screen, nothing to write home about.
1st and 10 at SC 38 – Thompson pass complete to Cooper for 7 yds
Similar route to Brent on the previous series. Not a perfect throw, but not one that Cooper would complain about either.
2nd and 3 at SC 45 – Thompson pass complete to Roland for 31 yds
Screen. Roland does all the work here. He’s slick in the open field.
2nd and 8 at ECU 22 – Thompson pass complete to Mike Davis for 19 yds
Wheel route to Davis, and the prettiest throw of the night down the left sideline. Thompson hits him in stride, and with a little field awareness 28 would’ve had a touchdown.
2nd and 6 at ECU 42 – Thompson pass complete to Roland for 18 yds
Screen, another nice run by Roland.
1st and 10 at ECU 24 – Thompson pass incomplete to Jerell Adams
Here’s the play that interests me the most. Stouffer on the broadcast got all over Thompson for making a bad decision here. I don’t agree. Dylan had two choices – take a shot near the goal line with Adams, or hit the check down to the RB and get a few yards. There are definitely times to go to the check down, but I don’t blame 17 for taking a shot here. Adams is bracketed by a corner in front and a safety behind. Thompson throws a laser into the smallest of windows, just out of reach of the corner. Yes, the ball is high because it has to be for Adams to have any chance to catch it. Adams leaps and the ball hits him in the hands, but the safety comes in from the back and lays a lick on him and the ball falls to the turf. Again, watch the throw, it is perfect. When Steve Spurrier said the receivers are going to have to start coming up with some tough catches, I guarantee you he had this one in mind.
2nd and 10 at ECU 24 – Thompson pass incomplete to Jones
If first down was the good, then second down was the bad. Thompson goes for the touchdown in the corner to Jones. The problem is ECU is playing deep safeties across the field and the play never has a chance. Another one we’re lucky wasn’t intercepted. Just a bad play call, and/or bad decision.
3rd and 10 at ECU 24 – Thompson pass incomplete to Roland
And third down was the ugly. Roland is open over the middle and Thompson throws high. I initially thought this was another one of those tough catches that has to be made, but even with Shaq’s leaping ability he barely got fingertips on it.
For the Thompson detractors, if you want a series to complain about, this is probably your best bet.
2nd and 3 at SC 38 – Thompson pass complete to Cooper for 5 yds
1st and 10 at SC 43 – Thompson pass complete to Jones for 11 yds
1st and 10 at ECU 46 – Thompson pass complete to Cooper for 9 yds
Say it with me – screen.
2nd and 1 at ECU 37 – Thompson pass complete to Davis for 4 yds
This time receivers run downfield routes. Thompson goes through his progressions and decides to dump it off to Davis. Smart move.
1st and 10 at ECU 33 – Thompson pass complete to Roland for 12 yds
Nice play here by Thompson and Roland. Both recognize the corner blitz at the snap. Roland breaks off his route, and Thompson fires a strike to not only avoid a sack, but pick up another first down.
2nd and 14 at ECU 25 – Thompson pass complete to Brandon Wilds for 9 yds
Nice middle screen, Thompson doesn’t have to do much here.
3rd and 5 at ECU 16 – Thompson pass complete to Brent for 16 yds for a TD
Easy throw here for Thompson to Brent as the Gamecocks go trips left and ECU has a breakdown in their secondary. Their missed assignment gives us an easy six.
2nd and 6 at SC 49 – Thompson pass complete to Jones for 13 yds
Crossing route behind the linebackers and in front of the DBs. Thompson finds a window and makes a nice throw.
2nd and 6 at ECU 34 – Thompson pass complete to Jones for 10 yds (offensive holding penalty on Cooper)
2nd and 4 at ECU 34 – Thompson pass complete to Roland for 7 yds
1st and 10 at ECU 27 – Thompson pass incomplete to Roland
Screen DROPPED. Guess even we were getting bored with the screens.
2nd and 10 at ECU 27 – Thompson pass complete to David Williams for 6 yds
First catch of the redshirt freshman’s career on the check down.
3rd and 4 at ECU 9 – Thompson pass incomplete to Rory Anderson
Maybe the most frustrating throw of the night from Thompson. He does a nifty job of eluding defenders, then overshoots Anderson in the back of the end zone. I’m not going to say it was an easy throw given the duress he was under, but it wasn’t that difficult either.
1st and 10 at SC 12 – Thompson pass complete to Roland for 6 yds
Rollout by Thompson, low throw, Roland slips down.
2nd and 4 at SC 18 – Thompson pass incomplete to Roland
Dangerous throw into double coverage here. Fortunately both defenders were behind Roland.
3rd and 4 at SC 18 – Thompson pass complete to Davis for 5 yds
Check down to Davis here for a critical first down. At least it looked like a check down. As fast as he got rid of it he may have known that was his best option to get the first.
1st and 10 at SC 23 – Thompson pass complete to Shaq Roland for 7 yds
Hey look, a screen.
2nd and 8 at ECU 25 – Thompson pass complete to Adams for 14 yds
Final throw of the night, a beauty on a play action to Adams. Once again Dylan shows nice touch.
I’m not sure what all of this means, but when I watched the pass plays back again it honestly made me feel better about 17, and I didn’t feel particularly bad in the first place. I didn’t see an abundance of bad throws or bad decisions, the two things I kept hearing Saturday night.
Understand, I don’t think Dylan Thompson is going to be a first-team all-SEC at the end of the year. But I also don’t think he’s going to get benched this season for any other reason except an injury. My hope is that even though he’s a veteran he’s still adjusting to this being HIS team, he’ll settle down and have a very solid season for us.
Some late, quick, barely researched, not fully formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 33-23 victory over East Carolina University:
Defensive. We started last week’s Snaps with the defense after they gave up record yardage and 52 points. So we’ll start with them this week too since they didn’t.
The ECU game started much where the Texas A&M game left off, with a confused looking bunch of guys chasing a fast-paced offense with what looked like little hope of slowing them down, much less stopping them. But after three Pirate drives (two of them being more than 80 yards) netted them 13 points, the Gamecocks settled down and held them to ten points the rest of the way. I’m not a smart enough football guy to tell you what changed scheme-wise, but I can tell you I saw a bunch of younger guys growing up under the lights. I saw a confidence and emotion that was completely absent last week.
We still have a talent deficiency at defensive end that we are simply not going to be able to overcome this year, and our linebacker group hasn’t been as good as we expected them to be so far. We are going to have to resort to some creative blitzes to get pressure on quarterbacks, and hope our young secondary continues to improve. Last night wasn’t great, but it was a step in the right direction.
Our Gurley. While we’re talking about defense, it’s good to see TJ Gurley back to his pre-injury self. As a true freshman he was impressing and getting valuable playing time before a devastating knee injury against Florida. It’s taken him a while to get back, but he’s starting to look like he could be a leader in our defensive resurgence.
The Rocket. Offensively, we saw how important it is for Mike Davis to stay healthy and in the lineup. I tweeted during the game that he was running like he was pissed off, which apparently he was because of the doubters that surfaced after last week’s game. I don’t care what his motivation is, whether it’s real or imagined slights, as long as he stays in the game and gives us the effort we saw last night.
Brandon Wilds was again adequate as Davis’ backup. Wilds is never going to be the home run threat Davis is, but he’ll get you 5-6 yards if the play is blocked correctly, and is a good, dependable option coming off the bench. After those two, we still don’t know what we have in one guy (Williams) and know all too well what we have in the other (Carson).
Just pray MD28 stays healthy.
Killin’ Dylan. The vitriol continues to pour in about the play of Dylan Thompson, despite the fact he is currently third in both passing yardage and total yardage in the SEC. Now, I do know enough about football to know that yardage is only part of the story. And I realize Dylan has some problems with accuracy and decision-making (maybe) that he’s going to need to correct if we are going to have any chance to make some noise in the East this year. The frustration of the eight quarters we’ve played so far have only exacerbated Thompson’s mistakes and has made him a convenient target for criticism.
But, I don’t see play so bad that he should be benched. Far from it. I see a guy who has been in this system for five years and has played in some huge games over that time, and played well more often than not. He’s struggled at times over the first two games, no doubt. But he has also made some good throws to boot. He also has the respect of the head coach and the respect of his teammates to lead this offense week in and week out. That’s good enough for me. I can use my bitching energy much more effectively in other areas.
A Very Special Teams. For once, not only did our special teams not hurt us, they actually made a significant contribution*. Big Gerald Dixon Jr. had our first FG block since (insert researched answer) which led to points for us before halftime. Besides that, we had very few UGH moments on special teams last night.
*Elliott Fry is not considered part of special teams for the purpose of this discussion. Dude is solid.
Shon. Permanent UGH.
Why is he still returning kicks. One of the most baffling decisions of the Spurrier era.
Shaq Back. Shaq Roland over his first two years has been a medium range to deep ball threat and not much else. But last night we saw the type of ball skills he showed off while winning Mr. Football at Lexington High School. On his wide receiver screens he showed speed and shake that I wasn’t sure he had. I’d love to see him get more opportunities in open space, and I’m sure that’s coming.
King Tuttchdown. Pharoh has a bad attitude. No no, not that kind of bad attitude. You know, the good kind of bad attitude, the kind you want on a football field. I love the way he fights for every yard and looks like he’s mad he didn’t score after every play. We need more bad attitudes like that.
Power O. The last drive of the game for USC was 18 plays and 83 yards that ended in the game-clinching field goal. After four passes to start the drive, the Gamecocks ran what appeared to be the same play nine times in a row, demoralizing the Pirates along the way. It was a great performance by our much-heralded offensive line, and was fun to watch. Now, will we be able to do that when we get back to SEC play?
The HBC. Steve Spurrier had a very interesting comment after the game on Saturday: “(Our fans) are starting to realize what kind of team we are.” Sounds like to me he’s lowering expectations. Let’s hope it’s just a motivational ploy. But given Spurrier’s brutal honesty, I just don’t know.
The bad news. When I look at our schedule, it’s a lot easier for me to find losses than wins. Auburn at Auburn was generally considered a loss heading into 2014, but now swing games like Georgia, Florida and Clemson feel like losses. Missouri at home is no pushover. Kentucky on the road and Tennessee at home look tougher today than they did two weeks ago. Is it possible we actually go from SEC East favorites to missing out on a bowl game?
The good news. Two weeks does not a season make. We have a chance to make everything right with a win over Georgia on Saturday. Our guys will be ready, will be emotional, and will give Georgia our best shot. I’m confident of it. A win and all our goals are back on the table. Even with a loss, while an SEC title is out of the question, a good performance could give us the confidence boost we need to have a very good season and finish with a fourth straight season of double-digit wins.
No matter how it goes, we’ll be back, week after week. We hope you’ll continue to join us.
The college football season starts this Saturday.
Hush, hush. I meant to say that, and I’m absolutely correct:
IT STARTS THIS SATURDAY, OK?
And our season STARTS with the Pirates of East Carolina.
Not so familiar with ECU? Well, its time for some ‘boning up:
Remember, these are actual colleges with actual students:
East Carolina is a public, coeducational, doctoral/research university in Greenville, North Carolina. Operating for most of its history as East Carolina Teachers College, the university has expanded to become a leader in medical research as well as boasting a strong marine science program. The school is probably larger than you realize, having an enrollment of nearly 30,000 students (roughly the same number as Carolina).
The school’s official motto is Servire, which you will recognize as the present active infinitive latin verb meaning “to serve.” In this usage, it carrys the implication that the described action is needed immediately.
Indeed it is.
Here’s a health, East Carolina, we hope you will servire us quite nicely as we try to recover from our PRESEASON beatdown at the hands of the Aggies.
The weirdest thing about them:
I guess its also notably weird that the WWE’s Vince McMahon is a graduate of ECU, but since the radiant Ms. Sandra Bullock is also an alum, lets overlook it.
ECU’s head coach is Ruffin McNeill, which might just be the most football coach name ever. He’s another Mike Leach disciple, so expect the annoying AirRaid quick pitches all around the ballpark on Saturday. In addition to a long stint at Texas Tech, McNeill also coached at Clemson for a short time, so that’s reason enough to hate the man. But interestingly, he also coached our own Shaun Elliott at Appalachian State, so I guess we can call it a wash.
Strangely enough, a guy already named “Ruffin” also sports a nickname:
My nickname Tuffie was given to me by my Dad. For one I’m a Jr. and my neighborhood & childhood friends still call me Tuffie. :-)
— Ruffin McNeill (@RuffinMcNeill) February 25, 2014
Recruiting is always a challenge for the Pirates, and they have a roster chock full of guys that the other big Tarheel state schools didn’t want. Defense is also not their forte, although they’ve made strides there as of late. Keep in mind that this is a 10 win team from last year. Won their bowl game as well. So Tuffie and his crowd are obviously doing a good job with the talent they do get.
One wrinkle to watch for this year:
Perhaps their underwhelming recruiting ranking plays into one perennial characteristic of the Pirates: they always have a chip on their shoulders. Expect some big, physical
cheapshots hits in this game, from a team that feels like it has something to prove. Our performance last week against TAMU probably just encouraged them. If they can get up by a score or two early, I’ll bet they expect us to collapse. Of course, that didn’t work when we faced them up in Charlotte a couple of years back.
But anyway. . . .
That player you are going to hate:
Pirate Wideout Isaiah Jones. All he did last week was catch ten balls for 150 yards and a touchdown. He’s tall, fast, and plays physical all the time. You’re gonna hate him.
K’Hadree Hooker, a defensive end transfer from NC State. The ECU coaching staff has high hopes for Mssr. Hooker. If we end up in the shoot-out (and lets fervently pray we DO NOT) then he might makes some noise rushing our QB.
Freshman running back Marquez Grayson. This guy came from nowhere (well he came from Lexington, NC, which is sort of the same thing) to average almost 8 yards a carry in the opener. He could be the next big thing for the Pirates.
The thing that will tell the tale:
This game feels like a contest of psyches. Do we come out angry? Or do we come out fragile? Does ECU try to punch us in the mouth right off the bat, or do they dink and dunk as is their usual tendency? Have we practiced tackling AT ALL this week?
William Carlos Williams explains further:
so much depends
I forgot to mention:
East Carolina plays at Virginia Tech next week, then gets to host the Tarheels of North Carolina the week afterward. Let’s hope the Pirates get their big signature win during one of those two weeks. Just sayin’.
OK, consider yourself all ‘bonzed up on East Carolina Teacher’s College.
Let’s get this football season started!
The TRC crew returns with the first game review of the 2014 season, and it ain’t pretty. The trio goes over the defensive, offensive and special teams failures from Thursday night, and even offers up some nuggets of advice for the coaching staff. Listen up, and you’ll hear among other things:
- Is this the worst opening loss for South Carolina…ever?
- Is it the worst loss since the last game of 2003?
- Tbone tells us how to fix the defense, beginning with moving Brison Williams back to safety
- We wonder why so much grief was heaped upon Dylan Thompson
- We wonder why Shon Carson is still returning kickoffs
- Some surprising Rubber Chicken Awards
- A recap of other SEC games, including that Georgia-Clemson things
- A far from comprehensive preview of East Carolina
- Some NFL Gamecock news, and why Connor Shaw never had a prayer to make the Browns 53-man roster
Come commiserate with us, won’t you? Click here or click the graphic to listen, and enjoy!
Our scene opens on Thursday, early afternoon, where Tbone is trying to concentrate on his work:
Workday is finally done, need to stop at the store for some necessary game supplies:
Man, this pregame SEC Network coverage is getting our hero FIRED UP:
The Big Game is finally underway, but what is wrong with the Gamecock defense?
Halftime, and not a moment too soon. Need some liquid courage for the 3rd quarter.
Game resumes. Wait, where are our defensive adjustments? How can we be this woefully putrid? ARRRRRGGGHHHHHH.
During his post game crash, Tbone remembers that Clemson has yet to play. They could even win.
Friday, back at work. Tiger fans are EVERYWHERE.
Saturday afternoon, Georgia/Clemson is underway, and its anybody’s ballgame.
Suddenly, Mssr. Gurley breaks a 100 yard kick return straight up the middle:
UGa plays field position, brings defensive pressure, and then grinds and pounds the rock.
Balance restore, Tbone feels at one with the universe:
- fin -
Random thoughts from the first weekend of college football:
The Gamecock Blues. Two days removed from writing Snap Judgments I still don’t feel much better about this edition of the Gamecocks. At the same time, every season has wild swings from “we’re gonna win it all” to “oh God we need to disband the program”. It’s just been a while since we’ve had such a case of the blues after week one. I remain annoyed at many things from Saturday, one of which is…
Mike Davis. Note I said I’m annoyed at the “thing” and not the person. Some players are simply injury prone, and it doesn’t necessarily reflect on the player’s heart or desire, neither of which I question with Davis. When Steve Spurrier announced today that Davis is questionable for Saturday against East Carolina, my frustration level hit a new high. As Davis literally sprinted to the head of the pack in SEC rushing the first half of last season, I thought we were quite possibly watching the best USC running back since George Rogers. Now it appears he might miss the first two games of the season, if not more (6 carries for 15 yards against TAMU notwithstanding). And for all the talk about our deep stable of running backs, there is no one on the team that impacts a game the way Davis does, unless we’re hiding David Williams’ brilliance from the world for some unknown reason.
I’ll be happy to see Williams will get some carries Saturday, because as much as I love Brandon Wilds, he is no better than a serviceable second string SEC running back. And Shon Carson? I’m thoroughly convinced he will never be a major contributor to this team. He’s had many, many chances, and has used the vast majority of the them to run directly into tacklers. This really stung as I watched…
Georgia’s stable of backs. Holy mother of all that is good and holy. First, give Todd Gurley the Heisman, simply based on last night’s performance against Clemson, which included 293 all-purpose yards, a Bulldog record. When Gurley needed a breather all they did was trot out Nick Chubb (almost a Gamecock), who proceeded to rip off a 47-yard touchdown run. Need a change of pace? Then let’s go with Sony Michel, who added another 53 yards rushing and receiving combined. Oh, and let’s not forget former five-star recruit Keith Marshall, who might slip to fourth on the depth chart until his surgically repaired knee is completely healed.
We have for years made fun of Georgia declaring their latest running back recruit the “next Herschel Walker”. Well, Gurley might finally be that guy. And the bad news for us is Chubb or Michel might be the next Todd Gurley. I have to admit though, it was fun watching them run all over the…
Clemson Tigers. The Schadenfreude was sweet and savory as we watched the Tigers fall by the same margin as we did on Thursday. Although if we’re honest with ourselves, Clemson was in their game against UGA much longer than we were in our game against TAMU. Until Gurley put UGA up by two scores with a TD run at the 10:26 mark of the 4th quarter, the game was up for grabs. Well, theoretically it was up for grabs. Clemson’s millionaire offensive coordinator was having trouble dialing up first downs, and even if “The Chad” would’ve had another several quarters to play there is no guarantee they would’ve scored. One thing is for sure, they were no…
Auburn Tigers. Auburn’s offense looked downright scary yesterday. Scary good for them, scary bad for us. The addition of Duke Williams at wide receiver for them gives them one more weapon they didn’t necessarily need. t don’t know if they’ll win it all, or even win the SEC West, but I do know I’m dreading our trip to The Plains later this season. But before we can start to worry about he rest of our SEC slate, we need to focus on…
East Carolina. As I wrote before the last time we played them, the ECU Pirates scarred me during the ’90s. They’ll bring one of their better teams into Columbia Saturday, running a similar offense as TAMU, so I’m sure we’ll be a trendy “upset alert” pick this weekend. Honestly I think we’ll win this one fairly easily, and regain some of our lost confidence heading into the showdown with Georgia. One thing is for certain though, after a sample size of only one game…
We don’t really know what we have. Was our defense that bad? Was TAMU’s offense that good? Will our defensive backs play like freshmen all year? Will our defensive ends be non-existent every week? Will Dylan Thompson settle down and get to a more reasonable 60% completion rate? Will we find a durable, dependable running back if Mike Davis continues to struggle with nagging injuries? Will we find out who Shon Carson has naked pictures of and get someone else to return kickoffs? Those are the types of questions that get answered all over the country the next few weeks for all football programs. Like every year, the teams you see week 1 will be much different come week 12.
Since I don’t have a good segue and have one more topic then something something…
NFL Gamecocks. It was black Saturday for Gamecocks trying to make NFL rosters. Getting cut were Connor Shaw, Kelcy Quarles, Victor Hampton, Jimmy Legree, Travian Robertson and Ryan Succop. Chaz Sutton had been cut earlier in the week by Tampa. The good news is Quarles was picked up by the Patriots and added to their 53-man roster, and Robertson and Legree have made the Falcons and Cardinals practice squads, respectively. Our sources close to the situation tell us Shaw will be added to the Browns practice squad at any time (and our sources were correct!). Succop is a good, veteran kicker who will more than likely have an NFL job on opening day.
This leaves us with the cautionary tale of Victor Hampton. I feel bad for Vic. He obviously received some bad intel about his draft position, and/or his nightclub “incident” in New York with Sutton and Quarles was taken into consideration much more heavily by NFL teams than we realized at the time (likely, since Quarles, also a projected mid-round pick, went undrafted). Steve Spurrier is notoriously hands-off with kids who decide for forego their remaining eligibility to enter the draft. I, for one, would like to see that change in the future. I don’t want him to become Dabo by any stretch, telling EVERYBODY to stay, but I would like him to step in with the kids who are borderline draft picks and make sure they understand how hard it is to make an NFL roster.
See you folks next week. Go Cocks!
Some quick, barely researched, not fully formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 52-28 defenestration at the hands of Texas A&M:
Garbage. And by garbage, I mean our defense. TAMU sophomore Kenny Hill, IN HIS FIRST CAREER START, completed 44 of 60 passes for 511 yards. Overall the Aggies gained 680 total yards. It was USC’s worst defensive performance in terms of yardage in our history. In our HISTORY. Those are video game numbers, and unfortunately this was real life.
We forced them to punt twice, and I’m not sure how we did it, because most of game they were picking up double-digit yardage with ease. That’s saying a lot, considering some of the defenses we fielded in the Brad Scott era, and that we’ve given up 59 and 63 points in games at home in the last 25 years.
In retrospect, TAMU might have been the worst matchup possible for us. The Aggies had a quick passing game that negated any type of pass rush (not that we got any push at all against their veteran offensive line), and big, strong, experienced wide receivers. Nobody saw Kenny Hill coming, IN HIS FIRST CAREER START, but throwing his brilliant game into the mix against our young corners and below average defensive line spelled complete disaster. And oh yeah, almost forgot, we missed a TON of tackles, which calls into question Spurrier’s practice of limiting contact during spring and fall practice.
We had a discussion with Connor Tapp of Garnet and Black Attack about whether or not Lorenzo Ward would be gone next year after taking a head coaching job somewhere. Well, unless this defense gets better, and gets better fast, he might not be here next year and it will have nothing to do with a head coaching job.
Team Thompson. I have no idea why people piled on Dylan Thompson throughout the game. As we have talked about many times on this blog, he is a completely different quarterback than Connor Shaw in that he is a high risk, high reward guy. You have to take the good with the bad.
What I saw was a little bit of bad, but a lot of good too. He was obviously amped at the beginning of the game, throwing hard and high on some early attempts. He had one bad interception on a horrible play call on 3rd and 1 when we still had a glimmer of hope in the third quarter. But look at his final numbers: 20-40, 366 yards with 4 touchdowns and the 1 interception. His wide receivers didn’t always help him out either, with Nick Jones dropping a TD pass just before half. (Yes, Jones got popped, but he has to hang on to that ball.)
People bringing Connor Shaw up in conversations about this game, just stop. He’s gone. He was great, and he’s gone. He also would’ve had very little impact on the outcome of the this game. Maybe we would’ve lost by 17 instead of 24. But maybe we would’ve lost by 31 instead of 24. Either way, let it go and get behind Dylan. He’s our man.
The Rocket. It’s time to get genuinely concerned about what we have with Mike Davis. He was banged up the last several games of last season, has battled nagging injuries all offseason, and had a whopping 6 carries for 15 yards tonight before leaving with a rib injury. Talk of him being in the Heisman race or leaving early for the NFL are worthless if he can’t stay on the field.
Little Nicky. Despite the aforementioned drop, Jones had a great game with 5 catches for 113 yards and 2 TDs.
Tight Ends Rising. The tight ends showed up tonight, with Busta Anderson and Jerell Adams combining for 5 catches for 92 yards. If we can get that kind of production out of them consistently, our offense will be much more difficult to stop.
The HBC. Maybe I’d be a little harder on him if I wasn’t still high from watching “The Believer” last night and hadn’t already been busy heaping praise on him the last three years. He made a couple of questionable decisions tonight – punting the ball back to an unstoppable TAMU offense on 4th and 14 in their territory, and later going for the deep ball on 3rd and 1. He also had a couple of his usual timeout gaffes. But again, the outcome of the game would not have been affected.
The most concerning thing is this was not supposed to be a step back year, a rebuilding year. Most Gamecock fans were quietly thinking this might be THE year. Even without Shaw we’d have a high-powered offense. If we could patch together a defense and win the close games, we could make a return trip to Atlanta for SECCG and maybe make the college football playoff.
But now? We’re out of the conversation completely. We have to hope and pray this was, as mentioned above, just a horrible matchup for us. That we’ll be better next week, and the week after, and the week after that.
Because looking ahead to next year? Next year IS a rebuilding year.
SEC Network. Don’t worry, nobody will remember the first game ever on the SEC Network. But if it’s any consolation, the stadium and all the surrounding areas looked fantastic on TV. All that made for a great commercial for the University of South Carolina.
Unfortunately the game did not.
Next Week. 24 hours ago we saw East Carolina as a trap game. Now it’s much, much more. It’s a must win, and game in which our young defenders need to get some confidence back.