What Spurrier Said, and What Clemson Heard

I didn’t watch the Steve Spurrier press conference after the Florida win on Saturday. I usually just keep an eye on Twitter to see if he says something interesting, and from what I could tell he didn’t.

Unless you’re a Clemson fan.

Josh Kendall, Gamecock beat writer extraordinaire, got things started with two sensationalist and context-free tweets from the presser:

Saturday Down South immediately picked up the tweets and ran them under the headline “Steve Spurrier took a shot at Clemson after Florida win”.

I still didn’t watch the press conference video because I’m a busy man with Saturday afternoon naps and sorting the mail and the like. I figured if it was anything important the Clemson fanboy community would get a hold of it, and hooboy did they ever. The first tweet I noticed was from our good friend William Qualkinbush (I’m just kidding, he hates us) after the announcement that Deshaun Watson didn’t have a torn ACL, only a sprain.

Hmmmm, I was really curious now. What was I missing. It was late Sunday by now though, and I desperately needed to rest up from that afternoon nap I had taken, so once again I didn’t watch the presser.

Then, this morning, I saw a retweet from something called “The Clemson Insider”, wherein their Monday Morning Quarterback blog (what an original title!) the writer advised “Steve Spurrier seriously needs to shut his mouth and worry about his own team”.

Wowza! The HBC must’ve really gone overboard this time if they’re making “Will Vandervort” that angry! So I finally decided to see what the fuss was all about. Watch the video below, courtesy of gogamecocks.com. The Watson/Tiger bashing starts at about :19.

I watched the video about a half dozen times because I thought I had the wrong one. Surely nobody was upset by this, right? Then it hit me…translation.

What normal people hear and what Tiger fans hear are completely different things. Especially when you’ve lost five straight football games to your hated rival, your brain gets a little extra twisted so Dabo rants sound Patton-esque and innocuous Spurrier quips are like RPGs aimed at Tillman Hall.

So let’s go step by step and try to understand what normal people heard, and what the wad-pantied Clemson fan sites heard. Follow along.

What Spurrier said: “I guess the upstate team got beat today, is that correct?”

What Clemson heard: “Word has it those inbred redneck cow-tipping sacks of toe fungus got beat today, is that correct?”

What Spurrier said: “What was that score, Georgia Tech game?”

What Clemson heard: “How bad did those pocket protector-wearin’ highwaters beat ‘em?”

Reporter: “They lost their quarterback.” (Note: no mention of what the injury was.)

What Spurrier said: “He got hurt again?” 

What Clemson heard: “That China doll get busted up again? Kid needs to playing tiddlywinks or what not I guess. Doesn’t seem cut out for a man’s game.”

Reporter: “Tore his ACL.” (Kind of obvious Spurrier didn’t hear this comment, or did a fantastic job of ignoring it.)

What Spurrier said: [nothing]

What Clemson heard: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! ARE YOU SERIOUS??? A DIBILITATING KNEE INJURY??? THAT. IS. AWESOME!!! AND ONLY TWO WEEKS BEFORE OUR GAME?!? SA-WEET!!!

What Spurrier said: “What was the score?”

What Clemson heard: “Hey jackass, I asked you a question! I’m the reporter now!”

Reporter: “28-6.”

What Spurrier said: “Oh was it?”

What Clemson heard: “Holy…what? They got beat by three touchdowns by that junior high wing-T offense? Ha! How pathetic is that?”

What Spurrier said: “OK. Well, that game, looks like we’re in better shape than we were two weeks ago, right?”

What Clemson heard: “We’re going to kill them. Then burn the campus down and steal their girlfriends.”

What Spurrier said: “But [laughs] anything can happen as we all know.”

What Clemson heard: “Only one thing is going to happen as we all know – the destruction of everyone associated with Clemson and everything and everyone they love.”

What Spurrier said: “Thanks guys.”

What Clemson heard: “Tell that sack of crap Dabo that SIX is coming. Peace.” [Stands up, grabs crotch, flips the bird.]

OK, so I made up that last part, but the rest feels pretty accurate.

In all seriousness, sometimes I wonder what they are hearing that I am not. Steve Spurrier can be a  real jackass, I get that. He’s hated by many members of a select few fan bases, including Clemson. And he’s earned it.

My advice to the fan base over there is to not read something evil into everything Spurrier says. If you want to get bent over him not saying your name and calling you “the upstate team”, I get it, that would piss me off too.

But trying to say Spurrier is “taking shots” at a kid who just possibly suffered a major knee injury is just flat out disingenuous. Poking fan bases or opposing coaches is one thing, but going after opposing players for little or no reason is simply not his MO.

Final thing – let the anger go. It’s not good for you, and we’re worried about your health.

In the fabricated words of Steve Spurrier, “peace”.

About these ads
Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments

Snap Judgments – 2014 USC @ Florida Edition

"Hey guys! Guys! Check it out, I scored a rushing touchdown!" (Photo: wltx.com)

“Hey guys! Guys! Check it out, I scored a rushing touchdown!” (Photo: wltx.com)

Some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 23-20 victory over Florida on Saturday:

Redeemed. So many times this season our beloved Gamecocks have given us moments to breathe easy. Admit it, you know it’s true. Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee – in every one of these games, at some point in the fourth quarter with a two-score lead you’ve taken a deep breath and thought, “ok, we’ve got this”.

Then, inexplicably, we’ve blown each game in colossal fashion. The kinds of losses you typically experience only once every few years, and we’ve experienced three in one season. Following each loss the analyses flowed – the defense, the offense, special teams, coaching, the HBC, Coach Ward, Coach Robinson, Dylan Thompson – all blamed at one time or another, some blamed every time, and some deservedly so.

On Saturday, the eulogy for the Florida game was written. We had blown our lead early, and the Gators were lining up for the field goal that would put the game out of reach with a little over three minutes left. After all, we haven’t remotely shown the ability to rally from one score down, much less two.

A series of events ensued that amounted to a 30-minute roller coaster ride:

  • We blocked the field goal
  • Then, we moved into Florida territory, but on fourth down a bizarre bad snap and tipped pass that was almost caught ended the drive
  • Then, we forced a three and out by the Gators and had a chance to get the ball back for one last desperation drive
  • Then, we blocked the punt (!!!)
  • Then, we ran an option with no timeouts (???), fumbled, recovered and scored the tying touchdown
  • Then, in overtime, Dylan

Many times we were as good as dead on Saturday in Gainesville. But all of those things we’ve complained about this year – the defense, the offense, special teams, coaching, the HBC, Coach Ward, Coach Robinson, Dylan Thompson – contributed to keeping us alive.

In the end, in a season gone south, we got some much-needed redemption.

Team Thompson. If you’ve read this column regularly you know we’ve been staunch defenders of Dylan Thompson for most of the season. Despite one of his worst passing games of the season yesterday, he showed Shaw-like toughness in the face of a fierce Florida pass rush.

Dylan had a signature win against Georgia earlier this year, but our late-game collapses since had diminished the importance of that win. He needed, and deserved, another “moment” with this team, and he got it yesterday.

Here’s to at least one more “moment” to come.

(BTW, Thompson has finally passed the benched Kenny Hill as the leading passer in the SEC.)

Whammy. I’m not going to get too crazy in praise of our defense, but Lorenzo Ward’s defense held only its second opponent below 300 yards this year (Missouri was the other). Florida has struggled most of the year moving the football. However, the Gators’ Treon Harris was a scary proposition given our struggles containing running quarterbacks this year.

Our defensive line seemed to get more push than it’s gotten all year, and the combination of Jonathan Walton and Skai Moore at linebacker showed some promise. Our corners are still mostly young, and still play like their young. But overall the tackling to my untrained eye was the best it’s been all year.

So very special. I wonder what the odds of us blocking a field goal and a punt in one game would’ve been in Vegas? Especially knowing our special teams history? Hard to say, but I think it could’ve made us all rich.

Bet it was a good day at the Robinson household.

The HBC. Facing second and goal with :17 left and not timeouts, I was thinking the same thing as this randomly chosen tweeter:

I mean, he’s right, right? If you get stuffed on a run play there is almost NO WAY you have the time to line up and either spike the ball or run another play. It’s not smart to even think about a running play.

Enter the HBC:

It worked, but it’s still a dumb play and I’m not changing my mind.

And I love Steve Spurrier.

The HBC II. Brilliant, brilliant, call on first and goal in overtime. Running the keeper on first down was the most unexpected down to do it, and it showed based on the reaction, or lack of, by the Florida defense.

Shaq Non-attack. On the downside, what in the world? I’m sad when I think about how much talent Shaq Roland has and he can’t seem to get out of his own way. He can, however, get out of the way of a defender and almost end Brandon Wilds’ season.

I hope he can get it together, and not for the football team, but for himself.

Rival Report. Terrible news came down for Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Georgia’s Todd Gurley, both of whom tore ACLs on Saturday on non-contact plays. For Watson, it’s the end of a season. For Gurley, it’s most likely the end of a tumultuous season and his collegiate career.

I will say this about Watson – I feel bad for the young man and hope he heals and comes back 100%. He’s a talented, talented player and has and extremely bright future ahead of him if he can stay healthy.

On the flip side, I’m glad we don’t have to face him in two weeks. I’m not a “want to face them at full strength” guy. Beating them without Watson will not diminish it one bit for me. Like we’ve had to do in the cases of Connor Shaw (2012) and Marcus Lattimore (2011, 2012), they’ll have employ the “next man up”. If their next guy isn’t good enough, so be it. Not our problem.

Update: Reports came in Sunday night that Watson does not have a torn ACL, only a sprain. Great news for Watson, but it remains to be seen if he will play against USC, and if so how effective he will be. 

Go Cocks, beat Alabama!

What? Oh right, South Alabama!

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The Book of Job, St. Augustine, C.S. Lewis, and Marcus Lattimore

After a week of hints, leaks, and even agent denials, official word came yesterday that Marcus Lattimore will end his quest to play in the NFL and retire, effective immediately.

The outpouring of support for Lattimore, from both inside and outside the South Carolina football community, was certainly impressive. Many wished him well in his future endeavors, others expressed optimism for his career transition, and some even suggested that Divine Providence had intervened, predestining Marcus for some other avenue of service.

Hail to Thee, Marcus

But something about our response troubles me. I would like to humbly suggest that we are doing Marcus a disservice by shuffling him off the stage so quickly with these well-meaning platitudes. Aren’t we skipping several of the five stages of grief? Aren’t we all the way to an ACCEPTANCE of Lattimore’s plight without making the other necessary stops on the grieving road? And are we way ahead of him in this process?

I, for one, am still in Stage Two of the grief paradigm: ANGER.

How is it possible that someone as honest, genuine, and hardworking as Marcus Lattimore could have his livelihood and passion stolen away from him? How could his last two years of painful rehabilitation be for naught? Or the grueling year of rehab before that? What did all that accomplish? How could a nice guy not finish on top?

And how could other players, generally recognized as lacking in honesty, class, and/or generosity of spirit, be seemingly invincible? I’m not going to name names here, but you all know the players I am referencing: those that lack many of Marcus’s good attributes, and usually embody a smug self-centeredness instead. And yet, we are bombarded with images of those players, their seemingly unworthy arms raised in triumph. And now or very soon, most all will be collected hefty NFL salaries. No way is this situation fair.

How could those bad apples end up with all the sauce?

As we’ve previously argued in this space, the world of sports is most compelling when it exposes something true about our nature or situation in the world. In this case, I think we are too quick to explain away Lattimore’s incredible bad luck because it tells us something profound about life that we are uncomfortable accepting: that sometimes bad things happen to good people. Our fear of facing this universal truth leads us to dismiss this sad news as quickly as possible and jump back into blissfully reassuring each other.

Let me illustrate: When my oldest son was still a toddler, he suffered the normal cuts and scrapes appropriate for his age. New parents still, we sought to reassure our hurting child with calls of “It’s OK,” or “What’s the matter? It will be alright!” We did this so much, that soon our child internalized it, and began using those phrases back at us as soon as he was banged up. Scrape a knee? Run to daddy and tell him “What’s the matter? It’s OK, nothing’s wrong!” All while still crying from the pain he felt.

We ultimately realized that instead of reassuring our son so quickly, we needed to sympathize with him for at least a few seconds. “Ouch, buddy, I bet that hurts! Let’s see if I can help.”

So in this space, for just a few seconds, let’s admit that Lattimore’s retirement bothers us. I’m sure its bothering him. And let’s wrestle with the big question his plight reveals:

Why do bad things happen to good people?

The investigation of this question is called theodicy, and it’s a question that bedeviled theologians from the writer of Job to Augustine to C.S. Lewis. None of them came up with a satisfactory solution. Job never got his answer; the Almighty pulled rank on him and told him to be quiet. Augustine copped out in his quest; choosing instead to play games with language in order to explain away the problem. And C.S Lewis was classically circular in his argument: God is good and God made the rules, and therefore the rules are good (evidence notwithstanding).

Theodicy is probably beyond the scope of a lowly Gamecock sports blog, but here’s my take on the age-old question:

Bad things happen to good people because the real truth of our existence is that it really, really sucks now and then, and for long stretches of time at that.

Bad things happen to good people.

And the reason is this: just because.

We should look at each other with clear eyes and admit this truth. Things are bad sometimes, and apparently there is no logic to those who suffer and those who thrive. Fate rains both good and bad on the just and the unjust, and no matter how hard we try, we can’t earn our way to blessings.

I’m angry about that. Specifically, right now I’m angry about how that relates to Marcus. And, public comments notwithstanding, I bet he is as well.

Marcus did everything right. And it didn’t matter. His college career, for all its success, was cut ridiculously short by injuries. And he never got a chance to realize his dream. And that is awful. Wrong. Stupid. Wasteful. I’m going to shake my fist at heaven a few more times before I’m ready to move on to step three: Bargaining.

But maybe the Bargain is the answer.

Maybe once we admit that bad things can happen to anyone, we will appreciate the random good things all the more. The next time we see a Gamecock like Pharoh Cooper make an incredible catch and run, let’s all collectively live in that moment and relish it. No what-ifs, no regrets, no second guessing, just enjoy watching a top-shelf athlete play the game with complete dedication to the team we all love.

And as for Marcus?

All I can say is ouch, buddy. I bet this is really hurting you. Is there anything we Gamecocks can do to make it better?

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Snap Judgments – 2014 Tennessee @ USC Edition

Speechless. (Photo: thestate.com)

Speechless. (Photo: thestate.com)

Some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 45-42 loss to Tennessee on Saturday:

The bottom. I laughed to myself as we took another two-touchdown, fourth quarter lead last night. I laughed at the ridiculous thought that we could possibly blow it again, for the third time this season, this time to a team that was winless in the SEC since November 30, 2013.

But as we know, no fourth quarter lead (or any lead at all) is safe with this Gamecock defense. The Volunteers put together touchdown drives of 47, 75 and 85 yards in the final frame to send the game to overtime. On the final touchdown drive they started on their own 15-yard line with 1:23 on the clock and no timeouts. Read that sentence again, and let it sink in how ridiculous it is.

Meanwhile, on two of our final three drives (not counting the possession where we took over with :11 left) we managed to bungle our way to SIX yards and zero first downs. One first down on either drive probably seals the game for us. To top is all off, we lost 15 yards on our one possession in overtime.

For the game the Gamecocks rolled up 625 yards of total offense, but when we needed ten more in the worst way, we choked. The defense deserves every ounce of criticism it gets, but the offense did not get it done when it mattered most. Clutch we are not.

I keep thinking we hit bottom last night, but with trips to Florida and Clemson on the horizon, I know it can get worse.

Speechless. That’s the word Lorenzo Ward used to describe his defense’s performance last night. I believe he is at a loss for what to do to stop this hemorrhaging, and for that I don’t really see how he can keep his job after the season ends. You can argue we have a lack of talent on the defensive side of the ball (which I’ve done) and you can lament the fact we might lose some recruits if he and/or his staff is fired. But you cannot go through a historically bad season like this and not have casualties.

The sad part is, while Ward deserves a percentage of the blame, I still don’t honestly know how much. This tweet from Avery Wilkes is a prime example:

To me, that is much more a talent issue than scheme. At some point during the game, against a maligned offensive line like Tennessee’s, one of our guys HAS to beat the guy in front of him and get to the quarterback. We simply have not been able to do that all year.

Stop it. If I was a South Carolina defensive coach, one thing I would tell our guys is to stop with the annoying celebrating after making a stop on a meaningless down like 2nd and 8. At least twice last night Rico McWilliams gave the Dikembe Mutombo finger wag after making a nice play. Jordan Diggs was a little “dancy” after one play he made last night. Celebrate a nice play with your teammates. Don’t act the fool when you’re in the midst of giving up 600+ yards and 45 points.

The HBC. Steve Spurrier walked into the press room last night, gave a 42-second statement, declined to answer questions and left. When a man takes a head football coaching position at a major football program, part of the expectation is that he will stand up and be held accountable for his team’s performance and answer to the fans through the media in good times and bad. With that said, if you have a problem with what Spurrier did last night, my message to you is:

Get over it.

Spurrier is still human, is still emotional, and is still one of the fiercest competitors you will ever come across. He’s been stung not just by our losses this year, but by the way we’ve lost. He’s angry, he’s tired and he’s fed up. And last night’s press conference walk-out might not have been the best of smartest thing in the eyes of the media, but at the end of the day who really gives a damn about hearing cookie-cutter responses to cookie-cutter questions.

“Coach, why did you choose to throw the ball in overtime instead of run it?”

“Well, we had some plays that we thought would work down there, so we ran them.”

“Coach, what to you have to do to get the defense to play better?”

“Well, just keep practicing, work on our angles and tackling, that kind of stuff.”

Do you really think we were going to learn anything from ten minutes of that? I’m not DEMANDING ANSWERS because I know no matter how many times or ways you ask the questions you’re not going to get real answers. Nobody is more angry than Steve Spurrier about how this season has gone, and I guarantee you it’s affecting his life a lot more than yours. If he wants to walk out of a press conference one time after a crushing loss, to me he’s earned the right.

A-hole. This all reminds me of something Gman said to me many years ago about Eddie Fogler, who was notoriously snarky with the media. I think it applies to Spurrier as well. G said when you’re winning and you’re an asshole, you’re engaging and witty and dry and sardonic and people can’t wait to hear your press conferences.

When you’re losing and you’re an asshole, you’re just an asshole.

Pharoh. Shame, shame, shame that Pharoh is this far down the list because we lost. He had one of the great performances in Gamecock history: 11 catches for 233 yards and 2 TDs, 3 carries for 23 yards and a TD, and one passing TD. Not only is he on his way to being placed on some first-team all-SEC lists, at this point he deserves consideration for all-American honors.

Team Thompson. On the flip side of the Spurrier situation, here’s all you need to know about Dylan Thompson:

You can complain that Dylan occasionally makes bad decisions on the field, overthrows too many receivers, or looks like he’s wearing cement shoes when he runs. Off the field you might not like his religious views or his prosthelytizing.

But don’t ever forget one thing – Dylan Thompson is an excellent representative of the University of South Carolina and one that we should all be proud of.

Go Cocks! Beat Open Date!

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Snap Judgments – 2014 USC @ Auburn Edition

pharoh

Photo: greenvilleonline.com

Some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 42-35 loss to Auburn on Saturday:

Defending moral victories. Saturday was the most relaxed I’ve been during a Gamecock football game in ages. I honestly can’t remember going through an entire game without even having my heart rate raised at least a little. I know this sounds strange because it was a thrilling, back and forth game. But it’s true.

I think part of the reason is that I had resigned myself to losing this game long ago. Before the season most of us had this game circled as our most likely loss given Auburn was coming into the season with a lot returning from a #2 national finish last year, and we were playing at their place, which is one of the toughest venues in the country.

As the season progressed what little hope I did have for this game faded, and by the time game day rolled around I honestly expected a 50-something to 20-something type of game in Auburn’s favor. I wasn’t far off on the Auburn part, but didn’t expect the South Carolina offense to be so productive in a hostile environment, at night, on the road, in the SEC. I’m proud of the guys, for how they played and competed and had a chance until literally the last play of the game.

When the game was over I felt good that we went toe-to-toe with the #5 team in the country and had a chance to win in the fourth quarter. A moral victory? Yes it was, most definitely.

Spare me the “wins and losses are all that matter” and “there are no moral victories” speeches. I’m not a coach or a player, and nothing I write, say or do has any impact on the outcome of a football game on any given Saturday. Sure, there were some aspects of the game that were frustrating Saturday night (three guesses?), but all things considered the way we played gave me hope for our last four regular season games.

We can dwell on another loss, or we can look at a team that fought hard and take some positives from it into next week. I’ve tried the former, it’s time to give the latter a chance.

Team Thompson. Saturday was perhaps the most Dylan Thompson that Dylan Thompson has ever been – a supremely confident, strong-armed leader with spotty accuracy and a mind-boggling ability to turn the ball over at the most inopportune time. He became only the third quarterback in South Carolina history to throw for more than 400 yards in a game, and needs to average roughly 190 yards over his final four regular season games to become only the third to go over 3000 yards in a season.

I sure wish we could petition to get a sixth year of eligibility for him.

King Tuttchdown. Pharoh Cooper had a career high in receiving yards (127), and if he keeps this up with be pushing for a first team All-SEC slot.

The Rocket. Mike Davis also had a fantastic game, rushing for 88 yards and catching six passes for 85 yards and a touchdown. He’s looking more and more like the Mike D from the first half of last season, which is good news as we head down the stretch.

Defenseless. “Lorenzo Ward should be fired yesterday.”

“Lorenzo Ward hasn’t forgotten how to coach, it’s a talent issue.”

In which camp do you fall? Tbone and the Gman had a spirited debate over text that I’ll try to publish later in the week. Tbone wants Ward fired, Gman wants to keep him.

I’m not sure what the answer is. How could Ward go from being on the cusp of possibly getting mentioned for head coaching jobs to running one of the worst defenses in the country?

I can understand both sides of the debate, but if Steve Spurrier’s comments on Sunday are any indication, Lorenzo Ward has nothing to worry about. At least for now.

The HBC. Spurrier’s comments a few days back that he “doesn’t see the plays as well as he used to” got a lot of attention from the fans. Then Saturday night he pulled a rabbit out of his hat and called perhaps his best game of the year. There’s just something about the HBC and big games.

Let’s just hope he treats the last four the same way.

One is the loneliest number. Unless you play defense for Auburn.

Go Cocks, beat the Vols!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Snap Judgments – 2014 USC @ Kentucky Edition

Photo credit: gogamecocks.com

Photo credit: gogamecocks.com

Some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 45-38 loss to Kentucky on Saturday:

Remix. If you didn’t read last week’s Snap Judgments, particularly the first section, take a moment to do so now. It still stands.

Blame game. The torches and pitchforks were out in full force Saturday night after the game. But there was no real consensus as to who or what cost us the game. There were several camps:

  • The individuals: Steve Spurrier, Lorenzo Ward and Dylan Thompson were the popular choices
  • The units: Offense and defense mostly, but surprisingly very few blamed the special teams (we’ll get to that)
  • The staff: Poor head coaching, poor assistant coaching, poor recruiting

I will submit to you this was a team effort and there is plenty of blame to go around. Just like last week, and just like the four weeks before that. For the last four years we’ve had excellent coaching, solid game planning, and tremendous talent that led to an SEC East title and three consecutive 11-win seasons. Halfway through 2014 we have been inconsistent (to put it kindly) in all aspects of our play. Try to lay the blame on one player, coach or unit and you’re missing the big picture – we have problems everywhere.

We have had our good moments of course, or we very easily could be sitting at 1-5 right now. At the same time, if we make a couple of plays we could be 5-1 and ranked in the top 10. That’s how thin our margin of error is.

17. I have been a defender of Dylan Thompson since week one. After Saturday night a couple of people took a moment to gloat that I was wrong about him and he is indeed terrible. For those of you who are taking some sick pleasure in seeing him fail, congratulations. Please collect whatever trophy you get for that and set it on your mantle, you done good.

My position on Thompson after the Kentucky game is this – it is time to get Connor Mitch and/or Perry Orth some snaps in a live game. My change of heart is not because I think Thompson is a terrible quarterback. But, he has made some bad decisions and bad throws in the last two games that have contributed mightily to our demise.

My position has changed because our goals for this season are pretty much gone, outside of a bowl bid (lower tier at best) and beating Clemson (highly unlikely). It is time to start building for the future, and Dylan Thompson is no longer the future. Twice in two weeks he has had a chance to march his team down the field to win or tie ball games, and cement his own Gamecock legacy. He has failed. He seemed nervous and panicked both times, and you got the feeling he was just throwing the ball hoping it would fall in the hands of one of our receivers. He has had two really rough weeks, and I genuinely feel bad for the guy.

Unfortunately there is very little left to play for compared to what we believed at the start of the season.

The HBC. Steve Spurrier is testing our patience. He has called two of the worst games of his Gamecock career back to back, and probably what is driving me most crazy are his almost identical explanations in the post-game pressers:

“Oh well, probably shoulda done somethin’ different.”

Come again? We deserve a little better explanation than “my bad!” or “whoopsies!”, which is basically what he’s telling us. How about something like:

“Well, see, they moved their linebackers into the box to stop the run and that created a soft spot in the middle of the field we thought we could exploit by throwing the ball. It didn’t work out because blah blah blah.”

I would literally accept “blah blah blah” as part of the explanation as long as he gave us SOMETHING. Instead he’s content having us believe he’s a stubborn old goat who doesn’t think he owes anybody anything.

(I still love you coach.)

Breakouts. Shouts out to running backs Mike Davis, David Williams and Shon Carson (!) for giving us a great night at the running back spot.

Whammy. I’m honestly torn on Lorenzo Ward. On one hand, he was at the helm of two defenses that were good enough to make us wonder how much longer he would be here before taking a head coaching job. On the other hand, he is currently at the helm of the worst defense in the SEC.

Was he the beneficiary of the Gamecocks having NFL talent sprinkled throughout their defense the last two years? Is he now the victim of not having a single all-SEC caliber player on that side of the ball?

How do you explain Kentucky lining up in the same play and shoving it down our throat over and over and over again? Surely we adjusted to try to put our players in better position on those formations, right? Or were we just beaten at the line of scrimmage by bigger, stronger, faster guys? Is it the Xs and Os, or the Jimmys and Joes?

Ultimately I believe Ward hasn’t forgotten how to coach football. As I’ve stated before, I think our lack of talent, or lack of experienced talent, is killing us on defense and will continue to do so over the next six games. The question is, if we don’t get better and if we finish last in the conference in defense, does Lorenzo Ward become the scapegoat.

So very special. Once again, a decent all-around special teams performance was marred by an untimely breakdown on kickoff coverage. After taking a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter, the Gamecocks allowed Kentucky to return the ensuing kickoff to the 47-yard line on our side of the field. A few short plays later the Wildcats were in the end zone and the crowd was back in it. That kick return might well have been the biggest play of the game.

The way the ball bounces. Finally, has anyone noticed we haven’t had the ball bounce our way quite as much this season, as evidenced by the deciding touchdown Saturday night. How many balls did we bat last night that fell harmlessly to the turf? At least three that I can remember. Kentucky had one, and it fell perfectly into the hands of Kentucky defender Bud Dupree who strolled into the end zone with the winning points. I’m not a big believer in fate, or mojo, or predestiny, but it’s worth noting.

The final word. Look, things aren’t going well, ok? We all recognize that. It’s time for everyone to re-calibrate your expectations based on what this team appears to be – average. We need to all take a step back, calm down, and come out and give this team all the support we can muster. It’s understandable what we’re feeling right now because we haven’t felt it in a long time. It’s ok to vent and be angry, just be careful how far you take it. At the end of the day we’re all Gamecocks and we’re cheering on a bunch of guys who chose to be Gamecocks one way or another. Every coach and player deserves your support if for no other reason than that.

Go Cocks.

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

‘Boning Up on the Wildcats

The TRC crew is busy preparing for our semiannual corporate retreat on the beautiful South Carolina coast. As such, there isn’t sufficient time for a full ‘boning up on the Kentucky Wildcats (particularly if we’re gonna stop off in Cola and play some pitch and catch with Busta Anderson).

With this time limitations in mind, let’s focus on one aspect of our SEC East foe this week: The Billy Reed Curse.

For those of you who don’t remember, Billy Reed is a longtime and much-acclaimed Kentucky sportswriter. Way back in 1999,  Reed published an editorial hit-piece on the South Carolina athletic program in the Lexington Herald Leader. While the article is no longer available online, our memory is sunspot-seared with many of its details.

Mssr. Reed was of the opinion that the South Carolina Gamecocks did not belong in the Southeastern Conference. He was particularly adamant that our culture, our history, and our athletic prowess were an embarrassment to the SEC. We didn’t belong with the elites, he opined, and we contributed nothing to the betterment of the conference cause.

The only thing to do with us, Reed held, was to unceremoniously dump us out of the conference.

Since that article was published, our athletic programs have won multiple division, conference, regional, and even national titles.  And in football specifically, the South Carolina Don’t Belongs have beaten the Kentucky Bluebloods in 13 out of last 14 contests.  In some of those games, we’ve blown them out.  In others, we’ve had rough outings, but the Wildcats would always find a unique way to lose.  They almost seem cursed against us.

Cursed by the hubris of Billy Reed?  You decide.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Snap Judgments – 2014 Missouri @ USC Edition

Whoopsies! (photo courtesy of thebigspur.com)

Photo: thebigspur.com

Some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 21-20 loss to Missouri on Saturday:

Fool’s gold. There is plenty of blame to go around for last night’s loss, and that’s not a good thing. If there were a tweak here or there that would fix the 2014 Gamecock football team, all of this would be ok. But there is not.

The fact is we were all fooled. Fooled by the last four years. Fooled that we had “arrived” in some form, and fooled that this newfound national reputation as a contender would be good enough for another 10, 11 or 12 win season. We were reloaders, not rebuilders. We spent the spring and summer patting ourselves on the back over our high preseason rankings. We saw that the media picked us to win the SEC and said, “yeah, that’s right”. We hung an 80-foot idol of our all-time winningest coach and declared it good.

All the while we ignored or explained away that we had lost our all-time winningest quarterback, the most talented player in school history, and a cast of others who were critical pieces in our three-year, 33-win run.

Look up and down our roster and tell me who the superstars are. Aside from the recently emerged Pharoh Cooper, who do you look at on our team and say, “that guy is going to take this game over”. The sad, undeniable fact is this team has a serious talent deficiency compared to the last few years, and a serious talent deficiency compared to the true contenders in the SEC.

There are ways to overcome those talent deficiencies over the course of 60 minutes of football, as we proved against East Carolina and Georgia. But over the course of a 12-game regular season it’s going to catch up with you. And it caught up with us last night.

HBC et al. One way to overcome a lack of talent is through solid coaching and game management. Here are just a few examples of how our coaching staff, led by Steve Spurrier, failed us last night:

  • Going for it on 4th and 1 on the opening series of the game – don’t give me the “well, if we can’t pick up a yard we don’t deserve to win” crap. This was one minute into the game, and Spurrier’s arrogance clouded his decision-making ability. I know Spurrier is extremely impatient when his offense is not moving the ball, but don’t contribute to losing the game one minute in. Take your medicine and kick it away.
  • Not going for two up 19-7 – holy cow what a blunder. I’m not sure I’m more upset about the blunder or his answer to the media after the game, which was essentially, “we didn’t think about it, oh well, what are you gonna do”. We pay him and his staff millions to manage and coach this team, and this was a really easy decision. Inexcusable.
  • Running Mike Davis from the wildcat when we needed a late clock-eating drive. The wildcat is Pharoh’s play, but he was apparently hurting. So, bound and determined to run the wildcat instead of from our traditional set, we snap the ball directly to Davis with no motion and no lead blocker. We gained nothing and put ourselves behind the chains in the most important drive of the game.
  • Calling back-to-back timeouts with Missouri at our goal line late in the game. One timeout was a must, but the second? And the announcers said it was because we ran twelve men on the field after the first timeout. It turns out we didn’t need any timeouts because our offense stunk so bad, but still, inexcusable.

It was not a good night for the coaching staff.

Whammy. For those of you shredding Lorenzo Ward, read the first section again. He’s dealing with a pretty bare cupboard. He put together a heck of a game plan last night that shut Missouri down for most of the game. I’m not absolving him of responsibility by any stretch, but the blame can at least be evenly distributed on the defensive side of the ball.

Team Thompson. Worst game of the year for 17 after last week I declared him far and away this team’s offensive MVP. Credit the Missouri defensive plan, which was rock solid, and blame some untimely drops from his tight ends. But Dylan was definitely off last night.

Role reversal. All year we’ve been saying the offense is not the problem, and the defense is a big problem. Last night it was the polar opposite, as the defense shut down Mizzou for most of the game, and the offense couldn’t get out of its own way.

Disappearing act. Shaq Roland has been the most disappointing player of 2014. He, along with Davis, is supposed to be the guy that takes games over when we need him. Instead, he disappears for long stretches of time. I don’t think he even started last night, which tells me he either a) isn’t playing better than the guy in front of him or b) has done something to get him in the coaches’ doghouse. Either one is unacceptable. Time is running out for Roland, he needs to get his act together.

The Outlook. Friends, in light of the Missouri result, the rest of the schedule looks more daunting than ever. Furman and South Alabama are the only games we should mark as wins left on our schedule. Next week at Kentucky is now a toss-up. At Auburn? Yuck. Tennessee played well at Georgia yesterday, so that game moves into the toss-up category instead of the revenge beating we hoped it would be. Florida is still bad, but at this point there’s not much reason to believe we will go into The Swamp and win, so that’s a toss-up.

Clemson? Let’s just say I wouldn’t be warming up any fingers on your other hand.

But, always and forever, through the good and the bad, Go Cocks!

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

TRC Unle shed Epis de 71 – The Vand rb lt Rev ew

Yes, the title is correct because we have a few technical difficulties along the way, but you can still hear enough to know that Buck and Tbone are not happy with the way the season is shaping up, and GMAN IS THE VOICE OF REASON?!? It’s a bizarro podcast, where you’ll hear about:

  • The offense – not so bad
  • The defense – not so good
  • Special teams minus the kickoff team – not so bad
  • The kickoff team – OH GOD BURN IT ALL TO THE GROUND
  • Twitter questions
  • Florida State – Clemsoahahahahahahahahahaha
  • Other nonsense

Click here or click the graphic to listen, and enjoy!

TRC-Unleashed-Button

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Snap Judgments – 2014 USC @ Vanderbilt Edition

Pharoh saves the day. (Jeffrey Davis - thebigspur.com)

Pharoh saves the day. (Jeffrey Davis – thebigspur.com)

Some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 48-34 victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday:

Stock down. Normally I’d take a game like this for what it is, file it in the win column and simply appreciate a road victory in the SEC. But if we play like this against anyone left on our schedule besides Furman, we will lose. And lose big.

We had some ugly wins last year, including one over this very same Vanderbilt team at home, so this is not new territory for USC. But last year’s struggles usually involved lapses in concentration that lasted 1-2 quarters (Vandy, Kentucky) or simply being stymied by a good football team before imposing our will (UCF, Missouri). We at least played well for part of the game.

Last night was a full 60 minutes of frustration for coaches, players and fans alike. As I tweeted after the game, it was the most torturous 14-point win I can remember. I still don’t know what this team is – blown out by Texas A&M, a semi-convincing win over a very good East Carolina team, a seemingly season-defining win over Georgia, and then the almost disaster that was last night. We have a young team and I guess performances like this should be expected at times. But you would think at this point our program would be able to manhandle a program like Vanderbilt, which has been downright awful through the first three weeks of the season under first-year coach Derek Mason.

I hate taking road wins in the SEC for granted, but this one was painful, and does not give me high hopes for the rest of the season.

You’re so very special. Our special teams struggles have been well documented, and the season had gotten off to an average to above average start overall for the kicking units, which is a marked improvement. We’d blocked a kick, Elliott Fry had been excellent, Tyler Hull hadn’t kicked a ball backwards yet, and the return games hadn’t cost us any points by giving up a return or fumbling away our own return.

All that changed with the opening kickoff last night, when Vanderbilt returner Darrius Sims took it 91 yards to the house for a huge confidence boost to the struggling Commodores. The Gamecocks scratched and clawed throughout the next 2 1/2 quarters to finally seize a two-score lead, only to open the door for Vanderbilt to stay in the game by allowing a 100-yard return by Sims to cut the lead to 24-21. He appears to be quite literally untouched on both returns.

If you watch much football, you know that special teams’ scores are backbreaking for the team that gives them up. Giving up two special teams’ scores in one game to a team that matches up evenly with you means almost certain defeat. Fortunately we were playing Vanderbilt.

The rest of our special teams was fine last night, with Fry making all his field goal attempts and JT Surratt blocking another field goal. But if you’re a coach, having your name mentioned in a post-game presser in a negative context by Steve Spurrier is not a good thing. I hope “Joe Rob” figures things out, because if not he’ll be looking for employment come January, if not sooner.

Fumblin’, bumblin’, stumblin’. The Gamecocks’ first series of the second half was indicative of the way the night went. After moving into Vanderbilt territory, a sequence of plays went like this:

  • Catch and fumble by Nick Jones. Surrounded by Vandy defenders, somehow Jerell Adams with a combination of hustle and desire reached in the pile and pulled the ball out.
  • Swing pass dropped by Mike Davis. The normally sure-handed Davis appeared to have at least first down yardage in front of him, if not more.
  • False start penalty.
  • Catch and fumble by Pharoh Cooper. After getting a first down, Cooper is stripped and the ball stays barely in the field of play. Lying out of bounds, Cooper reaches and barely touches the ball before a Vandy defender touches it, meaning the Gamecocks retain possession.
  • Touchdown pass from Dylan Thompson to Shaq Roland.

On the night we also had fumbles by Dameire Byrd, which he punched out of bounds, and Davis, which gave the Commodores the ball back right after we blocked their field goal attempt.

King Tuttchdown. Pharoh Cooper was the player of the game last night, with 114 yards receiving and 74 yards rushing, including a 70-yard jaunt that for all intents and purposes put the game away. I’ve seen a few folks compare Cooper to Bruce Ellington, but as I’ve said many times, I think Cooper’s skill set compares more favorably to former Kentucky star Randall Cobb. While he doesn’t have as much speed as Ellington, so far Cooper has proven to be a much tougher and more effective runner out of the Wildcat formation, and also has solid route-running skills and dependable hands. King Tuttchdown is going to be a major part of the offensive game plan for a long time to come.

Bombs away. There were a lot of complaints when South Carolina opened the game with eight straight pass plays, and threw deep on at least three occasions in the first quarter. Two of those deep balls were overthrown by Thompson, and one was dropped by Shaq Roland. All three were open.

Even though we have Mike Davis in the backfield, I have no problem with the bombs away approach to start the game. This coaching staff sits in a room watching film all week, and obviously they saw something in the Vanderbilt secondary they felt they could exploit. The problem was not the play calling, it was the execution.

Team Thompson. Once again, Dylan Thompson had a solid night under center (or, from the shotgun if you will), going 22-37 for 237 yards, 3 TDs and no interceptions. He seemed to be more willing to go to his check downs last night, and he put the ball in danger less than he had in the first three games. Thompson is on pace to become only the third Gamecock quarterback to pass for more than 3000 yards in a season, and has a legitimate shot at surpassing Todd Ellis’ 3206 yards passing in 1988. I’m not sure where this team would be without 17 this season. He’s easily the offensive MVP through the first quarter of the season.

Quiet. Where is the explosive Mike Davis from last year? He seems so close to breaking a long one, but hasn’t been able to get free in the secondary save his long touchdown run against ECU. He is currently 11th in the SEC in rushing.

Offensive. And by offensive, I mean the defense, which gave up 379 yards to a putrid Vanderbilt offense that didn’t score a touchdown until the second quarter of its third game. We have no pass rush, inconsistent linebacker play, and an inexperienced defensive backfield that doesn’t know how to turn and look for the ball. As Steve Spurrier mentioned last night, these guys are who we have, and we just have to figure out a way to coach and play better. Otherwise we’re going to have to score on just about every possession.

SEC Least. A lot of you won’t like this, but here goes: Georgia is going to win the East. Even though we beat them, they are still the best team in our division. We simply have too many issues to overcome to win as many games as we’ll need to. Missouri and Florida proved they are a pretenders yesterday with embarrassing losses to terrible (Indiana) and excellent (Alabama) teams, respectively. Kentucky and Tennessee surely aren’t ready to contend, and Vandy is Vandy. That leaves USC and Georgia, and with the Bulldogs remaining schedule, it’s hard not to put money on them. Either way, I feel sorry for whoever has to play the West champion. That side has the best collection of teams in any college football division EVER.

The HBC. If you think I’m being harsh on our boys and you haven’t watched Steve Spurrier’s post game presser from yesterday, give it a go. He is not a happy man. When the HBC ain’t happy, Buck ain’t happy.

Clemsoning. Please stop debating what the definition of “Clemsoning” is and just enjoy what happened in Tallahassee last night. (If you are a South Carolina fan who was pulling for Clemson for any reason please leave now while I try to find it in my heart to someday forgive you.) The fact that the phrase “Clemsoning” exists makes me happy, and I find it hard to believe any definition doesn’t fit what happened against Florida State, whether they were favored to win or not. Let’s look at the facts:

  • Clemson had four trips in the red zone with zero points.
  • Clemson had a first and goal inside the one yard line, didn’t get in running the ball, then had a snap sail over the head of the quarterback for a huge loss. The possession resulted in a missed field goal.
  • After taking the lead and shutting down FSU for most of the night, a Clemson defensive back falls down on a 2nd and 24 play with six minutes left. The Seminoles connect on a 74 yard touchdown.
  • Still, FSU hands the game to Clemson by throwing an interception with a minute and a half to go. With the ball in field goal range, Clemson fumbles on second down giving the ball back to the Seminoles.
  • In overtime, facing a fourth and short, and not trusting their kicker, the Tigers go for it. They do not get it. FSU scores a touchdown on their possession to end it.

Clemsoning, not Clemsoning, who cares. By any other name that rose smells just as sweet.

Go Cocks.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments