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!

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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.

‘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.

 

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!

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

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.

‘Boning Up on the ‘Dores

[ahem]

So the week just slipped away, didn’t it?  You’ve been so busy reading online recaps and watching video replays of the latest Carolina victory over Georgia that you’ve neglected to give any attention whatsoever to the game tomorrow, right?

Well, allow us to condense a week’s worth of worry into one short essay.

Let’s get you all ‘boned up on the Vanderbilt Commodores:

Remember, these are actual colleges with actual students:

Vanderbilt University is a coeducational, research university located in Nashville, Tennessee.  Vandy, as its often called, holds the distinction of being the only private school in the Southeastern Conference, and only one of three SEC schools (Florida and Missouri are the others) to belong to the prestigious Association of American Universities.   The school was founded as Central College during the reconstruction era, only to be rechristened after a well-meaning Yankee billionaire dropped some major coin in an effort to heal the regional differences that plagued the times.  Either that, or he did it to shut up his new wife’s crazy relatives. 

In what is only one example of its bizarre and unfocused marketing efforts,  Vanderbilt recently adopted an official logo that involves a block capital “V”, overlaying what appears to be an oak leaf with a misshapen penis.  Or not, I went to Carolina, so botany isn’t my strong suit.

 The weirdest thing about them:

A few years back, someone in the PR department at Vandy came up with the slogan “Anchor Down” for the ‘Dores.  They use it sort of like “Roll Tide!” or “Go Dawgs!” but without any pesky winning tradition behind it.    They put it on Tshirts, behind hashtags, and even on their football field.

Now I’m no marketing guru (that’s Buck) but it seems to me that “Anchor Down” is pretty weak for a rally cry.  First, I get the nautical theme – they are the Commodores after all – but dropping anchor is not a particularly heroic image. “Damn the torpedoes,” “We have met the enemy and they are ours’,” or “I have not yet begun to fight” are more in the spirit of nautically themed rallying cries (those are from Farrigut, Perry, and Jones, respectively).  Ever heard of someone sailing into a battle and screaming to the crew to drop the anchor?

Neither have I.

“Anchor Down” also connotes an idea of stasis, rigidness, and inability to react quickly.  None of these concepts seem to fit with athletics.

Unless we are talking about sumo wrestling.

Of course, my university’s performed the same “Cock in a Box” magic trick  every week for the past thirty years, so maybe I’m not the best judge.  Those that live in glass hen houses should probably not throw stones. . .

Moving on:

From a Gamecock point of view, the Vanderbilt football program is a decidedly mixed proposition.  On one hand, the ‘Dores have almost always given us much-needed solace and perspective:  If they were gonna finish dead last in the conference every year, at least we couldn’t, right?  But the practical reality has been that our games with Vandy are usually nip-and-tuck affairs where we tend to merely survive instead of triumph.   Particularly when we play in Nashville.

One wrinkle to watch for this year:

New Vandy head screw Derek Mason comes with an impressive resume, including stints with the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and The PAC12’s Stanford Cardinal.  He’s known for a punishing, physical style of football on both offense and defense.   Understandably, this year’s squad is struggling to make the transition from the finesse/spread approach it utilized under James Franklin.  Sooner, or hopefully later, this is going to be a good football team.

But on the other hand, this year’s team was the last Division One program to score an offensive touchdown.

Read that again.

We should run them out of the ballpark, right?

Unless we don’t.

But anyway. . . .

That player you are going to hate:

It’s Vandy.  You’re not gonna hate any of these guys.

The Enigma:

Patrick Robinette, quarterback.  He came off the bench last week against UMass to lead the ‘Dores to a dramatic come-from-behind victory.  Well, that’s a pretty generous way to put it, but he did score their first offensive touchdown of the season on a QB dive-turned-leap.  He might be legit, but the sample size is too small (only 27 passes to date) and the competition too weak (Umass was 0-2 coming in) for us to draw any substantial conclusions.

The Ingenue:

Freshman running back Ralph Webb.  This true freshman looks like the workhorse for Vanderbilt so far this season.  He’s averaging 20 carries and over 90 yards a game in his three starts.

The thing that will tell the tale:

This is not a good offensive football team right now.  Can we get some three-and-outs?

If we can’t stop these guys, we probably can’t stop anybody.

William Carlos Williams explains further:

so much depends
upon

The Vanderbilt

Commodores

They lost

to Temple

Surely we can

Ezra Pound them

I forgot to mention:

Really, I think that’s everything.  I think you are all ‘bonzed up!

 

TRC Unleashed Episode 70 – The Georgia Review

Hey, it’s a victory over Georgia podcast! These podcasts are only eclipsed by victory over Clemson podcasts in terms of fun, so you’re in luck. Tune in and hear the TRC gang discuss:

  • How, strangely, ECU helped set the mood for the day with their win over Virginia Tech
  • The atmosphere before, during and after the game, including South Carolina’s great tradition of “Cocky in a Box”
  • A Dylan Thompson we told ya so
  • Other offensive and defensive observations (and when we say offensive, we mean offensive, not offensive)
  • Those dang officials that screwed Georgia!
  • We’ve won 9 of 10 against our two biggest rivals we don’t think you understand how amazing that is
  • The Blitz Gameday Jewelry Rubber Chicken Awards
  • Twitter questions, including “cookies or donuts?”

All these things and so much more on episode 70 of TRC Unleashed.

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

TRC-Unleashed-Button

 

 

Snap Judgments – 2014 Georgia @ South Carolina Edition

gogamecocks.com

(Photo: gogamecocks.com)

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.

We run 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!

 

‘Boning Up on the Dawgs

(logo courtesy someone’s seventh grade art project)

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.

Moving on:

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.

The Enigma:

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.

The Ingenue:

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
upon

seventeen’s

play

not the one on
defense

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!

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