Monthly Archives: September 2010
And you know what I’m talking about.
Since Saturday I have had numerous conversations with Gamecocks fans. I’ve read several articles in print and on the internet. I’ve listened to post-practice comments from the coaches and players. And we here at TRC have even had a board meeting on the topic. From all of these discussions, one thing sticks out to me:
We’re all still mad.
We’re still mad that our defense couldn’t hold a thirteen-point lead. We’re still upset that the offense turned the ball over in
each of its last four possessions. We’re still flabbergasted that our safety couldn’t scoop up a game-clinching fumble. We’re still befuddled by our inept return game. We’re still annoyed that Chris Culliver is a veritable personal foul machine.
We’re still furious that we lost the Auburn game.
Now, unfurrow your brow for a moment. Unclench your fist and stop pounding your head on the table. I think it’s a good thing that we are not happy. Maybe we’ve grown up as a fan base, as coaches, and as a team. Maybe we finally think like an SEC school.
Think about it: we could be in gleeful, spastic, celebratory afterglow like the C.T.U. crowd. They are still so amped about their overtime loss to an SEC squad that they can’t stop strutting and congratulating every overall-clad bumpkin they meet.
We used to be similar to C.T.U. in its quest for belonging and outside affirmation. Not long ago, we Gamecocks would be thrilled to hang with a perennial power in front of a national tv audience. Now, we are used to the experience, and even have a name for it:
We call it Saturday.
So are we upset? Yes.
And thank goodness for it.
Did you think you’d get through a Gamecock football season without a dagger to heart or five like that game Saturday night? Sucker. Or newbie.
Here are some random musings on what I saw Saturday night:
Stephen Garcia should still be our starting QB – I wasn’t surprised Connor Shaw came in, but I didn’t agree with it. Garcia “is what he is” to borrow a phrase – a guy who is a warrior and will make a few plays for you, but will also drive you mad by doing things like fumbling on consecutive fourth quarter drives against Auburn. He also gives us our best chance to win, as long as…
He takes a knee when a play breaks down - OK, maybe taking a knee is a little drastic, but learning when and how to slide would be helpful. He protects the ball fine on designed runs. But when he scrambles, there’s usually about a 50/50 shot somebody’s going to rip the ball away from him. On the bright side, when he’s throwing the ball, he’s lucky to have…
Alshon - 8 catches, 192 yards, 2 TD’s. At this pace, he’s easily first team All-SEC, and if we can win some important games and stay in the national consciousness, he should get all-American consideration. Another guy I know will not get all-SEC consideration because…
Ace Sanders needs more touches - The one time he got the ball Saturday night he did his best Noel Devine imitation and picked up a first down for us. Screens, reverses, end arounds, whatever - get this guy the ball. He could give our offense a dimension that helps open up the running and passing games. And speaking of Ace Sanders…
Isn’t it about time we had a decent return game? - It’s almost impossible that we haven’t at least lucked up into a decent kick returner in the last twenty years. I’m ok with Stephon Gilmore as a punt returner, I think he’ll break one eventually. (Of course, if the other team rarely or never punts that reduces his chances drastically.) Chris Culliver is somehow, someway near the top of the all-time SEC kickoff return list without ever breaking one. Chalk it up to longevity I guess. Bryce Sherman must be living off his performance during last fall practice to still be getting opportunities. Give Sanders a chance. On the other side of the ball…
The defense isn’t as bad as they showed Saturday - I’m still trying to talk myself into this one. History tells us Saturday night was an aberration. Ellis Johnson defenses are solid if not spectacular, and he’ll get things corrected. Being ranked 11th in total defense in the SEC is disturbing, but even with our deficiencies I think we’ll be competitive defensively going forward (fingers crossed). It would certainly help if we could figure out…
Where has Cliff Matthews gone? - I’ve seen a guy wearing #83 running around on the field, but if it was Cliff Matthews he would actually be making tackles. Maybe he’s getting triple-teamed because our opposition knows…
Our linebacking corps stinks - The return of Shaq Wilson was supposed to help, but I’m afraid we are still well into the bottom half of the SEC as far as talent at this position goes. Which is why…
People need to back off the DB’s - Once EJ realized our linebackers couldn’t stop the run (specifically Newton), we had to go to a zone that resulted in some easy completions for Auburn. Most people, including me, were down on Gilmore, Culliver, and Co. after Saturday night, but if our front seven had played better we wouldn’t have had to change our game plan. (The fact that Culliver is a walking personal foul penalty waiting to happen is a topic for another time.) And while we’re talking about game plans, I really don’t think it will help to have two weeks to prepare for…
Alabama - Ugh. We have to stew on the Auburn loss for two weeks and then face the one team on our schedule that we can’t beat. That’s right, I said it. I firmly believed as recently as Saturday night we could. But after watching them come from behind against a pretty good Arkansas team in one of the most hostile environments around, and then watching us cough up our game, I just don’t think it can happen. At the moment they are just too big, too strong and too talented. But fear not Gamecock fans, because I still believe…
We can win the SEC East - I’m not as confident as I was, but I certainly think we can beat Kentucky, Vandy and Tennessee. Arkansas will be tough, but getting them at home this year is a huge bonus. Assuming at least one Florida loss between now and then (probably this weekend), our game in the Swamp would be for a trip to Atlanta.
Hang in there Gamecock fans, there’s a long way to go. Problem is, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
Buck says - USC 27, Auburn 23. I really couldn’t have less of a clue about this game. I have no feel for how good either team is at this point. Two weeks ago I would’ve probably said Carolina wins and feel pretty confident about it. But the dud against Furman has me worried. Don’t give me the argument that it’s par for the course for us to play that way against SoCon teams (Wofford twice, S.C. State), because those seasons didn’t exactly turn out rosy. It comes down to this – #5 for us has to play as well as or better than #2 for them. Both defenses are going to make the quarterbacks win the game through the air. We need Stephen Garcia to win this game for us. So I’m shutting my eyes tight, crossing my fingers and saying he will. Bonus prediction: Marcus Lattimore gets at least 20 carries and less than 75 yards.
Tbone says – USC 28 Auburn 17. Buck’s right, and Buck’s wrong. He’s right in placing a big bullseye on Stephen Achilles. Stephen’s play, on the road and in front of a hostile crowd, will be the biggest determining factor in this contest. Few players telegraph their comfort level in a game more than Garcia. If he gets uncomfortable, he hesitates. If he hesitates, he gets down on himself. If he gets down on himself, you might as well give the mouse a cookie, cause we’re in a spiral of shame (I think its safe to say that Steven Orr doesn’t help in that situation, either). That said, I look for Garcia to benefit from our newfound balance and manage the game effectively. Where Buck is wrong is giving Auburn 23 points. Unless we throw a couple of picks (see above), Malzahn and crew won’t get past the high teens on Ellis Johnson now that he has his full strength crew. Oh, and I agree on Lattimore: Auburn will be keying on him all night long.
G-Man says-USC 21-20. I am hoping the the flatness last week was due to the opponent and SOS’s desire to play it close to the vest. We need to bring our A game, and them some, to the Plains. While Garcia is an enigma, I do think his experience playing in hostile SEC venues is a plus. Newton is still green and I expect EJ to bring it and bring it hard. Expect some corner blitzes, but Culliver must wrap up instead of throwing the shoulder-otherwise Newton will bounce right off. On O, we must stick with the run, even if AU stops us at first. I don’t see us winning a game where the ball gets chunked a bunch. The winning formula: 150 yards on the ground, one to zero turnovers on O, two or more turnovers on D, and tough red zone defense. Going somewhat with my heart and predicting we do these things, and hold on for a narrow victory.
Defensive Coordinators around the Southeastern Conference have struggled to contain University of Kentucky WR/QB/RB/Superman Randall Cobb for a couple of years now. The answer is now apparent: the man is powerless against Red Lobster Cheesy Biscuits.
His twitter feed tells the tale. First, the Insult:
Next, the Proposed Resolution:
And finally, the Capitulation (a scant three hours later):
League D-coordinators, take note. Cheesy Biscuits are this Superman’s kryptonite.
Hard to believe, but with the third game now in the books, the 2010 football regular season is 1/4th done. I’m hoping that the season is actually only 3/14ths over, if you take my meaning, but its nice to still have that as a reasonable aspiration this far into the year.
Its hard to look at the season thus far and find many nits to pick. Carolina sits at 3-0 and has risen from the deep ranks of ‘others receiving votes’ to as high as 12th in the polls. Georgia appears out of the picture, Tennessee looks hapless, Florida looks vulnerable, Kentucky is starting strong, but their schedu . . . wait, I fell asleep there for a second, and Vandy already has their one allotted annual SEC win. Oh, and C.T.U. is unranked, having lost the only real game they’ve played thus far.
Garcia isn’t about to set any records, but the big goose egg in the loss column thus far squelches any latent QB controversy. The Defense looks solid, other than some trash points surrendered to the Paladins and Mustard Buzzards. Gurley, Moore, and Jeffrey all look like legitimate threats. Special Teams look vastly improved.
And there’s this kid from Duncan, SC that you may have heard about . . .
But still, question marks remain.
A big issue still on the table is OL depth. We started the year with three tackles, and are now (at least temporarily) down to two. We started with three guards, and we may also be down to two. We have one center. Other than these seven, we are left with practice players and true freshmen.
We also have questions at Spur and Safety that might be ignored for the time being. However, any type of injury or suspension at those positions will be a major obstacle. If you don’t believe me, just review Coach Johnson’s comments from earlier in the year when he said we couldn’t call nickel coverage for part of the USM contest because of lack of personnel.
But bigger than all of these (relatively) routine matters is the biggest threat of all to the 2010 campaign:
To review the off-the-field issues thus far: until scant moments prior to the USM game, we had upwards of twelve players in NCAA eligibility limbo. Then, in the week prior to the Georgia contest the NCAA notified the higher-ups that we were formally under investigation. Shortly after the Georgia contest, we learned that our All-SEC-type tight end was dismissed from the team. And then, in the hours leading up to the Furman contest, a starting OL returned home for a death in his family. And THEN after the game, our nickel backer learned that his brother had been shot.
And this week, Kenny McKinley, the school’s all-time leading receiver and close friend to many of the team’s upperclassmen, took his own life.
Whew. Its been a busy three weeks. And frustrating. And bizarre. And perplexing. And sad.
Given all of these distractions, its understandable if our players and our coaching staff are finding it difficult to focus on the upcoming Auburn game.
I know I am.
So the quarter season report? Good thus far, but with looming distractions that threaten to turn a promising year into an average one.
Over the next days and weeks a lot of people will be recounting their memories of Kenny McKinley, and deservedly so. They’ll talk about the slant routes against Tennessee.Â His first career touchdown catch against Arkansas. His touchdown throw to Syvelle Newton against Kentucky. His catch-and-run against Clemson. His two-touchdown performance in the Liberty Bowl…and on and on.
But something else came to mind for me. Â It was the 2006 Clemson game.
I know you all remember the play. Â Carolina was driving for a touchdown late in the first half. Â But impossibly Jock McKissic, a Clemson defensive lineman, picked off a Blake Mitchell pass and lumbered the other way for a touchdown.
Towards the end of the play, Kenny McKinley comes flying into the picture. Â Just as McKissic crosses the goal line McKinley takes a swipe at the ball, but the effort is futile. Â The camera follows McKissic as he turns to the left, but just before McKinley disappears from the picture, out of frustration you see him kick the pylon in the back of the end zone with his left foot.Â Just boots the heck out of it. Â I remember watching that several times later and getting a good laugh out of it (of course, it wouldn’t have been nearly as funny if we would’ve lost.)
Cant’ you just see a kid having that reaction? Â Then one of the coaches coming over to calm the kid down? As I reflect on Kenny McKinley’s career, I think that play was indicative of the childlike joy and passion with which he played the game. Â There was an innocence to it that still makes me smile. Â I bet Kenny saw that replay later and smiled his trademark smile too.
Don’t get me wrong, Kenny McKinley was a man on the football field from the first day he suited up at the University of South Carolina. Â He never played a down of wide receiver until college, but worked his tail off and became, numbers-wise, our greatest ever.
No one would’ve batted an eye if this lightly recruited kid had gotten buried on the depth chart and transferred to Furman or Newberry or Hampton. Â But somehow, against some pretty steep odds, he became an NFL draft pick, and got his name prominently displayed on Williams-Brice Stadium. Â More than that, he had the undying adoration of the Gamecock Nation. Â Not just for his catches and yards and touchdowns, but for the way he played. Â For his joy and innocence.
I don’t know when the joy and innocence faded from Kenny McKinley. Â Maybe it was just the last few days. Maybe it was weeks or months, possibly even years. Â I honestly don’t want to know any details. Â I don’t want to think about the unbearable sadness that must’ve consumed him to make him do what he did.
As college football fans, we chew players up and spit them out every four years. Â We recognize them at their last home game, thank them for their service, give them a bouquet of flowers and wish them well. Â Then we forget about 99% of them. Â Not because we don’t care or don’t appreciate them, we just don’t have the capacity to remember them.
Then there are the 1% that stay with you. Â The 1% that create the lasting memories.
Thank God for that 1%. Â Thank God for Kenny McKinley.
I’m a Presbyterian.
That may be a strange way to start a blog post about college football, so let me explain. Presbyterians have been accused of giving very little credence to the idea of free will, opting instead to attribute spiritual issues to providence or predestination.
Gene Chizik must also be a Presbyterian. And Gene Chizik’s God is a really, really, big fan of Predestined Gene Chizik and his Providential Auburn Tigers. When ESPN’s Erin Andrews approached Coach Chizik after the CTU game and asked him to explain his team’s overtime victory, Coach Chizik opined that it was attributable to divine intervention, that it was “a God thing” [his words]. Not a good week of practice, not Cam Newton’s resilience, not his teams tenacity in overcoming a 17-point deficit, but instead, it was God.
Now I’m not faulting Chizik for looking at Erin Andrews and thinking about God. In fact, I’ve improperly used the Almighty’s name a few times in reference to the comely sports reporter. What bothers me is his apparent belief that God somehow wanted Auburn to win an out-of-conference amateur sporting contest.
It’s a ridiculous assertion, even to my Presbyterian ears.
But his theological assertions are apparently spreading throughout the Plains. Witness Freshman RB/WR/Hype Machine Trevon Reed’s recent comments about his sore kneecap: “I wanted to question God about it, but I knew I couldn’t because He does everything for a reason.”
Oh, and in related news, God apparently wants Chizik to hire a well-known bagman, commit multiple recruiting violations, and then proudly assert that winning is more important than playing by the rules.
The bit about God hating C.T.U.?
Well, doesn’t everybody?