Monthly Archives: September 2012
Sorry for the late posting, but here are some quick, barely researched, not fully formed thoughts from yesterday’s 38-17 victory over Kentucky:
A tale of two halves. A 17-7 deficit in the first half, and a 31-0 whitewashing of the Wildcats in the second half. That’s the epitome of two different games rolled into one, and pretty much the opposite of our last trip to Lexington. Thank goodness for our coaches, veteran player leadership and sideline full of guys who didn’t panic. Not much more could’ve gone wrong in the first half, and it’s as if the Gamecocks took a deep breath at halftime, said “ok, we’re much better than them, let’s go execute”. It was game over when the teams came out of the locker room for half number two.
The Gamecocks muscled up and played like the #6 team in the country should against an SEC also-ran. Starting at about 7:06 on Saturday night, we won’t have the luxury of sleepwalking through a half any more. It’s time for some big boy football now.
Flashbacks. Speaking of that last trip to Lexington, a lot of people on our side downplayed the 2010 game all week. But when we were down 17-7 and that snap sailed over Connor Shaw’s head giving Kentucky a shot at more points just before half, you couldn’t help but recall that nightmare feeling. That feeling you were about to lose to a vastly inferior team. That feeling that you had to deal with an extra layer of the Sunday blues. That feeling that you had to try to explain to all your co-workers what the heck happened on Saturday night. Goodbye SEC, goodbye SEC East, goodbye GameDay, goodbye season. A half-full Commonwealth Stadium would forever be our house of horrors.
Good thing our guys had another script written, and I didn’t have to write another post like this.
The I has it. Since Marcus Lattimore arrived on campus, we’ve seen very few traditional two-back sets in our offense. We have been mostly a one-back, zone read kind of team for the last three years, but when we weren’t having success against one of the worst rushing defenses in the country last night, Steve Spurrier dusted off one of the back pages of the playbook and pulled out the old I-formation. That’s when Lattimore gashed the ‘Cats for most of his 120 rushing yards. It was nice to see, and according to the HBC we’ll probably see more of it going forward.
Maybe even inside the 5 coach?
Latti-MORE. #21 had a vintage game last night. Everybody keeps saying Lattimore is “not quite back yet”. I’m not sure exactly what they’re seeing, but he’s looked pretty good to me all year, he just hasn’t had the opportunity to take a game over until last night. I think his carries have been limited for the most part to ease him back before we hit the meat of our schedule, which happens to be next week. If he’s got it going on Saturday against UGA, expect to see him get 25-30 carries.
Hampton In. Props to Vic Hampton for quite possibly saving the game last night. If Kentucky walks that fumble in just before the half, who knows if that’s a knockout blow to our psyche. Maybe not, but you never know.
How was Hampton in the right place at the right time? I sent a tongue in cheek tweet saying “thanks for being lazy Vic Hampton” that was probably taken the wrong way by a few folks (one in particular). The ball was bouncing around for such a long time you’d expect all eleven defenders to be around it, but Hampton was hanging in the back because he had followed his guy into the end zone. He wasn’t being lazy, he just found himself where he did because he was doing his job.
Plus, he deserves a mention because he played a pretty good game.
Most popular guy on the team. You know who it is? The backup quarterback. I actually saw a couple of tweets at the half last night calling for Dylan Thompson to replace Connor Shaw.
You know this guy Shaw? The guy who in his last two games has completed 35-39 passes for 397 yards and 4 TDs? Oh, and rushed for 117 yards on top of that? Yeah, that’s the guy you want replaced?
Chill people. Seriously.
Game Freakin’ Day. When was the last time we had a game as big as this coming weekend’s at Williams-Brice Stadium? I’m not talking about just having a big-name or highly ranked opponent coming in, I mean a game with major national implications like the UGA game will have. Alabama? Nah, we had already lost a game to Auburn that year and weren’t ranked anywhere near where we are today. Maybe Florida State in ’84?
UGA should have a clear shot at the SEC East title with a win, and while we still have work to do if we win (LSU & Florida among others), I think it can be done. Then, a one-game showdown with Alabama to go to the BCS title game? Sign me up.
When you think about the possibilities for the winner of this game, I’d say it’s hard to find a game that’s been bigger that we’ve played in. Period.
Mick Patrick – Play by Play Professional. Our old College World Series buddy was back at it last night, and by the end of Kentucky’s first offensive series had already called out “Myron” Jerideau and Aldrick “Foreman” on our defense.
It surprised me a little they didn’t try to find Mr. and Mrs. Refsnyder in the crowd.
APB. Please let us know if you’ve heard from Ron Morris. We’re getting worried.
Go Cocks, beat Georgia!
If there was any shred of doubt left, last night cemented that the HBC has clearly regained his swagger.
Last night’s weekly call-in show - normally a dry, coachspeak preview of this week’s opponent interspersed with sometimes imbecilic fan questions - provided Coach a public forum to unload on a certain unnamed columnist at an unnamed Columbia based newspaper.
And boy did he ever unload.
Using a tone and language usually reserved for Seminoles or Volunteers during his Gator days, Spurrier ripped into this so-called columnist with venom and fire. The message: Enough is enough. No more unresearched columns designed to denigrate our program and the character of the HBC. No more outrageous comparisons to Penn State. No more back-stabbing from the home town paper.
As we all know, this feud between coach and writer has been going on for quite some time. It started with the Bruce Ellington “poaching” comment, continued with an accusation that coach callously and carelessly played an injured Connor Shaw, and culminated with a comment that the program was starting to resemble the one at Penn State.
We have commented on the stormy relationship between coach and columnist before. After yesterday’s written apology by said columnist and today’s bombastic response by the HBC, we have been contemplating our reasoned and carefully crafted response to the latest developments, and we present it here:
HELL YES !!!!!
For years our program has been pushed around by just about everybody-our conference foes, CTU, the media, you name it. It’s long been “sport” to take pot shots at the moribund USC football team. Well, things are a changin’.
Yesterday was a landmark moment in the evolution of the program. The HBC’s rant was a statement that we are becoming, dare we say it, Big Time.
For years the football team needed the local paper for publicity. Now, it’s clear that the worm has turned. The paper, faced with a shrinking readership and competition from all sides, needs the football program (and the other USC sports programs as well).
There’s no denying that the sports page is by far the most important section of the paper. Heck, on some days they don’t even publish other traditional sections. Yet, they can’t help themselves. They can’t seem to break from the days when all they had to write about was the negative stuff. You would think that the paper would embrace the recent successes and rejoice in the fact that we finally have a coach who has an idea or two about how to win a football game.
In addition to winning, the HBC is (or should be) a newspaper man’s dream. He speaks off the cuff and oftentimes gives the best quotes in the business. The folks at the paper should realize that they have it pretty damn good under the circumstances.
But what do they do? They try to screw it all up by allowing a guy to repeatedly attack the character of the HBC. While coach has his faults (well, don’t we all), I don’t think there are too many folks in the world of college football who would question his character.
We at TRC love the HBC and what he stands for. He’s called the Head Ball Coach for a reason. In many ways he’s a throwback to a different era of college football — an era when the players answered yes sir and no sir. Yesterday he half way threatened to leave if the local paper continued to allow moronic columns by moronic columnists.
Yesterday he drew the line.
TRC Unleashed tackles football – as in a USC vs. Missouri recap and a USC vs. Kentucky preview, as well as what else has been going on in the SEC.
We also take our first two Twitter questions ever, which leads us to telling you exactly how you should feel about Spurrier/Morris II – The Thrilla in the Media Room.
Oh, and This Week in Dabo.
Click the graphic. Enjoy.
After four weeks of football we’re starting to get a better feel for who we are, as well as who our opponents are. There are aberrations, for sure, but the long term outlook for everybody is taking shape, for better (South Carolina, Georgia) or for worse (Vandy, Arkansas). Our 31-10 victory over Missouri has us all feeling great about the Gamecocks, but the schedule is about to get as tough as a two dollar steak. So let’s take a look at the Week 4 TPR and see how things are shaping up:
(A note of clarification, I do not include this past week’s opponent in the TPR.)
- Vanderbilt - Lost to Georgia 48-3. What the hell James Franklin South? How in the world are you and the Commodores THIS bad? We thought this year was going to be different, you know, all “Anchor Down!” and stuff. You’re starting to look like a PR dream, but a coaching nightmare. TPR for Vandy: Regarding our game against them, see “aberrations” in the second sentence of this post.
- East Carolina - Lost to North Carolina 27-6. This game was close for a half, but UNC broke it open and passed for 321 yards against the ECU defense. Don’t feel like there’s anything we can take from our game against them really, except Dylan Thompson yo. TPR for East Carolina: Was hoping they were a little better than they are, but what are you gonna do.
- UAB - Lost to Ohio State 29-15. Hmmm, interesting. UAB was within six points until just about five minutes were left in the game. TPR for UAB: Maybe this was a more impressive win for us than I was giving credit. Feel pretty good about it today.
- Kentucky - Lost to Florida 38-0. The only thing we have to gain from playing these guys is more game experience for our backups. They might actually be the worst team on our schedule so far. We should mutilate them much like the Gators did, so let’s just pray we get out of the Commonwealth with no major injuries. TPR for Kentucky: A nothing to gain game for us, but we should walk in this one.
- Georgia - Beat Vanderbilt 48-3. The Bulldogs are clicking primarily due to their weak schedule, which is playing out exactly like we thought it would. They’re ranked #1 in most SEC offensive categories, and their defense finally lived up to billing against the ‘Dores last night (not that that was any great feat.) Their struggles against Mizzou make me hopeful, though, since we didn’t seem to have any problem with the Tigers on either side of the ball. Tennessee will probably not put up to much resistance ‘tween the hedges, so circle Oct. 6 as one of the biggest college football days of the season. Both USC and UGA will be top 10, and if some other team(s) falls ahead of us, maybe even top five. TPR for Georgia: I think the Dogs are legit, but I still like our chances based on what I’ve seen.
- LSU - Beat Auburn 12-10. Ok, this one took me by surprise. I said in last week’s TPR I felt strangely confident about our game against these guys, and now I think I actually have reason. Zach Mettenberger is still feeling his way around and is not quite the quarterback Les Miles thought he would be at this point. This team is super talented, but we’ve seen super talented LSU teams falter before. TPR for LSU: Cautiously optimistic.
- Florida - Beat Kentucky 38-0. People are saying Florida is back. I say not so fast my friends. They’re much better than they were week 1, but they have a lot left to prove. Still, with USC and UGA, they are part of the “haves” in the SEC East that can win the division. TPR for Florida: Slightly better than cautiously optimistic.
- Tennessee - Beat Akron 47-26. Don’t let the final score fool you, this one was close most of the way. The game was tied at the half, and UT scored 17 straight in the fourth quarter to put it away. The Vols have some outstanding skill players, but are just not that talented across the board. TPR for Tennessee: No sweat.
- Arkansas - Lost to Rutgers 35-26 (!!!). The John L. Smith Circle the Drain Tour continues unabated. TPR for Arkansas: Right now I’m not sure they could beat South Carolina State. Let’s hope it stays that way.
- Wofford - Bye week. TPR for Wofford: STOP SCHEDULING OPTION TEAMS.
- Clemson - Lost to Florida State 49-37. In the process gave up 667 yards (!!!) to the Seminoles. You’ve heard the saying “defense wins championships” right? Dabo hasn’t. TPR for Clemson: Four in a row still seems likely. After yesterday, just ask any Clemson fan.
Here are some quick, barely researched, not fully formed thoughts from yesterday’s 31-10 mauling of Missouri:
The look. I think people around the country are starting to see it after yesterday’s win – South Carolina has that look. The look of a contender.
Do we have a few issues? Sure we do. We turned the ball over too many times yesterday. While they played better against Mizzou, we need more consistency out of the offensive line. We haven’t had to make a pressure kick yet. The secondary is still a question mark. I’m still not sure we have a go-to receiver. We made some bizarre play calls on third- and fourth-and-goal early in the game yesterday that cost us points.
But when you have all that going on, and you still beat a dangerous Missouri team the way we did yesterday, people start to notice. Our defense is fast and stifling, led by a defensive line with as much talent as we’ve ever had here at one time. Our offense can beat you in a variety of ways, and yesterday it seemed we could do anything at any time against a Tiger defense that was getting a lot of praise going into the game. We have a clear leader on offense, and a grind-it-out tailback who can eat up yards and clock. Ace Sanders showed he is a first class punt returner yesterday, as well as a guy you can count on to make a big play on offense when needed.
We definitely have the look. The month of October will determine if we can translate that into a championship.
Complete. Connor Shaw got off to a shaky start this year, even before his injury against Vandy. He looked a little tentative, his accuracy was off, and he didn’t seem to have the zip on his passes like last year. When Dylan Thompson stepped in and played well against East Carolina and UAB, a minor quarterback controversy started brewing.
Shaw put all that to rest yesterday with one of the best days a Carolina quarterback has ever had – 20 of 21 passing for 249 yards and two touchdowns, and an additional 41 yards rushing. A spectacular 80-yard touchdown run was called back because of a clipping penalty (one that Steve Spurrier disputes) or the day would’ve been off the charts statistically. He’s under control, going through his progressions, not forcing anything, and hitting the deck before he takes any more big shots.
Having Thompson waiting in the wings is a nice security blanket, but make no mistake – this team belongs to Connor Shaw.
Flying Ace. Ace Sanders’ second quarter 49-yard punt return was one of the prettiest we’ve ever seen in Williams-Brice. I’m not sure he’ll ever turn into the go-to receiver I mentioned above – you know, an 8 catches for 150 yards kind of guy. But he showed he can make the kind of plays that change the tenor of a game as a returner and a receiver.
Bruuuuuuuuuce. Just as Gary and Verne were letting the world know we had the worst kickoff return average in the country (because we hadn’t actually returned a kickoff), Bruce Ellington ripped off a 50-yard return that helped seal a game ball for new special teams coach Joe Robinson. Ellington is a guy who could use a few more touches on the offensive side of the ball as well, and I think you’re going to start seeing that next week.
D-fence. What can you say about Lorenzo Ward’s defense so far this year. We lost three starters to the NFL – Ingram, Robertson and Gilmore – and our defensive architect Ellis Johnson to Southern Miss. The consensus was the defense would still be good, but with the loss of those stars and a different defensive philosophy being implemented by Ward, there’s no way it could be as good as last year. Well, the D is currently ranked number five in the country in scoring defense, number eight in rushing defense, and is in the top 20 overall. And while the competition ramps up considerably over the next few weeks, we haven’t exactly been playing the sisters of the poor in racking up these numbers.
Game balls. Spurrier gave game balls yesterday to A.J. Cann, Shaw, Sanders, Chaz Sutton, Devin Taylor, Joe Robinson, Lorenzo Ward, and to the man who gave the HBC his first coaching job – Pepper Rogers.
No Swag, No problem. One of the primary story lines in yesterday’s game was D.J. Swearinger serving a one-game suspension for his hit on a UAB wide receiver. T.J. Gurley filled in admirably and Swearinger was hardly missed. We’ll all welcome the Jungle Boi back against Kentucky next week.
Fast Break? When asked this week about how Missouri’s “fast break” offense compared to ECU’s, Ward responded that while they were both spread offenses, Missouri would move “much faster”. I don’t doubt that the Tigers WANTED to move faster than they did yesterday, but for the most part our defense kept them moving more at a four corners pace. (Look it up youngsters – Dean Smith, North Carolina)
Gary and Verne. I have professed my affection for Verne Lundquist in this space before, that even though he’s getting older and may not be as sharp as he used to be, he’s THE voice of the SEC on Saturday afternoons.
Gary Danielson, however, is just annoying.
After the Gamecocks failed on fourth and goal early in the second quarter, Danielson stated that “Missouri fans are going, ‘wait a minute, this is the SEC, I thought this was supposed to be grown man football.’” My thought was, while the play calls were curious in that situation, we had already used “grown man football” to move the ball up and down the field on the Tigers and put ourselves in that position. We then proceeded to play “grown man football” for the final three quarters.
Opposite prophesy. If you listened to our podcast last week, you heard my prediction that the final score would be 35-14 Missouri. You also heard my prognostication was due to the fact that typically whatever I predict, well, the opposite tends to happen. While I didn’t nail the opposite score (a slight miss), I did get the point differential right.
So tune in to next week’s podcast when I predict a 45-7 loss to Kentucky.
Go Cocks, beat Kentucky!
TRC Unleashed covers the DJ Swearinger suspension controversy, how the SEC has opened Pandora’s Box, and where college football is headed as they deal with these kinds of hits.
Also, we look ahead with some shallow analysis of Missouri and tell you what you can expect on Saturday, and of course we bring you up to speed (get it, speed?) on what’s going on in the upstate with our THIS WEEK IN DABO segment.
Finally, Tbone named BeastBoard, and we challenge anyone to tell us differently.
Click the graphic, and enjoy!
Today is the second anniversary of the death of former Gamecock great Kenny McKinley. Here is what we wrote about #11 the day after. RIP Kenny.
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. 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. It was the 2006 Clemson game.
I know you all remember the play. Carolina was driving for a touchdown late in the first half. 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. Just as McKissic crosses the goal line McKinley takes a swipe at the ball, but the effort is futile. 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. Just boots the heck out of it. 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.)
Can’t you just see a kid having that reaction? 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. There was an innocence to it that still makes me smile. 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. 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. But somehow, against some pretty steep odds, he became an NFL draft pick, and got his name prominently displayed on Williams-Brice Stadium. More than that, he had the undying adoration of the Gamecock Nation. Not just for his catches and yards and touchdowns, but for the way he played. For his joy and innocence.
I don’t know when the joy and innocence faded from Kenny McKinley. Maybe it was just the last few days. Maybe it was weeks or months, possibly even years. I honestly don’t want to know any details. 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. We recognize them at their last home game, thank them for their service, give them a bouquet of flowers and wish them well. Then we forget about 99% of them. 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. The 1% that create the lasting memories.
Thank God for that 1%. Thank God for Kenny McKinley.
How about “The Shoulder Bowl?”
To get our minds #Turntoff the D.J. Swearinger situation, I have extracted a portion of the ECU Snap Judgments post and turned it into a weekly feature – the Transitive Property Report. In the TPR I take a look at our 2012 opponents and see if the results of their games can give us a glimpse into how we should be be feeling about our chances against them. As I’ve stated before, there is no real rhyme of reason to the TPR, it’s just how I feel and I make it up as I go. (Plus, I realize we’re not really dealing in transitives for the most part here, just roll with it.) Let’s get it started.
- Vanderbilt - Beat Presbyterian College 58-0. The ‘Dores pick up their first win of the year, but now they have to turn around and face #5 Georgia on the road this weekend. I’m writing off our narrow victory as first game rust, SEC game on the road, etc. Vandy sucks. TPR for Vandy: Did we play them already?
- East Carolina – Beat Southern Miss 24-14. It’s possible the Pirates aren’t completely horrible, but it’s also possible the Golden Ellis Johnsons are. A C-USA win on the road is nothing to sneeze at, so I’m going to give ECU the benefit of the doubt. TPR for ECU: Feel slightly better about us since we completely mauled them.
- Missouri - Beat a pretty decent Arizona State squad 24-20. Somehow I think we’re taking Mizzou a little lightly because of their margin of loss at the hands of UGA. Looks like they get James Franklin North back for our game. TPR for Mizzou: This game scares me a
- Kentucky - Lost to Western Kentucky 32-31, on a trick play 2-point conversion. “Mr. Barnhart, there’s a Robert Petrino on line two.” TPR for Kentucky: We get serious revengeance for our loss there two years ago, and D.J. Swearinger exacts his revenge on form tackling.
- Georgia - Beat Florida Atlantic 56-20. Beating Mizzou on the road is their big claim to fame so far in 2012, which is more impressive than anything we’ve done. I think they’re better than us at the moment, but if both teams are undefeated on Oct. 6, say hello to the biggest game ever at Williams-Brice Stadium. TPR for Georgia: Not feeling too good about this one.
- LSU - Beat Idaho 63-14. LSU has played three scrimmages so far, so who knows if they’re really legit. A game with a putrid Auburn team probably won’t tell us much more this weekend. I think these guys have an unexpected loss in them somewhere down the line, and if they beat Florida on Oct. 6 they might just be ripe for the picking. TPR for LSU: I feel strangely optimistic about this one all of a sudden.
- Florida - Beat Tennessee 37-20. Another big road win for Muschamp and the Gators. I had this one chalked up as a win as I watched these guys struggle against Bowling Green. But two confidence-building wins later I think Florida is starting to dream big again. TPR for Florida: Feel ok, but this one is gonna be a dog fight.
- Tennessee - Lost to Florida 37-20. Not there yet my orange friends, and if the triumvirate of Bray, Hunter and Patterson all go pro, UT may be stuck in neutral for a couple more years. If we were playing in Knoxville I’d call this a toss-up, but at home I think we take them handily. TPR for Tennessee: Money in the bank.
- Arkansas - Lost to Alabama 52-0 (!!!). This is what a train wreck looks like if the train was carrying dumpsters on fire. TPR for Arkansas: Gonna go BEAST MODE on these jokers.
- Wofford - Beat Western Carolina 49-20. Oh goody, the best Wofford team in recent memory, this should be fun. TPR for Wofford: STOP SCHEDULING OPTION TEAMS.
- Clemson - Beat Furman 41-7. Yawn. Three weeks, two patsies and one win over a bottom-third SEC team. The Auburn victory looks a little less impressive every week. (Bonus TPR: Mississippi State manhandled Auburn and then gave up 527 yards and barely eked out a win over Troy 30-27.) We’ll see what CTU can do in Tallahassee this weekend. They could turn my impression of them upside-down with a win. TPR for Clemson: Four in a row seems likely.