Snap Judgments – USC @ LSU Edition
Here are some quick, barely researched, not fully formed thoughts from last night’s 23-21 heartbreak in Baton Rouge:
Losing? What’s Losing? I can’t speak for the rest of Gamecock Nation, but I didn’t exactly handle last night’s defeat with grace. Or class. Heck, I didn’t even handle it with baseline adult maturity. I think I’ll keep the details to myself; for fear that I lose all legitimacy with you, our gentle readers.
However, I suspect I’m not alone, eh?
But with the rising of the sun today came new perspective: I think we Gamecocks have all become unfamiliar with losing, and that’s undoubtedly a good thing. Makes the rare defeats sting a little harder, but I’d rather suffer through the occasionally sharp pain than endure that old slow week-to-week torture (the way Kentucky does, for example).
Streaking. Of the myriad storylines that preceded last night’s action, several involved active streaks. LSU was riding a 21 or-something-God-awful streak of home wins, and hadn’t lost back-to-back games since 2008. Carolina was riding the nation’s longest active win streak of ten games and had achieved its highest ranking since 1984. There were other streaks on the line for both squads, but all you need to know is that basically all the LSU streaks are still active, and all the Carolina ones ended with a loud and calamitous thud.
Death Valley. The HBC made a few headlines last Tuesday when he by-accidently-on-purpose forgot about Clemson’s Memorial Stadium “Death Valley” nickname during his weekly presser. I’m not sure he put a ton of thought into the comments, but any intention on his part to establish the Death Valley in Baton Rouge as the REAL Death Valley was right on point. That place is evidently a nightmare.
Everything we did last night looked – I’ll use the HBC’s word – discombobulated. From getting our plays in on time, to calling audibles, to make on the fly defensive adjustments, we looked out of sync. I think it’s safe to say the hostile environment played its part in those difficulties.
Interestingly, last night was only our fourth visit to the real Death Valley since joining the SEC. With the current divisional format, we only make that trip once every five years, so it’s safe to say that few, if any, members of our roster had experience with the place. Maybe the western teams get used to it, I don’t know, but we get reintroduced to the insanity only twice a decade, and I suspect that isn’t frequently enough to get comfortable.
X’s and O’s. Brent and Kirk seemed absolutely befuddled that we took the ball after winning the toss. Don’t know what team they’ve been watching, as we have a pretty firm pattern established there. Regardless, it worked out about how you’d expect it to in that environment, with a quick three and out.
Conversely, I think LSU had their first series scripted out perfectly. It went against all our preconceptions about their tendencies as it was pass-pass-run instead of the opposite. It made our defensive troops think, and as we all know, thinking can only hurt the ball club. We were reeling from the beginning, and played on our heels all night.
Jimmy’s and Joe’s. Maybe I misunderstood, but I thought LSU had numerous linemen that either quit or were injured in the last couple of weeks. I expected an inexperienced and undersized group of bewildered trench men, but that’s not what the Tigers looked like to me. Instead they looked like a big group of beef jerky sasquatches out there in yellow. Not that we messed with ‘em too much, mind you.
Lattimore. 21 had no room. It was clear that the LSU defenders were focused on him like a laser from the outset. That being said, we all certainly thought the Oline could get a crease opened every now and then. Alas, it was not to be. Marcus made one big first down run and another TD dive and they were both 100% Marcus giving 1000% effort all on his own.
Right Handed. Anyone else notice how often Shaw rolls to his right as opposed to rolling to his left? Even on run plays it holds true: On the speed option right he kept the ball for a good gain, but on the following play left he pitched quickly to Latti for minimal yardage. Don’t know what it means, whether it’s a commentary on our left tackle or just Shaw’s preference, but it seems to me that a right handed QB could see more of the field if he rolled left.
Tale of two Damieres. And two DL’s. Both guys made big-time tough catches last week against Georgia, and then missed on very similar throws this week. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, I guess.
Hanging on. The physicality of the Tigers was obvious, and our inability (or unwillingness) to respond in kind was painfully evident. But still we somehow managed to hang in the game. We led at the end of the 1st quarter; we led again at the half. Heck, we even led going into the final period, and but for an unusual Shaw overthrow/pick, we might have led when the clock hit 0:00. No idea how we hung around with a team that was obviously better and in such a batcrap crazy environment. But still we did, and that must speak to our team’s tenacity at least.
Moving on. So let’s flush it. Forget it. Move on. And that should be easy as we have the third straight BIGGEST GAME IN OUR HISTORY coming up on Saturday down in Gainesville. A win down there and we are right back on the inside track.
Go Cocks, beat the Gators!