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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.

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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!

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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.

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!

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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!

 

TRC Unleashed Episode 69 – The ECU Review

TRC Unleashed is back this week with a verbal review of the East Carolina game, as well as a sort of preview of the Georgia game. Among other things, you’ll hear:

  • Tbone and Gman struggle with a 1989 pop culture reference
  • How the defense rebounded from that game we’ve forgotten about who did we play again?
  • How the return of the real Mike Davis sparked the Gamecocks
  • Other offensive stars, including our starting quarterback
  • Rubber Chicken Awards
  • Todd Gurley gets compared to Darren McFadden oh God why did we bring that up

All this and SO MUCH more!

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

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Dylan Thompson vs. ECU – All 38 Throws

(Stephen B. Morton, AP)

(Stephen B. Morton, AP)

As stated in my Snap Judgments for the week, I’ve been somewhat surprised by how critical Gamecock fans have been of Dylan Thompson the first two weeks of the season. I only watched the Texas A&M game once (live, and that was more than enough), so I decided to take a look at the ECU game and Thompson’s performance a little more closely to see what I might be missing.

I went through all 38 passing plays, and looked at Thompson’s accuracy and, as best as I could tell with limited video, his decision-making. I also looked at the performance of his receivers and some of their route running and where there were egregious drops. I have no formula to determine how he graded out, but will allow you, the reader, to determine if you feel better or worse about his performance on Saturday.

First Possession

No pass attempts

Second Possession

1st and 10 at SC 22 – Dylan Thompson pass incomplete to Nick Jones over the middle

Watching the game live, the first thought is “bad throw”. However, if you slow it down you’ll see that while the pass is definitely a little high, it is a very catchable ball. I think if you ask Little Nicky Jones, he would tell you he should’ve caught it. I think Steve Spurrier would say the same.

2nd and 10 at SC 22 – Thompson pass intended for Shaq Roland, tipped by Roland and intercepted by ECU

Roland runs a standard hitch route, and settles in his spot but the throw sails to his right. Probably a bad throw all the way, although only Thompson and Roland know if Shaq hit his spot. We have to at least consider the possibility the ball was where it was supposed to be and Roland was not exactly where he was supposed to be. But, we’ll put the blame on Thompson for this one.

Third Possession

1st and 10 at SC 30 – Thompson pass incomplete to Damiere Byrd

Byrd runs a deep post, a play he has been successful on a few times in his career, and Thompson simply overshoots him. Byrd has a corner running with him all the way, so it’s not a huge miss. Sometimes you take a shot deep, and occasionally it works. This time it didn’t.

2nd and 10 at SC 30 – Thompson pass complete to Pharoh Cooper for 5 yds

Shallow crossing route by Cooper, Thompson throws slightly high, but a linebacker is draped all over Pharoh and drops him right after the catch.

2nd and 10 at SC 43 – Thompson pass complete to Roland for 13 yds

Another hitch route by Roland, this time to the other side. Thompson drops three steps out of the shotgun and fires a strike. Good technique, good throw.

1st and 10 at ECU 44 – Thompson pass complete to Jones for 6 yds

Here we go – the first WR screen of the night. Critics will note that a high percentage of Thompson’s completions came on “easy” wide receiver screens. I’ll give you that it’s one of the easier throws he has to make in this offense. The good news is he was perfect on every one Saturday night, and we’ve seen some imperfect wide receiver screens in our not so distant past. (cough…Garcia…cough)

Fourth Possession

1st and 10 at 50 – Thompson pass incomplete to Byrd

Another deep throw, this time down the left sideline. Thompson’s throw is perfect, but Byrd’s right arm is held by the ECU cornerback so he can’t extend for the catch. ECU was the beneficiary of a similar play earlier in the game where pass interference was called. Here it was not.

2nd and 10 at 50 – Thompson pass complete to Cooper for 19 yds

Cooper runs a deep out route, and Thompson shows his arm strength with a long throw across the field. Good route, very good throw for a nice pickup.

1st and 10 at ECU 31 – Thompson pass incomplete to Busta Anderson

Interesting play here as Anderson runs a shallow cross, pauses briefly and then starts to move again. Thompson throws to the spot where Anderson slows down, and the pass is behind him. I truly don’t believe this is a bad throw by Thompson. I think it’s either a miscommunication between 17 and 81, or Anderson just ran a bad route. Color analyst Kelly Stouffer initially says it’s an errant throw, but then on replay says the route could’ve been run better.

2nd and 10 at ECU 31 – Thompson pass complete to K.J. Brent for 10 yds

Very good route by Brent here, I believe it’s a hitch similar to what Roland had run earlier but a little shorter. Brent settles into the crease between defenders and Thompson threads the needle. Nice looking play for a first down.

1st and 10 at ECU 21 – Thompson pass incomplete to Brent

There are a small number of what I would consider bad throws by Thompson on the night, and this might be the worst. Brent runs a skinny post and is blanketed all the way. Thompson trusts the route and throws to the spot where he thinks Brent will come open, but he throws behind and is lucky to not be intercepted.

3rd and 10 at ECU 21 – Thompson pass incomplete to Anderson

Thompson is flushed out of the pocket and throws against his body to Anderson about 12 yards away. It hits Anderson in the numbers and he drops it. Don’t know if he would’ve picked up the first down, but he had room to run.

Fifth Possession

2nd and 5 at SC 29 – Thompson pass complete to Jones for 4 yds

Screen, nothing to write home about.

1st and 10 at SC 38 – Thompson pass complete to Cooper for 7 yds

Similar route to Brent on the previous series. Not a perfect throw, but not one that Cooper would complain about either.

2nd and 3 at SC 45 – Thompson pass complete to Roland for 31 yds

Screen. Roland does all the work here. He’s slick in the open field.

2nd and 8 at ECU 22 – Thompson pass complete to Mike Davis for 19 yds

Wheel route to Davis, and the prettiest throw of the night down the left sideline. Thompson hits him in stride, and with a little field awareness 28 would’ve had a touchdown.

Sixth Possession

2nd and 6 at ECU 42 – Thompson pass complete to Roland for 18 yds

Screen, another nice run by Roland.

1st and 10 at ECU 24 – Thompson pass incomplete to Jerell Adams

Here’s the play that interests me the most. Stouffer on the broadcast got all over Thompson for making a bad decision here. I don’t agree. Dylan had two choices – take a shot near the goal line with Adams, or hit the check down to the RB and get a few yards. There are definitely times to go to the check down, but I don’t blame 17 for taking a shot here. Adams is bracketed by a corner in front and a safety behind. Thompson throws a laser into the smallest of windows, just out of reach of the corner. Yes, the ball is high because it has to be for Adams to have any chance to catch it. Adams leaps and the ball hits him in the hands, but the safety comes in from the back and lays a lick on him and the ball falls to the turf. Again, watch the throw, it is perfect. When Steve Spurrier said the receivers are going to have to start coming up with some tough catches, I guarantee you he had this one in mind.

2nd and 10 at ECU 24 – Thompson pass incomplete to Jones

If first down was the good, then second down was the bad. Thompson goes for the touchdown in the corner to Jones. The problem is ECU is playing deep safeties across the field and the play never has a chance. Another one we’re lucky wasn’t intercepted. Just a bad play call, and/or bad decision.

3rd and 10 at ECU 24 – Thompson pass incomplete to Roland

And third down was the ugly. Roland is open over the middle and Thompson throws high. I initially thought this was another one of those tough catches that has to be made, but even with Shaq’s leaping ability he barely got fingertips on it.

For the Thompson detractors, if you want a series to complain about, this is probably your best bet.

Seventh Possession

2nd and 3 at SC 38 – Thompson pass complete to Cooper for 5 yds

Screen.

1st and 10 at SC 43 – Thompson pass complete to Jones for 11 yds

Another screen.

1st and 10 at ECU 46 – Thompson pass complete to Cooper for 9 yds

Say it with me – screen.

2nd and 1 at ECU 37 – Thompson pass complete to Davis for 4 yds

This time receivers run downfield routes. Thompson goes through his progressions and decides to dump it off to Davis. Smart move.

1st and 10 at ECU 33 – Thompson pass complete to Roland for 12 yds

Nice play here by Thompson and Roland. Both recognize the corner blitz at the snap. Roland breaks off his route, and Thompson fires a strike to not only avoid a sack, but pick up another first down.

2nd and 14 at ECU 25 – Thompson pass complete to Brandon Wilds for 9 yds

Nice middle screen, Thompson doesn’t have to do much here.

3rd and 5 at ECU 16 – Thompson pass complete to Brent for 16 yds for a TD

Easy throw here for Thompson to Brent as the Gamecocks go trips left and ECU has a breakdown in their secondary. Their missed assignment gives us an easy six.

Eighth Possession

2nd and 6 at SC 49 – Thompson pass complete to Jones for 13 yds

Crossing route behind the linebackers and in front of the DBs. Thompson finds a window and makes a nice throw.

2nd and 6 at ECU 34 – Thompson pass complete to Jones for 10 yds (offensive holding penalty on Cooper)

Screen.

2nd and 4 at ECU 34 – Thompson pass complete to Roland for 7 yds

Yawn, screen.

1st and 10 at ECU 27 – Thompson pass incomplete to Roland

Screen DROPPED. Guess even we were getting bored with the screens.

2nd and 10 at ECU 27 – Thompson pass complete to David Williams for 6 yds

First catch of the redshirt freshman’s career on the check down.

3rd and 4 at ECU 9 – Thompson pass incomplete to Rory Anderson

Maybe the most frustrating throw of the night from Thompson. He does a nifty job of eluding defenders, then overshoots Anderson in the back of the end zone. I’m not going to say it was an easy throw given the duress he was under, but it wasn’t that difficult either.

Ninth Possession

1st and 10 at SC 12 – Thompson pass complete to Roland for 6 yds

Rollout by Thompson, low throw, Roland slips down.

2nd and 4 at SC 18 – Thompson pass incomplete to Roland

Dangerous throw into double coverage here. Fortunately both defenders were behind Roland.

3rd and 4 at SC 18 – Thompson pass complete to Davis for 5 yds

Check down to Davis here for a critical first down. At least it looked like a check down. As fast as he got rid of it he may have known that was his best option to get the first.

1st and 10 at SC 23 – Thompson pass complete to Shaq Roland for 7 yds

Hey look, a screen.

2nd and 8 at ECU 25 – Thompson pass complete to Adams for 14 yds

Final throw of the night, a beauty on a play action to Adams. Once again Dylan shows nice touch.

I’m not sure what all of this means, but when I watched the pass plays back again it honestly made me feel better about 17, and I didn’t feel particularly bad in the first place. I didn’t see an abundance of bad throws or bad decisions, the two things I kept hearing Saturday night.

Understand, I don’t think Dylan Thompson is going to be a first-team all-SEC at the end of the year. But I also don’t think he’s going to get benched this season for any other reason except an injury. My hope is that even though he’s a veteran he’s still adjusting to this being HIS team, he’ll settle down and have a very solid season for us.

 

Snap Judgments – ECU @ South Carolina Edition

Gerald Jr. - the big one - with the spike. (photo courtesy of thebigspur.com)

Gerald Jr. – the big one – with the spike. (photo courtesy of thebigspur.com)

Some late, quick, barely researched, not fully formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 33-23 victory over East Carolina University:

Defensive. We started last week’s Snaps with the defense after they gave up record yardage and 52 points. So we’ll start with them this week too since they didn’t.

The ECU game started much where the Texas A&M game left off, with a confused looking bunch of guys chasing a fast-paced offense with what looked like little hope of slowing them down, much less stopping them. But after three Pirate drives (two of them being more than 80 yards) netted them 13 points, the Gamecocks settled down and held them to ten points the rest of the way. I’m not a smart enough football guy to tell you what changed scheme-wise, but I can tell you I saw a bunch of younger guys growing up under the lights. I saw a confidence and emotion that was completely absent last week.

We still have a talent deficiency at defensive end that we are simply not going to be able to overcome this year, and our linebacker group hasn’t been as good as we expected them to be so far. We are going to have to resort to some creative blitzes to get pressure on quarterbacks, and hope our young secondary continues to improve. Last night wasn’t great, but it was a step in the right direction.

Our Gurley. While we’re talking about defense, it’s good to see TJ Gurley back to his pre-injury self. As a true freshman he was impressing and getting valuable playing time before a devastating knee injury against Florida. It’s taken him a while to get back, but he’s starting to look like he could be a leader in our defensive resurgence.

The Rocket. Offensively, we saw how important it is for Mike Davis to stay healthy and in the lineup. I tweeted during the game that he was running like he was pissed off, which apparently he was because of the doubters that surfaced after last week’s game. I don’t care what his motivation is, whether it’s real or imagined slights, as long as he stays in the game and gives us the effort we saw last night.

Brandon Wilds was again adequate as Davis’ backup. Wilds is never going to be the home run threat Davis is, but he’ll get you 5-6 yards if the play is blocked correctly, and is a good, dependable option coming off the bench. After those two, we still don’t know what we have in one guy (Williams) and know all too well what we have in the other (Carson).

Just pray MD28 stays healthy.

Killin’ Dylan. The vitriol continues to pour in about the play of Dylan Thompson, despite the fact he is currently third in both passing yardage and total yardage in the SEC. Now, I do know enough about football to know that yardage is only part of the story. And I realize Dylan has some problems with accuracy and decision-making (maybe) that he’s going to need to correct if we are going to have any chance to make some noise in the East this year. The frustration of the eight quarters we’ve played so far have only exacerbated Thompson’s mistakes and has made him a convenient target for criticism.

But, I don’t see play so bad that he should be benched. Far from it. I see a guy who has been in this system for five years and has played in some huge games over that time, and played well more often than not. He’s struggled at times over the first two games, no doubt. But he has also made some good throws to boot. He also has the respect of the head coach and the respect of his teammates to lead this offense week in and week out. That’s good enough for me. I can use my bitching energy much more effectively in other areas.

A Very Special Teams. For once, not only did our special teams not hurt us, they actually made a significant contribution*. Big Gerald Dixon Jr. had our first FG block since (insert researched answer) which led to points for us before halftime. Besides that, we had very few UGH moments on special teams last night.

*Elliott Fry is not considered part of special teams for the purpose of this discussion. Dude is solid.

Shon. Permanent UGH.

Why is he still returning kicks. One of the most baffling decisions of the Spurrier era.

Shaq Back. Shaq Roland over his first two years has been a medium range to deep ball threat and not much else. But last night we saw the type of ball skills he showed off while winning Mr. Football at Lexington High School. On his wide receiver screens he showed speed and shake that I wasn’t sure he had. I’d love to see him get more opportunities in open space, and I’m sure that’s coming.

King Tuttchdown. Pharoh has a bad attitude. No no, not that kind of bad attitude. You know, the good kind of bad attitude, the kind you want on a football field. I love the way he fights for every yard and looks like he’s mad he didn’t score after every play. We need more bad attitudes like that.

Power O. The last drive of the game for USC was 18 plays and 83 yards that ended in the game-clinching field goal. After four passes to start the drive, the Gamecocks ran what appeared to be the same play nine times in a row, demoralizing the Pirates along the way. It was a great performance by our much-heralded offensive line, and was fun to watch. Now, will we be able to do that when we get back to SEC play?

The HBC. Steve Spurrier had a very interesting comment after the game on Saturday: “(Our fans) are starting to realize what kind of team we are.” Sounds like to me he’s lowering expectations. Let’s hope it’s just a motivational ploy. But given Spurrier’s brutal honesty, I just don’t know.

The bad news. When I look at our schedule, it’s a lot easier for me to find losses than wins. Auburn at Auburn was generally considered a loss heading into 2014, but now swing games like Georgia, Florida and Clemson feel like losses. Missouri at home is no pushover. Kentucky on the road and Tennessee at home look tougher today than they did two weeks ago. Is it possible we actually go from SEC East favorites to missing out on a bowl game?

The good news. Two weeks does not a season make. We have a chance to make everything right with a win over Georgia on Saturday. Our guys will be ready, will be emotional, and will give Georgia our best shot. I’m confident of it. A win and all our goals are back on the table. Even with a loss, while an SEC title is out of the question, a good performance could give us the confidence boost we need to have a very good season and finish with a fourth straight season of double-digit wins.

No matter how it goes, we’ll be back, week after week. We hope you’ll continue to join us.

Go Cocks.

 

 

 

 

TRC Unleashed Episode 68 – The Texas A&M Review

The TRC crew returns with the first game review of the 2014 season, and it ain’t pretty. The trio goes over the defensive, offensive and special teams failures from Thursday night, and even offers up some nuggets of advice for the coaching staff. Listen up, and you’ll hear among other things:

  • Is this the worst opening loss for South Carolina…ever?
  • Is it the worst loss since the last game of 2003?
  • Tbone tells us how to fix the defense, beginning with moving Brison Williams back to safety
  • We wonder why so much grief was heaped upon Dylan Thompson
  • We wonder why Shon Carson is still returning kickoffs
  • Some surprising Rubber Chicken Awards
  • A recap of other SEC games, including that Georgia-Clemson things
  • A far from comprehensive preview of East Carolina
  • Some NFL Gamecock news, and why Connor Shaw never had a prayer to make the Browns 53-man roster

Come commiserate with us, won’t you? Click here or click the graphic to listen, and enjoy!

TRC-Unleashed-Button

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