TRC Unleashed 90 – Frustratingly Invested

Hey we’re back to vomit up memories of last Saturday’s loss to Kentucky and pre-vomit some thoughts on our upcoming game against Texas A&M. We yell a lot about the state of things but also can assure you we are still invested and in this thing for the long haul. No matter how long that haul may be.

Give a listen through iTunes here or click the graphic below to stream, and enjoy!

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The Day the Music Died

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One-week Heisman candidate Kenny Hill scores against a very confused USC defense.

On Saturday the Texas A&M Aggies return to Columbia and Williams-Brice Stadium for the first time since August 28, 2014. As a South Carolina fan two years ago, everything leading up to that game and that day felt big time. And it felt big time not because of the opponent, but because of who we were.

The Gamecocks were coming off of a third straight 11-win season, a number 4 final national ranking the previous season, and a top 10 ranking at the beginning of 2014. We had five straight wins over our hated rival, who weren’t too shabby themselves. We had a coach who was the toast of college football, a man who had taken a moribund program and turned them into an SEC powerhouse. There was even a Steve Spurrier documentary the night before on the newly launched SEC Network, a groundbreaking new venture for the conference and for ESPN.

The game against the Aggies was the first ever on the new network, and it was a showcase for the University of South Carolina football program. We had a fresh new park adjacent to the stadium, new brick pathways, and an 80-foot idol hanging from the walls of Williams-Brice stadium honoring the man who had made us great.

August 28, 2014 was to be a coronation for South Carolina football, the new kid on the block who planned to be there for many years to come. We were a force to be reckoned with, and we had an 18-game home winning streak to prove it.

Then the game started.

It wasn’t the first drive that was so disturbing. While you’d rather not give up a 9-play touchdown drive to start a game, it wasn’t something to be terribly alarmed about. But when it kept happening, and happening, and happening again…

We were down 31-14 at the half on the way to a 52-28 beat down. The numbers for TAMU were staggering – 680 total yards of offense, 511 passing by some guy named Kenny Hill. They carved us up like they were playing against air.

When the clock hit all zeroes that night, it wasn’t just the end of a bad loss for USC, it was the end of something much larger. It was the end of our relevance on the college football scene. We didn’t realize it at the time, but our program had been rotting from the inside for months. Poor recruiting, poor coaching and coaching hires, and a general laziness around the football office left us the ashes we’re still sweeping up today.

Will we be relevant again? Someday, sure, I think we will. But we have a long way to go, and having the Texas A&M Aggies roll into town this weekend just reminds me of how fast and how far we’ve fallen. I think we can probably expect a similar result this weekend as we had two years ago.

Funny, though, I look at that final score and think, damn, what I wouldn’t give to score 28 points.

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Snap Judgments – 2016 USC @ Kentucky Edition

(AP photo)

(AP photo)

EMERGENCY MEETING. Thank you everyone for meeting here on the flight deck on such short notice. We have an announcement to make and simply felt like it was best to tell you all in person, and as soon as possible. There’s no easy way to say this, so we’ll just come right out with it – we have slipped into a black hole.

This does not come as a surprise to many of you, as you can clearly see that we have been completely surrounded by darkness since our battle last night with the Starship Kentucky. The SS KY will be entering the black hole shortly, their entrance only delayed by having the good fortune of having to battle us instead of a more formidable opponent.

Rest assured, Admiral Muschamp is well aware of the situation and is doing everything in his power to get us out of here. By “everything in his power” I mean he is currently sobbing uncontrollably in his quarters, but I’m sure he’ll pull it together shortly and figure out something to do. I guess. In the meantime, Captain Roper is working feverishly to get the main engines back into working order. He is randomly pushing buttons on the control panel but so far none seem to work. On a related note, we would like to immediately assemble a team of volunteers to assist Captain Roper in finding the keys to the ship. He has lost both the primary and his back-up set.

Listen, we know this is a difficult time for everyone, but we must remain calm and stick together. We have no idea how long it could take to get out of here. It could be years. Some of you won’t make it, but those who do will be better people because of it. I read that on the internet somewhere so I think it’s probably true.

Understand that our former leader, Admiral Spurrier, left us in a very difficult position. Before he left in his escape pod twelve months ago, for some unknown reason, he smashed many of our instrument panels and ripped critical wiring out of our systems. Very strange that he would do that since he helped build most of it. Most odd was that when he left he took ALL of the quilted two-ply toilet tissue with him. Weird dude.

Regardless, you’ve adjusted to using office paper instead of toilet tissue, so I believe you can adjust to living in this black hole for a while. My advice is to try to find other things to occupy your time while on our disabled ship, like your family or maybe a hobby. Make the most of your time here, and start by focusing on the good things in your life, and not this crappy, broken down old bucket of bolts.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m getting word that Admiral Muschamp has requested a ream of office paper.

Offensive. South Carolina once again managed to make a bad defense look good. In their first three games, Kentucky had given up 44 points/520 yards, 45 points/564 yards, and 42 points/500 yards. The Gamecocks only managed 10 points and a measly 268 yards on ten possessions. You’re well within your right as an American to say “yeah, but” and cite our youth, new coaching staff, etc., but honestly that performance was nothing short of embarrassing.

What’s the problem? The symptoms are numerous and unfortunately most will not be fixed in 2016. It’s a porous offensive line, a dearth of playmakers, youth and inexperience at the quarterback position, and poor coaching (call it scheme, call it play calling, call it whatever you want, it all rolls up to the offensive staff).

The first thing can be fixed. Players can play better, players can be coached up, or players can be replaced with other players who can do a better job. With the offensive line situation at least there can be hope.

The second and third things cannot. Fixing the offensive line would help to a degree, but the fact is we do not have guys who are dynamic with the ball in their hands, can outrun defenders or make defenders miss. Bryan Edwards is the closest thing we have, but he is young and doesn’t have a QB who can get the ball to him consistently. Everyone else who touches the ball on offense has proven to be average at best. Recruiting can fix this, and hopefully will fix this as soon as next season. But unless we have a miracle breakout by someone we’re in for a long season.

The final thing – coaching – can be debated until the cows come home. I don’t know if Kurt Roper is any good or not. His history with offenses everywhere but Florida suggests he can be a good OC. But what we saw with the Gators and what we’ve seen so far this year has given cause for concern. Will better players make Roper a better coach? I hope we get to find out.

Punt Boom Punt. Will Muschamp continued his terribly frustrating habit of punting the ball in plus territory in fourth and short situations. He did it four more times last night (FOUR, in TEN possessions). The final time was on 4th and 2 with about eight minutes left, right after back breaking 11-play drive by the Wildcats that put them up by a touchdown. We did stop them and got the ball back with one last chance to win, but it was simply the wrong call. With an offense as anemic as ours, we cannot afford to give possessions away when we get into enemy territory and only need a couple of yards to keep a drive alive.

Modern English. Darius English had three sacks last night, the most by one Gamecock in a  game since Jadeveon Clowney had 4.5 against Clemson in 2012. While his pass rushing skills were excellent, he was pushed around on Kentucky’s game winning drive that featured eleven straight running plays and brought back memories of JoJo Kemp’s 2014 performance against USC.

Nun-YES. I’m getting more puzzled by the day that, given our lack of playmakers on offense, that Lorenzo Nuñez is being held out in hopes of redshirting him. I’m also becoming increasingly puzzled that he was ever moved from quarterback in the first place. I like Brandon McIlwain, and I think he’s going to be a fine QB for us for a long time, but frankly his running skills are not nearly as dynamic as I expected.

Nuñez is bigger, stronger and faster than McIlwain, and proved last year he can make things happen with the ball in his hands. All I’m asking is for a few touches per game. Straight QB runs, screen passes, hell even line him up a tailback. Just give him the ball and let him work.

Hunker down. The easiest part of our schedule is behind us, and we’re 2-2 against teams that are below average (Mississippi State) to bad (Vandy, ECU, Kentucky). I think you know what that makes us.

Five of the eight teams left on our schedule are currently in the Top 25. At least two of them will probably be in the top 10 when we play them. Sitting here today there appear to be two winnable games left on our schedule, and anything beyond that will take a Herculean effort.

To borrow a phrase from one of our hated rivals, you better hunker down, it’s looking like a long season.

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TRC Unleashed 89 – So Many Podcasts

TRC Unleashed 89 returns after an off week – we don’t podcast after losses, so enjoy these moments* – to discuss the ups and downs of the East Carolina win. Among other things the boys discuss:

  • Romantic tailgate misunderstandings
  • Hairy Yankees
  • Feeling good about a D that gave up 500 yards
  • BMac’s first start
  • David Williams’ kinda resurgence
  • Twitter questions, including 15 seconds on the soccer program
  • Rubber Chicken Awards
  • Remembering Kenny McKinley

*Just kidding we podcast after losses. Sometimes.

You can listen via iTunes right here, or you can stream by clicking here or clicking the graphic. Enjoy!

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Snap Judgments – 2016 East Carolina @ USC Edition

(Photo: thestate.com)

(Photo: thestate.com)

Some not so quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 20-15 win over East Carolina:

Fast starters. Last week we lamented the fact that South Carolina had extremely slow starts in the first two games of the season. Against East Carolina we had quite the opposite, scoring 17 points in the first seven minutes of the game. It was fun to watch, but if you were like me you knew this game wasn’t going to be that easy.

Not only was it not easy, the Gamecocks only crossed midfield two more times the entire game (not counting the possession following the late ECU onside kick) and generated three points on an Elliott Fry field goal. There was questionable play calling along the way by Kurt Roper, some more terrible offensive line play, and the inexperience and inconsistency of freshman QB Brandon McIlwain contributed to many a stalled drive. Fortunately this is a very young team, as you’ll see below, and there are flashes of talent. Hopefully reps and consistency will eventually get this offense where it needs to be.

Bent but not broken. We’ve never seen a Gamecock defense make as much luck for themselves as they did with their backs against the wall on Saturday. ECU shredded the USC defense all game, consistently moving the ball with ease into the red zone. But a combination of bad decisions by the Pirates and great plays by the Gamecocks helped keep ECU out of the end zone until late.

First, in the second quarter, the Gamecocks stuffed East Carolina on second down from the one yard line, then Jamarcus King came up with a clutch interception on third down. Next, in the third quarter Chris Lammons intercepted Phillip Nelson at the one yard line to end another threat. The third time the Pirates were knocking on the door, Antoine Wilder jarred the ball loose from ECU running back Anthony Scott and DJ Smith recovered the ball in the end zone.

Throw in a blocked 25-yard field goal by Ulric Jones and that was FOUR trips inside the USC ten yard line that resulted in zero points for the Pirates. That’s a minimum of 12 points and a maximum of 28 points that East Carolina missed out on, both totals that could have won them the game.

But it didn’t, and while that’s all well and good for one Saturday this fall, we cannot afford to let other teams sprint up and down the field on us. The odds are against them making the same mistakes.

McIl-WIN. The main fan fodder of the fall was not if Brandon McIlwain would take over as the Gamecocks’ full-time quarterback, but when. Will Muschamp gave B-Mac the opportunity on Saturday, and at least for the first three series he didn’t disappoint. The rest of the game the offense sputtered mightily, and as stated above it was a combination of factors that contributed.

My biggest fear going in was that McIlwain would not go through his progressions on pass plays and pull the ball down and run too much. Turns out he didn’t bail out too early at all that I can remember, and there were times I wish he would have. More curious was the fact that he didn’t have more designed runs called. I’m not sure if that can be attributed to play calls that forced him to hand off, or that he made bad reads on the option, or something else. (I do feel like he’s better on the edge than in the pocket, we’ll see if Roper sees the same thing.)

Basically I guess what I’m saying now is there is a sweet spot in between my fear of him running too much and my fear of him not running enough. I’m not sure what that is, but I think I’ll know it when I see it. How’s that for hard-hitting analysis?

Lies, damned lies and statistics. These numbers in favor of East Carolina are staggering:

First downs: 34-13

Total yards: 519-212

Time of possession: 38:25-21:35

That tells me they dragged us all over the field. But one statistic was their undoing – four turnovers to the Gamecocks’ zero.

Records are made to be broken…against USC. East Carolina wide receiver Zay Jones continued a tradition of players having spectacular games against the Gamecocks, catching 22 passes (TWENTY-TWO) in the game Saturday, one shy of tying an NCAA record. It was obviously an ECU record, though, and if you’re a college football player who has South Carolina on your schedule you might be in for a very special day.

Kurt-ains. Kurt Roper called a pretty weird game on Saturday, starting our strong but then never getting his offense into any type of rhythm after that. He did put the game away late, however, on 4th and 1 with a speed option to David Williams, his best call to date at USC.

Back running. Speaking of David Williams, it was good to see him back in the lineup running hard on Saturday, picking up 67 yards on seven carries. I’m once again hopeful his troubles (whatever they are) are behind him and he can become our main man at tailback.

Youth movement. Rob Profitt (@BreakinDownFilm) had a great tweet about the contribution of South Carolina’s freshmen on Saturday:

Corner kicks. Yes, we gave up a lot of yards passing on Saturday, but I’ve been encouraged by the play of cornerbacks Chris Lammons and Jamarcus King so far this season. Hopefully we can play more of the press coverage we’ve been hearing so much more about as they get more experience.

Officially terrible. The officiating wasn’t horrible from start to finish in my opinion, but the AAC crew assigned to our game had three of the worst calls/no calls I’ve seen recently. They completely missed a false start on the ECU defense late, they missed an obvious pass interference against Darius English on ECU’s 2-point attempt, and then they had this gem of a pass interference call:

Go Cocks.

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Snap Judgments – 2016 USC @ Mississippi State Edition

White Cam Newton torching us with another big run. (Photo: forwhomthecowbelltolls.com)

White Cam Newton torching us with another big run. (Photo: forwhomthecowbelltolls.com)

Some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 27-14 loss to Mississippi State:

1-1. Admit it, you looked at the schedule before the season started and you saw us opening with road games against Vanderbilt and Mississippi State and you thought, “I’d like to get a split out of those two games.” Two road games, at night, in the conference. Coming out of those 2-0 seemed a little too much ask didn’t it? Of course it did.

Then we won at Vandy, and MSU shockingly lost their opener to South Alabama. We all got a little greedy, thinking we could come out of the first two undefeated.

But the fact is we played poorly at Vandy and barely escaped, and the MSU loss to South Alabama was but a fluke. The Bulldogs came out Saturday night and played with more focus, more intensity, and more desperation, knowing they couldn’t fall to 0-2. Combine that with the fact they were light years better than USC along the line of scrimmage and we got the outcome we deserved.

South Carolina is still a broken football program. Garbage recruiting and poor coaching caught up to us at the end of the Spurrier regime, and now Will Muschamp and his staff have been tasked with fixing it. This will not be easy, and it will not be fast, and we should have known a 3-point win over Vanderbilt didn’t signify some sort of turning point. Muschamp and Co. get a pass for last night, and I submit to you they should get many more over the coming months. That doesn’t mean we won’t get frustrated, yell at our TVs, question play calls and ask why on God’s green earth did we hire this guy. I’m just saying after a few deep breaths we should all take inventory of everything that has happened over the last 18 months and give our staff a little grace.

And right now we should take our 1-1 record, kiss it on the mouth and be thankful. It could be worse, we could be 0-2.

Slow starters. For the second week in a row the Gamecocks got off to a terrible start, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. But unlike last week, the defense joined in against MSU. The Bulldogs picked up almost 200 yards of total offense in their first three possessions as they jumped out to a 14-0 lead. Only a fourth down stop by USC inside their own 10-yard line prevented things from being worse.

Meanwhile, the offense once again went scoreless in the first half. That’s now zero points in the first half of both our games this year.

Hopefully being at home next week will help change things up and get our guys into a groove early. With a young, inexperienced team like we have, we can’t afford to have to dig out of double-digit holes week after week.

QB1. Now the debate begins in earnest. In last week’s Snap Judgments I stated that Perry Orth might not be the quarterback we wanted, but he was the quarterback we needed. A whole seven days later I believe the dynamics have changed. It appears this will become Brandon McIlwain’s team sooner rather than later.

Part of the reason is that Orth has simply reached the limits of his potential. We’ve seen the very best of Perry Orth, and it’s not going to be good enough going forward with the talent we have behind him. I don’t believe we will be “taking our lumps” by turning the job completely over the Bmac, I truly believe he will give us our best chance to win. One of the main reasons I believe that is…

O(MG) Line. Our offensive line was atrocious last night. To Mississippi State’s credit, we were playing against some grown ass men that flat out beat us. But that’s the type of defensive line we will see for most of the season, and we will need someone with some escapability taking snaps. Several people tweeted at us last night, “if our offensive line plays like that it won’t matter who’s playing quarterback.”

Wrong. That’s precisely why we need Brandon McIlwain in the game. He has the ability to elude the rush and pick up positive yardage. He can also keep the ball on those zone reads occasionally to keep the defense honest. Orth cannot do those things.

Yes, BMac will pull the ball down too early at times and he’ll air mail some throws like we saw last night. But he will also get better with time and repetitions, and will ultimately put us in position to win ball games.

Record setters. How many players have set school, conference or national records against South Carolina over the last 20 years? I’m not sure, but if feels like all of them. We seem to have a knack for giving up huge games to not only good players, but also average players. Last night it was Nick Fitzgerald’s turn. This dude looked like a sack waiting to happen, but instead we allowed him to become the white Cam Newton with a school record 195 yards rushing. For good measure he also threw for 178 yards and two touchdowns.

Spreading it around. Out of 20 completions last night between Orth and McIlwain, there were eight different receivers – 4 WR, 3 TE and 1 RB. Hayden Hurst led the way with eight catches.

Ghost of running games past. I’m no X and O guru, but our running plays look eerily similar to the ones from the Spurrier era. I’m sure somebody who has coached at a high level would tell me “yeah but the blocking scheme is different” or something along those lines, but I just expected to see a little more variety out of Roper.

Speaking of ghosts. No David Williams last night. At this rate I’ll be shocked if he hasn’t transferred out of Columbia by the end of the calendar year. So much potential, it’s really disappointing.

On the other hand, it was nice seeing Lorenzo Nunez at least dressed out last night. He’s a guy I feel like could really help this offense. I understand learning the wide receiver position might not be easy, but how about a small package of plays? Maybe a speed sweep, or reverse, or a straight run out of the QB position. He’s shown he can make things happen with the ball in his hands, I just don’t understand why we’re not using him.

Injury report I. I’m stealing this from a tweet I saw last night (h/t @scoatnee36), but Deebo needs to be in yoga five days a week to get those legs stretched out.

Injury report II. This one is a little more of a concern – Chaz Elder. Elder was ruled out of next week’s game against ECU with a “rib contusion”. He was injured on MSU’s first touchdown when he hit Fred Ross as his was crossing the goal line. Take a look at that replay and tell me how that hit resulted in a rib contusion. I’m not saying it’s not possible, but that’s just not what it looks like. As soon as the play was over Tbone texted me “concussed”. And that’s what it looks like – the hit to the head, the way he falls motionless – a concussion.

Elder has a history of concussions while at USC, including two where he was completely knocked out. I’m no conspiracy theorist, but I just don’t like the way this looks. I hope for Chaz Elder’s sake he didn’t suffer a concussion, and for USC’s sake they’re not covering something up.

Go Cocks.

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TRC Unleashed 88 – Nashville

The 2016 football season is underway, and as a service to all loyal Gamecock fans the TRC crew made the trek to Nashville and have a (semi) full report on this week’s TRC Unleashed. Topics include:

  • Sushi at Acme (it’s good)
  • The Gamecock offense (it’s not, at least yet)
  • The Gamecock defense (it’s good, so far)
  • Jeff Dillman’s arm stamina (it’s phenomenal)
  • Questions from Twitter (fantastic as always)

Take a listen via iTunes or click on the graphic below to stream, and ENJOY!

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Things I Learned Over the Weekend

Photo: Yahoo Sports

Photo: Yahoo Sports

Here are a few nuggets after watching copious amounts of football over the last four days. Keep in mind, one game is the smallest possible sample size you can have for every team, so I reserve the right to change my mind over the course of the season. I will also humbly admit where I was wrong as the season progresses (ha, fat chance).

Bama is still the king. The first weekend of the college football season is the absolute worst predictor of how a team will be long-term. Teams are still working out their depth chart, coaches are getting a feel for new players, many times new systems are being implemented. Even veteran squads like the Clemson offense are not immune to first game struggles. First games are scary.

But this Alabama team looked like a well-oiled machine against Southern Cal on Saturday. They were predictably dominant on the line of scrimmage and their defense was what you would expect of a ‘Bama defense. However, the addition of Jalen Hurts gives the Tide a weapon the likes of which they haven’t had in a long time, and maybe ever. If Alabama can win a National Title with a cigar store Indian like Jake Coker at the helm, then Hurts might make them one of the dominant teams of this decade. Everyone else could be playing for second place.

Houston is legit. One of the contenders is definitely going to be Houston. As bad as I hate to admit it, Tom Herman is going to have this team in the college football playoff come season’s end. They are far and away the most talented G5 team ever, and the way they manhandled Oklahoma has everyone taking notice. They only have one real test on their schedule the rest of the way – Louisville on November 11. If they can keep from stumbling they’ll finish top 4.

Nick Chubb is the next Herschel Walker (finally). Georgia seemingly brings in “the next Herschel Walker” every other year. Many have come in with lofty expectations – Sanks, Crowell, Ealey, King – but none have come close to matching the exploits of the great #34. Until now.

Nick Chubb is the leader in the Heisman Trophy race after week 1. He had 222 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries against North Carolina. That’s a fantastic stat line for somebody who didn’t have their knee gruesomely shredded 11 months ago. But having numbers like that after the injury he suffered is almost not human. Chubb is cut from a different cloth, and I will not be the least bit surprised if  he’s hoisting the Heisman in December.

Gus Malzahn has forgotten how to coach. You sometimes hear people say “well it’s not like he forgot how to coach” when responding to criticism of a team’s head man. But with Malzahn you have to wonder. Three years ago he was the toast of college football with his innovative hurry up no huddle offense. But last night against Clemson he not only rotated three quarterbacks (bad idea) but he rotated them within series and sometimes within sets of downs (worse idea). His entire offensive philosophy has made no sense for the last season + one game. A lot of it has to do with the fact he doesn’t have a quarterback he trusts, but at some point he has to ride or die with one person.

Dan Mullen missed his window. Mullen has taken Mississippi State to its greatest heights as a program. He was a hot coaching candidate for several years, and was mentioned in connection with multiple jobs better than MSU (sorry Bulldogs). Whether he didn’t want those jobs or was never considered, he now looks like he’ll be at State for a while trying to rebuild that program. I don’t think any big programs are going to be knocking down his door for his services.

LSU should’ve fired Les Miles. LSU was shamed into keeping Les Miles last winter. Miles had so much public sentiment on his side he didn’t have to make any significant changes to his staff, and that’s a shame because Cam Cameron is bringing LSU down from the inside. Miles has had a great run at Baton Rouge, but they have underperformed and underachieved long enough now that they are going to have to make a change.

TIMG_5821he SEC is mostly mediocre. Outside of Alabama, are you confident there is a top 10 team in the SEC? I think this season could see all of the middle-of-the-packers beating up on each other and you’ll have a slew of teams between 6-6 and 8-4. Does this  mean the SEC is down? Compared to 3-4 years ago, it sure does.

(To  the left is our “Is the SEC butt?” ratings after one week.)

The ACC is a 3-team race. Most think it is a two-team race between Clemson and Florida State. But Louisville is primed for a run at the title under Bobby Petrino. The talent there is better than it has ever been, and Lamar Jackson is the closest thing to Michael Vick we have seen since Michael Vick.

Two and three-quarterback systems will be a short-lived fad. I’ve seen more quarterbacks used in this first week than at any time I can ever remember. I think over the long haul that’s a very bad idea, and I expect by week three or four you’ll see the majority of teams settle on one QB except for possible short-yardage packages.

Team to watch. Oklahoma State.

Player to watch. The aforementioned Lamar Jackson.

Texas is back? As I’m typing this Texas is down to Notre Dame 35-31 in the fourth quarter. But the Longhorn offense has looked excellent under freshman QB Shane Buechele. This makes me happy for Charlie Strong, who is a solid dude and a good coach.

 

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Snap Judgments – USC @ Vanderbilt 2016 Edition

Sep 1, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks place kicker Elliott Fry (29) kicks the winning field goal against the Vanderbilt Commodores during the second half at Vanderbilt Stadium. South Carolina won 13-10. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Courtesy Jim Brown, USA Today Sports

Boom. Congratulations to Will Muschamp on his first win as South Carolina head coach. It was not a beautiful game to watch, but the final result was supermodel hot to Gamecock fans. This team has the potential to be very frustrating, but they showed last night they have tremendous fight in them. In a game where practically nothing was going their way, they stayed within striking distance with a suffocating defense and then finally found a rhythm on offense when it mattered most. It wasn’t pretty, but I don’t think many will be this year. A win is a win is a win, especially a game in conference and on the road.

Anti-Spurrier. Will Muschamp got his first win as South Carolina head coach last night, and while the game looked like some early Spurrier-era games, the coaching style is surely something different. Spurrier was terribly impatient with his offense, and was willing to gamble on that side of the ball even at the risk of putting his defense in a bad situation.

Last night, Muschamp ran out his punter on three straight occasions while in plus territory before halftime on Thursday. The thinking? Pin Vandy deep, force a three and out and get the ball back with good field position. Essentially you trade a three and out by them for a new set of downs for you. It’s a conservative, old school philosophy that is hard to argue with when it works. And two of the three times it did work, except for the part where we go down and score points.

It is also a philosophy that is widely panned in this day and age of high-powered offensive football. Indeed it was widely panned by the guy sitting in section V, row 70, seat 27 last night (that was me btw). But that philosophy preserved field position and helped prevent a momentum shift at a time when the game could have easily slipped away from us. So in that regard, it worked. But it doesn’t mean I have to  like it.

Frysman. What can you say about Elliott Fry. The dude came in as a nobody four years ago and won the starting placekicker job. He has been a steady presence in our special teams ever since. Sure, he’s missed a few along the way, but from inside 40 you never get that “oh god I can’t watch” feeling.

Beyond 40 has been a little bit of an adventure at times, and before his game-winning 55-yarder last night he was only 2 of 8 on attempts of more than 50 yards in his career. But he stepped up and drilled that kick with room to spare in a clutch moment which might turn out to be the defining moment of his USC career.

A Star is Born. People took notice of Bryan Edwards this fall when a photo and then an accompanying video surfaced of him making a twisting, one-handed grab in practice. “Oh boy,” we thought, “maybe this guy is going to be good.”

Turns out this guy is good. In a crowded field of young, inexperienced wide receivers, Edwards last night established himself as the go-to guy with an 8 catch, 101-yard performance against Vanderbilt. He showed it all last night – ability to go up and get the jump ball, ability to make defenders miss, and strength that means it’s going to be very difficult for one man to bring him down. He goes after the ball like it’s his most prized possession and somebody is trying to steal it.

Now that we’ve established that, if we can get some consistency out of Deebo Samuel and have someone step up in the slot (Jamari Smith does not look like the answer) then this receiving corps has a chance to be pretty good.

Turner the Burner. Another freshman (RS), AJ Turner, was a revelation last night. Eyebrows were raised when he was elevated to the number one running back spot, but against the Commodores he showed why. Turner finished with 13 carries for 70 yards, including a critical 20-yarder that set up USC’s lone touchdown. He was shifty and at times powerful despite his lack of ideal size. He looks like the main man at the tailback spot.

Meanwhile, David Williams continues to be an enigma, finishing with 5 carries for 7 yards. In his defense, he had no running lanes when given the opportunity. But then again, that seems to be a common theme in his career.

Orthquake. During halftime Gman asked me where I thought  would go at quarterback in the second half. My answer was Brandon McIlwain was going to go the rest of the way, and was probably going to be the man going forward. I even went so far as to say if another QB came in not named McIlwain it would probably be Jake Bentley.

I had Perry Orth dead and buried, and was shoveling dirt on him when he ran out to start the second half. He then proceeded to do what he does when he’s good – manage the game, make good decisions and put his throws in the right places. (His deep, over the shoulder, third down throw to Deebo was as pretty a ball as you will ever see.)

We have these shiny new freshman quarterbacks we desperately want to take over. But they’re just not ready. Athletically they’re both superior to Orth, but Orth right now is still a better quarterback. We may not WANT Perry Orth to be our QB, but we NEED him to be our QB. He delivered when we needed him the most.

Defensive. No stars emerged on defense last night, but as a unit Travaris Robinson’s squad played a solid game. Now let’s not get crazy, Vanderbilt is bad to very bad on offense, so the jury will remain out for at least another week. But compared to what we saw under the Hoke/Ward plan, it was a damn good start.

Special. Aside from one critical Deebo Samuel fumbled punt, the special teams play was very good.

Out the window. Conventional statistical wisdom says there are certain things you have to do to win a football game, such as win time of possession, limit penalties and win the turnover battle. We did none of those things last night, but that’s cool, we won where it mattered most.

Still, let’s get that corrected shall we?

Home field disadvantage. Five minutes prior to kickoff I tweeted out a picture of a mostly empty Vanderbilt Stadium. The Gamecock fans easily outnumbered the Commodore fans. But to their credit the Vandy fans eventually showed up, even though they still only outnumbered the Carolina fans by a 60-40 margin.

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Buckshots: 2015 Gamecock Flashback

15-fb-mg-cover-300x388This series of audio blog posts recapping every season since 1987 were originally posted prior to the 2013 season. The 2015 season was recorded and posted prior to the beginning of the 2016 campaign. 

The 2015 Gamecock football season began with cautious optimism that Steve Spurrier could rebound the team from a  disappointing 2014 season and get back in the hunt in the SEC East.

Unfortunately, everything went downhill fast after a season opening victory over North Carolina. Losses began to mount and shortly after a historic natural disaster in the the state, Spurrier came to the realization that he wasn’t the man to lead the Gamecocks back to prominence, so he left mid-season.

Shawn Elliott tried his darnedest, but after a 1-0 start to his head coaching career, his team suffered through tough losses to good teams, and then an embarrassing loss to FCS The Citadel. A close loss to Clemson brought to a close one of the most worst seasons in South Carolina football history.

Sound like fun? Hell no it wasn’t fun! But Buck is here to recap every game for you, and remind you to cherish those good times, because they don’t always last. Here’s how to listen:

Stream it here or click the graphic below

iTunes link here

Enjoy!

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