TRC Unleashed Episode 91 – Everything’s Coming Up Bentley

The TRC trio returns after a short hiatus to discuss a too-close-for-comfort win over UMass and the debut of another freshman quarterback, Jake Bentley. Among other things, the boys discuss:

  • Playing Bentley – good thing or bad thing?
  • What happens now with Brandon McIlwain?
  • Our spooky scary defense
  • How freaking insider TRC is
  • Rubber Chicken Awards
  • Butt rankings (again probably not what you think)

Click here for the link via iTunes, or click the link below to stream, and enjoy!



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Snap Judgments – UMass @ USC Edition



Some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 34-28 victory over UMass:

Test drive. The Jake Bentley era at South Carolina started on Saturday (we think), and the freshman definitely gave us a lot to get excited about during a time in which we seemingly have little to get excited about. Bentley was poised, showed a strong arm and good touch. As Andre Ware pointed out on the broadcast, even though he is young he is not a “one read” quarterback. There were a couple of occasions where he was forced to look to his third receiver before making a throw.

The stage was definitely not too big for Bentley in his first college start, and it was a great first step. But the real tests will come over the next five games, which include a home game against Tennessee and road games at The Swamp and against Clemson. If he can show the same calmness and command in those games, then maybe our revolving door at quarterback will finally end.

Pumping the brakes. With 175 yards on 21 attempts through the first half, it looked like Bentley might have a chance to set some freshman records against the Minutemen. But Kurt Roper went ultra conservative in the second half trying to protect our first substantial lead of the season, and it almost backfired.

Fortunately with 4:32 left in the game Roper took the reins back off of number 4, and it resulted in a 25-yard completion and two pass interference calls that for all intents and purposes put the game away.

Dear Coach Roper, play to win, start to finish.

Back to the Future. This is the fourth time in two years we got a glimpse of our quarterback of the future, this time in the person of supposed-to-be-high-school-senior Bentley. The other three QBoFs have met with significantly different fates – transfer (Connor Mitch), position change (Lorenzo Nunez), bench (Brandon McIlwain).

Bentley was slated for a redshirt this year, and up until Saturday had watched and learned behind senior Perry Orth and fellow freshman and early enrollee McIlwain. Orth was good at times, but was wildly inconsistent and unable to get the Gamecocks into the end zone nearly enough. McIlwain was also inconsistent, and either his unwillingness to throw the ball down the field or the unwillingness of the staff to call vertical plays for him led to his undoing.

Enter Bentley, a good athlete with a powerful arm and an NFL body whom the staff wanted to keep the wrappers on until 2017. Why did they decide halfway through the season to burn his redshirt year? Two reasons IMO:

One, the staff didn’t expect the offense to be this bad this far into the season. Sure, there would be growing pains, particularly if true freshman Brandon McIlwain was the full-time starter, but I don’t think anyone expected to be 128 out of 128 FCS schools in scoring midway through the season.

Two, he improved so much over the first six weeks of the season it was seen as a last-ditch effort to salvage something positive out of this season. I believe Will Muschamp when he said early in the season that he’s not playing for next year, he wants to play the players who give him the best chance of winning now. Despite being halfway into the season, it was obvious the staff thought Jake Bentley gave USC the best chance of winning, for Saturday and beyond.

BMac. So what to make of McIlwain at this point? Hard to say. Some fans already have him filing his transfer papers. Some are still furious that he didn’t get a chance to throw the ball on Saturday, even though his inability to throw the ball is how he lost the job in the first place.

I still think there’s a plan for BMac, and I even think he’ll be given a fair shot to win the starting job in the spring. But in the meantime you might want to look at Kurt Roper’s final year at Duke if you want a clue as to how McIlwain will be used the rest of this year, and maybe beyond.

At Duke, Roper had a very good starting quarterback in Anthony Boone, but also employed backup Brandon Connette frequently. Connette is most remembered by Blue Devils as being a sure thing in short yardage and goal-to-goal situations, and finished 2013 with 14 rushing TDs and 13 passing TDs. Not bad for a backup, eh?

So if you’re angry about how McIlwain was used on Saturday just be patient. I think there’s definitely a plan, and if results in half as much production as Brandon Connette we’ll all be very happy.

DOH-fense. We have all praised the improvement of the defense this season over last, but with each passing game I get more worried. The defensive linemen can’t get off blocks, and with the exception of Darius English can’t generate a pass rush. The linebackers are average at best without Skai Moore in the middle. The safeties are just plain bad. The one bright spot it probably the spot we questioned most heading into the season, cornerback. Chris Lammons and JaMarcus King have been very, very good, and Rashad Fenton has been good in nickel packages.

But with Josh Dobbs and Jalen Hurd coming to town I start having flashbacks to 2014. And that ain’t good.

Bowl projections. Upset Tennessee and we can talk.

Killer Catch. Everybody was all over Jake Bentley’s first career touchdown pass talking about what a great throw it was. The throw was nice, but KC Crosby’s catch was flat out spectacular and deserves more recognition.

Classifieds. Wanted, one person who can catch a punt. Must have NCAA eligibility remaining. Other qualifications: none, just catch a punt.

Go Cocks.


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Snap Judgments – 2016 Georgia @ USC Edition

Sieve. (Photo:

Sieve. (Photo:

I told you so. I was against hiring Will Muschamp. Hated the idea. Thought he was our third choice at best and I was heavily influenced by his failure as a head coach at Florida. I was also against hiring Kurt Roper. Why would you hire the offensive coordinator from the same tenure, even if he was only there for one year? Flush that entire experience, start over.

That said, I sat back and watched Muschamp work. He recruited hard, he said all the right things, and that made it easier to accept the fact that he was South Carolina’s head coach. I did a little research on Roper and found out that, lo and behold, he’s actually not a bumbling idiot. He led some pretty good offenses at Ole Miss and Duke. I decided to wait and see.

So here we are. Half the season is over, we’re 2-4, and we have arguably the worst offense in the country. We have played average to bad defenses every week and are putting up a measly 14 points per game. The offense has been pathetic, pitiful, and depressing. So you know what I’m going to do about it?

Wait and see.

Sure, I’m going to complain about specific play calls and boneheaded coaching decisions such as not throwing to the sticks on 3rd and 4 or continuing to run our 180-pound tailback between the tackles when our offensive line can barely tie their shoes much less block SEC defensive linemen.

But I’m also going to remember along with that incompetent offensive line that ¾ of our offensive two-deep are underclassmen, we have a true freshman and a walk-on competing for the starting QB job, we have kids still learning a new system, we don’t have a feature running back (yet), and on top of that have been dealing with injuries to our two best offensive players. If you already have your mind made up about the coaching staff you’ll cry “excuses!”, but the reality is the previous staff left no experienced talent on the offensive side of the football. That’s not an excuse, that’s a fact.

Whether our offensive woes are the coaches or the players is a chicken or egg debate right now. I’m not smart enough to know the answer, and as smart as you are, you’re not either. So together let’s agree to keep on bitching about the offense, but let’s also agree there is plenty of blame to go around.

Right now, six games into the season, I’m going to refrain for saying “I told you so”. I’ll save that for a time when I’m actually right about it.

Speak, Roper, speak. Full disclosure, I haven’t watched any postgame press conferences and very few coach’s interviews since the new staff came in. But I’m puzzled about why Muschamp is not allowing Roper in front of a microphone at least occasionally. I have no opinion one way or the other on his not letting freshmen speak to the media, but I would certainly like to hear from the guy running the offense. Sure, you’d get a fair share of coachspeak I’m sure, but I would like to believe he’d be asked about specific plays or game situations where he could supply some perspective on his decisions. Until then, Muschamp is just feeding the beast that Roper is that bumbling idiot I mentioned before.

Blame game. You want somebody to blame for this situation, how about Ray Tanner? I still personally feel like the football coaching search was botched. Maybe Tom Herman was never coming here, but why was Justin Fuente seemingly not even on our radar? He’s doing a heck of a job at Virginia Tech now.

I love Ray Tanner. He seems like a genuinely good guy. He brought us the greatest athletic moments in our school history. But what exactly qualified him to be our athletic director? Winning a couple of national titles in baseball and because “he wanted to” shouldn’t have meant he got the job uncontested.

Maybe he will turn out to be a great AD, but if not we are screwed, and that’s my big fear. How do you remove a sacred cow like Ray Tanner from a position like that? It’s very similar to making Todd Ellis our play-by-play man. That was an awful decision that now cannot be undone unless he’s caught on camera kicking a basket full of puppies.

Carousel. I’ve advocated for both Perry Orth and Brandon McIlwain this season, changing my opinion on an almost weekly basis. The reason I continue to change my opinion is I keep hoping the guy on the sideline is going to be a little better than the guy on the field, and it just hasn’t happened so far.

At this point, if we want a chance to win any of our remaining games I think we have to stick with Orth. McIlwain has shown zero ability to throw the football, and his running skills have been much effective than we all expected them to be. As bad as Orth can be at times, he still has the ability to move the team through the air. I still have high hopes for McIlwain. Hell, let’s have some perspective, he’s still only six games into his career.

Meanwhile, there are still those of you in the Jake Bentley camp. I’ll be shocked – SHOCKED – if he doesn’t redshirt. But Muschamp stated after Georgia that every position including QB was up for grabs. If there’s a time to give Bentley his chance, it would be after an off week and against a team like UMass. But he would have to be pretty damn good in practice to throw out that redshirt year.

Good news, bad news. The good news is the defense only gave up 21 points, and two of those touchdowns came on drives of 28 and 39 yards after an interception and a bad punt. The bad news is we gave up 328 yards rushing and let Georgia hold the ball for 10 more minutes than we did.

Even with the bad news, it’s hard not to praise the improvements the defense has made since last year. We’re causing turnovers, creating pressure and are even in the top 5 in the SEC in tackles for loss. At the beginning of the year the defensive backfield looked like a huge weakness, and they are arguably the best unit on the entire team.

Uni watch. Count me among the minority, but I think I like the white helmets and garnet jersey and pants the most of all our uniform combinations. We’re garnet, let’s go garnet.

Next. An open date, thank God. Then we welcome in a pretty bad UMass team in a game where we HAVE to have an encouraging performance and score more than two touchdowns. Hopefully this off week will help us figure a few things out.

Go Cocks.

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Snap Judgments – 2016 Texas A&M @ USC Edition

BAW-some. (photo:

BAW-some. (photo:

Some so quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 24-13 loss to Texas A&M:

In defense of moral victories. Moral victories have a bad rap, and I think older generations such as mine are to blame. I grew up playing sports in a era where winning was the ONLY thing. You win = good. You lose = bad. It didn’t matter if you were winless and took the undefeated team into overtime only to drop a heartbreaker. You LOST son, that sucks, do better next time.

Then when I moved into coaching I tried to pass along that philosophy to the kids I coached. Every season I gave my standard “there are no moral victories” and “winning is fun” speeches. (The second one basically consisted of “So you kids are out here to have fun, huh? Well you know what’s fun? W-I-N-N-I-N-G.”)

We need to really start thinking about what it means to get a moral victory. Because I believe what we got yesterday against Texas A&M, like it or not, was just that. No, you’re not going to hear Will Muschamp or anyone associated with the football program mention those dreaded words. And the Twitter tough guys who lettered at East Podunk High will chastise me for daring to suggest it. But maybe a moral victory isn’t such a bad thing.

First of all, getting a moral victory doesn’t mean that we’re satisfied with a loss and we’ve somehow “arrived” and therefore don’t need to work as hard moving forward. I believe a moral victory properly defined means you performed against superior competition better than most expected, and you have HOPE that you can continue to improve and be more competitive sooner rather than later.

In 2006 the Gamecocks lost a heartbreaker to second-ranked Auburn, and Steve Spurrier admonished the fans for cheering for our team as they left the field. “They thought we were going to get clobbered. We didn’t get clobbered, so that’s O.K.,” Spurrier said. “That’s not O.K.”

I agreed with him then and I agree with him now – to a point. Look at it this way, back in 2006 young teenagers like Marcus Lattimore, Stephon Gilmore, Jadeveon Clowney and Alshon Jeffery were probably watching that game. Since the game was close, they might’ve even thought “wow, Steve Spurrier CAN win at South Carolina, all he needs is a few more players.” And maybe if we had gotten “clobbered” the morale of the team would’ve nosedived and we never would’ve gotten those aforementioned superstars.

Basically what I’m saying is I felt a bit better after losing to top 10 Texas A&M than I did to trash bag Kentucky. I’d be willing to bet our players did as well, whether or not they’d admit it.

There’s still a long way to go, but the little glimmer of hope was back, even in a loss. If that’s what you call a moral victory, then I’ll take it, because the actual victories have been awfully scarce recently.

Revolving door. After week 1 I thought Perry Orth should be our starting QB. After week 2 I thought Brandon McIlwain should be our starting QB. After his performance in week 4, I’m leaning back in Orth’s direction.

One reason I like going back to Orth against Georgia is that McIlwain has shown no ability whatsoever to throw the ball down the field as effectively as Orth. Also, McIlwain has been much less proficient at running the football than I anticipated, which was the main reason I advocated for him in the first place.

Orth looked calm and collected as he threw for 138 yards in fourth quarter action against the Aggies. Meanwhile McIlwain threw for 34 yards in three quarters and had a QBR of 5.8, which I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a number that low.

I know BMac is a freshman, I know he has done some good things, and I know he has been hamstrung by some of Kurt Roper’s play calling. But when we fall behind the chains on first and second down, which we do quite often with our porous offensive line, we need somebody who can pick up chunks of yardage for us through the air. Orth is that guy, and right now McIlwain is not.

If we truly want to win now, it has to be Orth.*

*I reserve the right to change my mind next week.

Rico Suave. I don’t want to be too effusive in my praise of a guy who got the first 9 carries of his career on Saturday, but Rico Dowdle looks like the real deal. He has great size and balance, he’s hard to bring down, and appears to have really good vision. He is the running back we’ve expected David Williams to be the last three years. It’s no surprise he immediately moved into the number two RB spot behind A.J. Turner, and I expect those two to be in those spots for quite a while.

Defensively Speaking. Kudos to the Gamecock defense for holding the high-powered Aggies to 24 points and 422 yards. After TAMU’s first drive it appeared we could be in for a bloodbath, but our patched together squad kept making plays into the fourth quarter. Bryson Allen-Williams and some of the youngsters like DJ Wonnum and Kier Thomas are looking more comfortable each week.

Also, shoutout to Chris Lammons, who we will now stop criticizing. He looks like he’s turned himself into a legit top-notch SEC corner. Love the combo of Lammons and King.

HurstQuake. Hayden Hurst had five more catches for 90 yards and has emerged as the top target in an anemic passing offense. He now has 24 catches for 302 yards on the season. Not bad for a former baseball player walk-on.

Don’t trust college kickers. None of them, not even Elliott Fry. But we still love him.


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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


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



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:

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

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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