Snap Judgments – Clemson @ USC Edition

Sweet Victory

Here are some quick, barely researched, not fully formed thoughts from last night’s breathtaking 34-13 victory over the CTU Tigers:

Satisfying. Have there been bigger or more important wins in South Carolina’s football history than last night? Yes. Have there been wins that were more satisfying? I don’t know, man, I don’t know. Maybe I’m still just giddy in the afterglow of such a monumental ass-kicking of our hated rival, but I can’t think of a time when I’ve enjoyed a win more than last night. Right now food tastes better, my wife is more attractive, my bad back doesn’t hurt nearly as much, and Tbone and the Gman are slightly less annoying. “Beat Clemson” is an amazing tonic.

In their heads. As a long-time Gamecock fan one of the things that always annoyed me was that Clemson seemed to have a mental edge over us. No matter the teams’ records or rankings, CTU always came into the game with a swagger while we looked like we were just a little bit afraid. If you want evidence this rivalry has changed, look at the body language and eyes and actions of the CTU players from last night: the worm has turned my friends.

The Gamecock players KNEW they were going to win. They KNEW they were facing an inferior opponent and were going to take the fight to them. They trusted their skills, they trusted the game plan, and they flat out intimidated the Clemson players. When CTU rallied to tie the  game at 10, there was no panic, no real momentum shift. On the next possession we just took the ball down the field and scored because we knew we were better and knew we could. It was a glorious thing to see, and I look forward to seeing it again.

The HBC. I’ve been critical of how this season has played out on more than one occasion, but watching the end of the game last night was just more confirmation that Steve Spurrier has taken us to heights we never could’ve achieved otherwise. An SEC East title and nine wins last season. Ten wins this season. With a bowl victory we could finish with a top 10 national ranking. Three straight wins over Clemson and an 8-0 record over two years over UGA, Tennessee, Florida and CTU. Not too shabby. Thanks coach.

I got this. Since taking over at quarterback Connor Shaw has just kind of “been there”. Aside from a huge passing game against Kentucky and one spectacular run against El Cid, he’s managed games, made plays when he had to, and led this team to victories. But we all wanted more. We wanted to see the guy take this QB job by the stones and not let go. And last night Shaw played better than we ever could’ve dreamed. He took the game over on offense, using his legs to churn out 107 yards on the ground, and was super efficient through the air going 14-20 for 220 yards and three TDs with no interceptions. If he can play like this for two more years, we’ll be hell to deal with.

1. I don’t know about you, but Alshon’s TD catch near the end of the game was pretty emotional to me. The guy came into the season on the cover of SI and all over All-American lists, but has had a very sub-par season. To my knowledge he’s never complained or acted like a diva and has often said he’s only concerned about winning. To see him make that very Alshon-like grab in the back of the end zone was (and I know I’ve already used this word) satisfying.

It made me happy for him above all, because he deserved that moment. If that’s his last catch in Williams-Brice stadium, then let’s frame that sucker and salute, because we won’t ever see another guy quite like #1 in a Gamecock uniform.

31. Another guy who may have played his last game in Williams-Brice, Kenny Miles came in and played the best he’s played since the Clemson game two years ago. Good for you Kenny, and thanks.

Play of the game. Clemson had just kicked a field goal to tie the game at 10 and had seized some momentum. We moved the ball into their territory and were facing a 4th and 2 with 3:43 left in the first half on the Clemson 38-yard line. Tbone texted me “What do you do here” and I responded “No idea, but I have a sneaking suspicion this is the play of the game coming up”. What we did was run a very simple zone play right up the gut with Miles that picked up seven yards. We scored a touchdown a few plays later, and though we didn’t realize it at the time, the rout was on.

D is for Defense. About midway through the year CTU’s offense was scary to watch. They ran fast, they ran with precision, and they had players with mad skills dotting the field. The problem, however, was they were playing against some pretty bad, untalented ACC defenses. What they ran into last night was unlike anything they’ve seen since…well, since the South Carolina game last year. The Gamecock D was crazy good last night, harassing Tajh Boyd and showing his early season Heisman candidacy was nothing but fools gold. The front four of Ingram, Taylor, Robertson and Clowney got steady pressure all night. The linebackers played very well. And the defensive backfield had Watkins and Hopkins and company covered like kudzu. Props to Ellis Johnson.

6. Man I’m going to miss Melvin Ingram. What a season.

7. Man I’m going to enjoy watching Jadeveon Clowney the rest of his career. He was out of control on a lot of plays last night, but was inches from decapitating Boyd on several occasions, and finally got him at the end of the game. When Clowney was cleared to play Scott Hood of Gamecock Central had a puzzling tweet about him saying something along the lines of “don’t expect much from him he hasn’t practiced much this week due to the concussion.” Look, defensive end is not a thinking man’s position compared to a lot of other spots on the field. I have a feeling Clowney’s assignment last night was “see ball, get ball”, and for a young man with his skills you don’t need a whole lot more than that.

Not so special teams. Wow we need to get the third phase of our game fixed. Big time.

All right, gotta get to church, but we’ll talk about these things and a whole lot more on TRC Unleashed tonight at 6 p.m.

Go Cocks!