Snap Judgments – Kentucky @ USC Edition

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Some quick, barely researched, not fully formed thoughts from Carolina’s 35-28 victory over Kentucky last night:

Perspexpectations. We’ve been preaching about two things for a while now, both in this space and on our podcast:  managing our perspective and managing our expectations. Personally, I’m now done with perspective. I sat through the worst of times, including a player revolt and 1-21 over two seasons, but those were a long time ago. Even the pizza bowl seems like an eternity ago given what has been accomplished the last three years. We’re a different program, and it’s a different time. Games in the past have no bearing on what happened last night, and what happened last night was we allowed a pitiful Kentucky team to play us, a self-proclaimed top 10 program, to within one score. At night. At home.

I never thought we would have an undefeated season. I even had serious doubts we could win the East. But I did expect us to beat UNC, Vandy, UCF and Kentucky going away. Once is a fluke, twice is a coincidence, three times is a trend. Four times and you know who you are. And at 4-1, I’m a Gamecock fan that is not particularly happy with who we are.

I’m not giving up on these guys or this season, but with three road games and home games against Florida and Clemson coming up, at the moment I really don’t feel good about how this thing is going to end up.

Defenseless. After last night we are fifth in rush defense, ninth in pass defense and sixth in total defense in the SEC. We only gave up 301 yards of total offense last night to Kentucky. Not terrible by any stretch of the imagination. But the problem has mostly been when and how we give up those yards. Late in games our defense is having trouble getting off the field, and against UCF we gave up huge pass plays that kept them in the game. Last night, 191 yards of Kentucky’s offense came on their last three drives. Also, in the last three games the Gamecocks have given up 2/3 of opponents’ points in the fourth quarter.

I wish I was smart enough to tell you if the problem is the Jimmys and Joes or the Xs and Os, but I’m not. I can tell you if it’s the former, we’re in big trouble the next seven games.

Clowney Sittin. We, along with pretty much every Gamecock fan, have been staunch supporters of Jadeveon Clowney this season. He has been under a microscope since early in this calendar year, and since the beginning of this season has been unfairly written about, talked about and criticized. But last night was the tipping point for me. It was obvious the coaching staff was upset that Clowney told them he couldn’t play prior to the game, and that’s a red flag.

I don’t know how hurt JD is, or if he had other motivations for sitting last night. It sounds like the coaches are going to allow him to speak on the subject at some point this week, and I’m sure he’ll give us what he believes to be a satisfactory answer – “I was hurting bad, I would never turn my back on my teammates, etc. etc.” But the real answer will be evident the next time he suits up for USC, and the next six or seven times after that, and how he plays. Is he the old JD Clowney, or is he just going through the motions until April?

I know that Connor Shaw has played through injury after injury, and mentioned last night that he fought to get back on that field because he knows he only has a few games left in a Gamecock uniform. I would love to hear that come out of JD’s mouth as well. But only if he means it.

DE-ssapointing. A lot of people expected Chaz Sutton to have a big season as a beneficiary of all the Clowney attention. Not only has he not had a big season, I don’t ever remember seeing him on the field last night. I remember seeing Darius English, because I remember thinking he needs to eat a few more cheeseburgers, but no other defensive end stood out to me. Besides the brush fire that is our return game, the DEs have to be the most disappointing unit on the team.

Surrat-ticous. OK, enough negativity. Got to give big JT Surratt and Kelcy Quarles props for their play last night. Especially Surratt, who showed he can be a playmaker in the middle.

Team Shaw. In the off chance that there is still anyone who thinks Dylan Thompson should be starting over Connor Shaw, I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you to stop talking. Shaw is currently at the helm of the most prolific offense in South Carolina history, and percentage-wise is the winningest quarterback in South Carolina history. With all due respect to Mike Davis, he is also the MVP of this team.

(To reiterate, we love Dylan Thompson and look forward to cheering him on when his time comes. But that time is not now.)

The Rocket. Mike Davis went over 100 again last night, but his most impressive run was probably a three-yarder on third down late in the game. He was trapped in the backfield, but would not be denied and put the game away. He is easily the most pleasant surprise of the season.

Hampton Inn Out? Anyone else feel like the HBC was talking about Victor Hampton last night when he said “we still got some guys out there doing their own crap” and “we’re going to make some changes”? For the second week in a row Hampton took an extreme gamble and left his guy wide open for a touchdown. Don’t be surprised if he’s not starting next week.

Equipos Especiales. We should really stop talking about how awful our special teams are in such general terms. I suggest we separate the guys who put their foot on the ball from the rest of the special teams units. Elliott Fry, Tyler Hull and Landon Ard have all been quite good. But once again last night we showed we have zero ability to change a game with a return. Unless it’s a fumble.

Go Cocks.

6 thoughts on “Snap Judgments – Kentucky @ USC Edition

  1. While you’re bitchin’ about everybody, especially Clowney, why is it you have nothing to say about the coaches…especially defense? Clowney is capable of playing any position on the defense…teams are coordinating their whole offenses against him, and our defensive coaches just aren’t moving him around enough, therefore he is made ineffective. He probably is hurting he’s double and triple teamed every week, and still manages to make it to the other side of the field where the ball is in play. I think the coaches need to step up and use his many talents so he is more effective, and then maybe he will be more enthusiastic about playing. The way they are using him right now is pointless…honestly poor coaching decisions, do you not see that?

  2. Unless we see improvement in our defense, Arkansas will be tough (though we should win), Missouri is hard to put my finger on since they dominated Vandy but we will see who they are against UGA, Tennessee will be tough if they come to play like they did against UGA, Mississippi State should be a win, we should win easily against Coastal simply because of size and speed, and Florida and Clemson are looking like losses right now. If we continue to struggle on defense, Clemson is going to take out their frustration on the Gamecocks in our stadium.

  3. First, just because I didn’t mention the coaches doesn’t mean they are absolved of responsibility. I have plenty of issues with how Ward is running the defense, especially a lack of blitzes on third and long situations. However, I am less inclined to place the blame on the coaching staff that has led us through the greatest period in Gamecock football history than players I can see with my own eyes making mistakes.

    As far as your Clowney comment, as I said we have defended him to great lengths on this blog and in our podcast. He has played his heart out when he’s been in the game and has been unfairly criticized.

    But, using your words here, “the coaches need to step up and use his many talents so he is more effective, and then maybe he will be more enthusiastic about playing?” Are you saying it’s ok for Clowney to say “I’m not playing” because of the way the coaches are using him? Because that is big pile of bullshit. Players don’t get to hold coaches hostage by not playing if they don’t like the way things are going. If that was Clowney’s real reason for not playing last night, then he’s not much of a teammate and he should move on. Fortunately I don’t believe that.

    Thanks for reading.

  4. I’m not saying its ok, like I said, he probably really is hurt…he is double and triple teamed almost every play….AND with that being said, what do you think it does for his confidence and his morale being used to being a play maker, and all of a sudden coaches are letting him play right into the plan of the opposing team, rather than put him somewhere where he can do better, what do you think that does to his motivation….how much like a teammate do you think that makes him feel? The fact still is that he is bigger, stronger, and faster than just about everybody on any opposing team and the coaches just aren’t taking full advantage of that…I know that, you know that, and everybody else knows that, but most importantly, Clowney knows that…its got nothing to do with holding coaches hostage, why should he go out there and bust his ass to do nothing playing into the plans of the other team?

  5. OK guys here is my theory…what we are seeing from the defense is the direct result of losing two excellent coaches who had a TON of experience, Ellis Johnson (2 years removed) and Brad Lawing. Personally, I think the loss of Lawing is the bigger of the two, esp. for this year. Lawing coached the devil out of Clowney, and made a “physical freak” into a NFL #1 selection. Whammy is a great recruiter, how about we offer him another job and throw a ton of $$$ (ala ClemTech) at Lawing to come back & coach our D? What to do in the meantime? Idk.

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