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.
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.