Some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 21-20 loss to Missouri on Saturday:
Fool’s gold. There is plenty of blame to go around for last night’s loss, and that’s not a good thing. If there were a tweak here or there that would fix the 2014 Gamecock football team, all of this would be ok. But there is not.
The fact is we were all fooled. Fooled by the last four years. Fooled that we had “arrived” in some form, and fooled that this newfound national reputation as a contender would be good enough for another 10, 11 or 12 win season. We were reloaders, not rebuilders. We spent the spring and summer patting ourselves on the back over our high preseason rankings. We saw that the media picked us to win the SEC and said, “yeah, that’s right”. We hung an 80-foot idol of our all-time winningest coach and declared it good.
All the while we ignored or explained away that we had lost our all-time winningest quarterback, the most talented player in school history, and a cast of others who were critical pieces in our three-year, 33-win run.
Look up and down our roster and tell me who the superstars are. Aside from the recently emerged Pharoh Cooper, who do you look at on our team and say, “that guy is going to take this game over”. The sad, undeniable fact is this team has a serious talent deficiency compared to the last few years, and a serious talent deficiency compared to the true contenders in the SEC.
There are ways to overcome those talent deficiencies over the course of 60 minutes of football, as we proved against East Carolina and Georgia. But over the course of a 12-game regular season it’s going to catch up with you. And it caught up with us last night.
HBC et al. One way to overcome a lack of talent is through solid coaching and game management. Here are just a few examples of how our coaching staff, led by Steve Spurrier, failed us last night:
- Going for it on 4th and 1 on the opening series of the game – don’t give me the “well, if we can’t pick up a yard we don’t deserve to win” crap. This was one minute into the game, and Spurrier’s arrogance clouded his decision-making ability. I know Spurrier is extremely impatient when his offense is not moving the ball, but don’t contribute to losing the game one minute in. Take your medicine and kick it away.
- Not going for two up 19-7 – holy cow what a blunder. I’m not sure I’m more upset about the blunder or his answer to the media after the game, which was essentially, “we didn’t think about it, oh well, what are you gonna do”. We pay him and his staff millions to manage and coach this team, and this was a really easy decision. Inexcusable.
- Running Mike Davis from the wildcat when we needed a late clock-eating drive. The wildcat is Pharoh’s play, but he was apparently hurting. So, bound and determined to run the wildcat instead of from our traditional set, we snap the ball directly to Davis with no motion and no lead blocker. We gained nothing and put ourselves behind the chains in the most important drive of the game.
- Calling back-to-back timeouts with Missouri at our goal line late in the game. One timeout was a must, but the second? And the announcers said it was because we ran twelve men on the field after the first timeout. It turns out we didn’t need any timeouts because our offense stunk so bad, but still, inexcusable.
It was not a good night for the coaching staff.
Whammy. For those of you shredding Lorenzo Ward, read the first section again. He’s dealing with a pretty bare cupboard. He put together a heck of a game plan last night that shut Missouri down for most of the game. I’m not absolving him of responsibility by any stretch, but the blame can at least be evenly distributed on the defensive side of the ball.
Team Thompson. Worst game of the year for 17 after last week I declared him far and away this team’s offensive MVP. Credit the Missouri defensive plan, which was rock solid, and blame some untimely drops from his tight ends. But Dylan was definitely off last night.
Role reversal. All year we’ve been saying the offense is not the problem, and the defense is a big problem. Last night it was the polar opposite, as the defense shut down Mizzou for most of the game, and the offense couldn’t get out of its own way.
Disappearing act. Shaq Roland has been the most disappointing player of 2014. He, along with Davis, is supposed to be the guy that takes games over when we need him. Instead, he disappears for long stretches of time. I don’t think he even started last night, which tells me he either a) isn’t playing better than the guy in front of him or b) has done something to get him in the coaches’ doghouse. Either one is unacceptable. Time is running out for Roland, he needs to get his act together.
The Outlook. Friends, in light of the Missouri result, the rest of the schedule looks more daunting than ever. Furman and South Alabama are the only games we should mark as wins left on our schedule. Next week at Kentucky is now a toss-up. At Auburn? Yuck. Tennessee played well at Georgia yesterday, so that game moves into the toss-up category instead of the revenge beating we hoped it would be. Florida is still bad, but at this point there’s not much reason to believe we will go into The Swamp and win, so that’s a toss-up.
Clemson? Let’s just say I wouldn’t be warming up any fingers on your other hand.
But, always and forever, through the good and the bad, Go Cocks!