Snap Judgments – 2014 USC @ Kentucky Edition

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Some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 45-38 loss to Kentucky on Saturday:

Remix. If you didn’t read last week’s Snap Judgments, particularly the first section, take a moment to do so now. It still stands.

Blame game. The torches and pitchforks were out in full force Saturday night after the game. But there was no real consensus as to who or what cost us the game. There were several camps:

  • The individuals: Steve Spurrier, Lorenzo Ward and Dylan Thompson were the popular choices
  • The units: Offense and defense mostly, but surprisingly very few blamed the special teams (we’ll get to that)
  • The staff: Poor head coaching, poor assistant coaching, poor recruiting

I will submit to you this was a team effort and there is plenty of blame to go around. Just like last week, and just like the four weeks before that. For the last four years we’ve had excellent coaching, solid game planning, and tremendous talent that led to an SEC East title and three consecutive 11-win seasons. Halfway through 2014 we have been inconsistent (to put it kindly) in all aspects of our play. Try to lay the blame on one player, coach or unit and you’re missing the big picture – we have problems everywhere.

We have had our good moments of course, or we very easily could be sitting at 1-5 right now. At the same time, if we make a couple of plays we could be 5-1 and ranked in the top 10. That’s how thin our margin of error is.

17. I have been a defender of Dylan Thompson since week one. After Saturday night a couple of people took a moment to gloat that I was wrong about him and he is indeed terrible. For those of you who are taking some sick pleasure in seeing him fail, congratulations. Please collect whatever trophy you get for that and set it on your mantle, you done good.

My position on Thompson after the Kentucky game is this – it is time to get Connor Mitch and/or Perry Orth some snaps in a live game. My change of heart is not because I think Thompson is a terrible quarterback. But, he has made some bad decisions and bad throws in the last two games that have contributed mightily to our demise.

My position has changed because our goals for this season are pretty much gone, outside of a bowl bid (lower tier at best) and beating Clemson (highly unlikely). It is time to start building for the future, and Dylan Thompson is no longer the future. Twice in two weeks he has had a chance to march his team down the field to win or tie ball games, and cement his own Gamecock legacy. He has failed. He seemed nervous and panicked both times, and you got the feeling he was just throwing the ball hoping it would fall in the hands of one of our receivers. He has had two really rough weeks, and I genuinely feel bad for the guy.

Unfortunately there is very little left to play for compared to what we believed at the start of the season.

The HBC. Steve Spurrier is testing our patience. He has called two of the worst games of his Gamecock career back to back, and probably what is driving me most crazy are his almost identical explanations in the post-game pressers:

“Oh well, probably shoulda done somethin’ different.”

Come again? We deserve a little better explanation than “my bad!” or “whoopsies!”, which is basically what he’s telling us. How about something like:

“Well, see, they moved their linebackers into the box to stop the run and that created a soft spot in the middle of the field we thought we could exploit by throwing the ball. It didn’t work out because blah blah blah.”

I would literally accept “blah blah blah” as part of the explanation as long as he gave us SOMETHING. Instead he’s content having us believe he’s a stubborn old goat who doesn’t think he owes anybody anything.

(I still love you coach.)

Breakouts. Shouts out to running backs Mike Davis, David Williams and Shon Carson (!) for giving us a great night at the running back spot.

Whammy. I’m honestly torn on Lorenzo Ward. On one hand, he was at the helm of two defenses that were good enough to make us wonder how much longer he would be here before taking a head coaching job. On the other hand, he is currently at the helm of the worst defense in the SEC.

Was he the beneficiary of the Gamecocks having NFL talent sprinkled throughout their defense the last two years? Is he now the victim of not having a single all-SEC caliber player on that side of the ball?

How do you explain Kentucky lining up in the same play and shoving it down our throat over and over and over again? Surely we adjusted to try to put our players in better position on those formations, right? Or were we just beaten at the line of scrimmage by bigger, stronger, faster guys? Is it the Xs and Os, or the Jimmys and Joes?

Ultimately I believe Ward hasn’t forgotten how to coach football. As I’ve stated before, I think our lack of talent, or lack of experienced talent, is killing us on defense and will continue to do so over the next six games. The question is, if we don’t get better and if we finish last in the conference in defense, does Lorenzo Ward become the scapegoat.

So very special. Once again, a decent all-around special teams performance was marred by an untimely breakdown on kickoff coverage. After taking a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter, the Gamecocks allowed Kentucky to return the ensuing kickoff to the 47-yard line on our side of the field. A few short plays later the Wildcats were in the end zone and the crowd was back in it. That kick return might well have been the biggest play of the game.

The way the ball bounces. Finally, has anyone noticed we haven’t had the ball bounce our way quite as much this season, as evidenced by the deciding touchdown Saturday night. How many balls did we bat last night that fell harmlessly to the turf? At least three that I can remember. Kentucky had one, and it fell perfectly into the hands of Kentucky defender Bud Dupree who strolled into the end zone with the winning points. I’m not a big believer in fate, or mojo, or predestiny, but it’s worth noting.

The final word. Look, things aren’t going well, ok? We all recognize that. It’s time for everyone to re-calibrate your expectations based on what this team appears to be – average. We need to all take a step back, calm down, and come out and give this team all the support we can muster. It’s understandable what we’re feeling right now because we haven’t felt it in a long time. It’s ok to vent and be angry, just be careful how far you take it. At the end of the day we’re all Gamecocks and we’re cheering on a bunch of guys who chose to be Gamecocks one way or another. Every coach and player deserves your support if for no other reason than that.

Go Cocks.

7 thoughts on “Snap Judgments – 2014 USC @ Kentucky Edition

  1. Way to go Buck, you’re hitting it right on the button !!!!!
    Unfortunately I thought after the Missery game the guys would have learned a lot and the defense would play with more intensity !!!
    If you had guaranteed me before the game that we would score 35 points on Tucky,, I would say no problem put that one in the W column !!!
    Buuttttttt, couple three things happened that still has my jaw dragging the floor ???
    By no means am I putting Spurrier down, but I saw him lose the game the same way he so often has won games !!!!! After the game he looked about as flabbergasted as I felt,,, We need a couple of guys to step it up on defense and be a leader,,, PLAY TO WIN DAMMITT !!!!!!!!!!!! Lot of people want to blame DT for poor play and the interceptions,,, As I recall one of those was tipped, not much anybody can do about that !
    Yes it’s a shame we lose to the likes of Tucky, but look at where they were coming from ,,, here was their chance to knock off the big boys,,, huh whacha think,,,,, & they played with a lot more intensity than our guys did !!!
    For many many years I have watched this team lose games cause they were missing a very important ingredient ,,,,
    ”ATTITUDE” The last few years our guys have embraced attitude and found ways to win,,,, sorry , but we don’t have that right now !!
    The HARDEST part to understand is,,, ”THE TALENT IS THERE” !!!!!
    But the heart and head is not !! Hopefully in the next couple of weeks they can find a way to challenge one another and perform the way we expected at the first of the season.
    I sent a couple of the guys a note before the JawJa game, calling them out !!! Told em it was time to step it up !!! Well they did,,, those guys were playing like their hair was on fire !!! ha ha in fact one of em got a penalty called on him for a ”little excessive” helmet to the chin play !!! I told him I voted that one as the best play of the game !!!!
    If you’re a true fan and love ”CAROLINA FOOTBALL” as much as I do, then you will realize it’s like family it’s time to stand behind these players and coaches with encouragement and heart !!! No I’m not saying we settle for mediocre but wanting to fire coaches and demote players is not the answer !!!!
    God bless em and ”GOOOOOOOO00000000ooooooooo COCKS” !!!!!!!
    6ix pak coming !!! !!!

  2. I predicted the Kentucky loss. Told a buddy at work that we would lose and sadly we did. I fear that 5-7 is best for this team. I would love to see 7-5 but that would be pushing it. The spin guys on the radio were saying that 9-3 is not out of the question for this team. What team are they watching?

    I still am a Gamecock fan. Always have been. Always will be. But I don’t like what I see.

  3. As you have said on Twitter today Buck, forget this year… if Dylan Thompson is our best QB “by far”, then the immediate future is looking pretty bleak. Has Carolina peaked as a program? I hate to think this way, but I fear it has.. at least for the time being. Plus, when does OBC bail out? If he is staying to win the SEC, he isn’t going to do it with this squad or next years.

    As a side note – what kind of drugs is the AP voter who gave Carolina the vote? What team is he watching?

  4. Regarding your last comment about not getting the good bounces this year… I’ll give Phil Steele credit. In his CFB preview magazine he has a metric that shows which teams had statistically the best luck and are therefore most likley to regress back to the mean (i.e. get a lot more bad bounces than what was typical the preceding season). Guess who was near the top of that list?

    I’m not as upset about this season as I was at first; I’m kind of coming to grips with it being a down year. What does give me anxiety though, is our QB situation. It would be one thing if we were in the midst of a down year due to, amongst other things, youthful and inexperienced QB play, but that’s not the case. I’m worried that while we’ll certainly improve in most areas next year due to experience (and recruting), we’ll be breaking-in a new QB, while other teams do so this year (read: Clemson). I know there’s historical precedent for a back-up or redshirted QB to take the reigns and put up great numbers (Winston, Manziel, Tebow, Newton, etc.), but I get the feeling Mitch isn’t quite as good to this point as we hoped he would be. By next year he will have been in the program three seasons and if he’s not ready by then, we have a problem. I like the QB talent we have coming down the pike in Nunez (and hopefully McIlwain) – we really need a running threat – but that likley won’t materialize until 2016 or 2017 and who knows where we’ll be then…

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