Some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 23-20 victory over Florida on Saturday:
Redeemed. So many times this season our beloved Gamecocks have given us moments to breathe easy. Admit it, you know it’s true. Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee – in every one of these games, at some point in the fourth quarter with a two-score lead you’ve taken a deep breath and thought, “ok, we’ve got this”.
Then, inexplicably, we’ve blown each game in colossal fashion. The kinds of losses you typically experience only once every few years, and we’ve experienced three in one season. Following each loss the analyses flowed – the defense, the offense, special teams, coaching, the HBC, Coach Ward, Coach Robinson, Dylan Thompson – all blamed at one time or another, some blamed every time, and some deservedly so.
On Saturday, the eulogy for the Florida game was written. We had blown our lead early, and the Gators were lining up for the field goal that would put the game out of reach with a little over three minutes left. After all, we haven’t remotely shown the ability to rally from one score down, much less two.
A series of events ensued that amounted to a 30-minute roller coaster ride:
- We blocked the field goal
- Then, we moved into Florida territory, but on fourth down a bizarre bad snap and tipped pass that was almost caught ended the drive
- Then, we forced a three and out by the Gators and had a chance to get the ball back for one last desperation drive
- Then, we blocked the punt (!!!)
- Then, we ran an option with no timeouts (???), fumbled, recovered and scored the tying touchdown
- Then, in overtime, Dylan
Many times we were as good as dead on Saturday in Gainesville. But all of those things we’ve complained about this year – the defense, the offense, special teams, coaching, the HBC, Coach Ward, Coach Robinson, Dylan Thompson – contributed to keeping us alive.
In the end, in a season gone south, we got some much-needed redemption.
Team Thompson. If you’ve read this column regularly you know we’ve been staunch defenders of Dylan Thompson for most of the season. Despite one of his worst passing games of the season yesterday, he showed Shaw-like toughness in the face of a fierce Florida pass rush.
Dylan had a signature win against Georgia earlier this year, but our late-game collapses since had diminished the importance of that win. He needed, and deserved, another “moment” with this team, and he got it yesterday.
Here’s to at least one more “moment” to come.
(BTW, Thompson has finally passed the benched Kenny Hill as the leading passer in the SEC.)
Whammy. I’m not going to get too crazy in praise of our defense, but Lorenzo Ward’s defense held only its second opponent below 300 yards this year (Missouri was the other). Florida has struggled most of the year moving the football. However, the Gators’ Treon Harris was a scary proposition given our struggles containing running quarterbacks this year.
Our defensive line seemed to get more push than it’s gotten all year, and the combination of Jonathan Walton and Skai Moore at linebacker showed some promise. Our corners are still mostly young, and still play like their young. But overall the tackling to my untrained eye was the best it’s been all year.
So very special. I wonder what the odds of us blocking a field goal and a punt in one game would’ve been in Vegas? Especially knowing our special teams history? Hard to say, but I think it could’ve made us all rich.
Bet it was a good day at the Robinson household.
The HBC. Facing second and goal with :17 left and not timeouts, I was thinking the same thing as this randomly chosen tweeter:
I mean, he’s right, right? If you get stuffed on a run play there is almost NO WAY you have the time to line up and either spike the ball or run another play. It’s not smart to even think about a running play.
Enter the HBC:
It worked, but it’s still a dumb play and I’m not changing my mind.
And I love Steve Spurrier.
The HBC II. Brilliant, brilliant, call on first and goal in overtime. Running the keeper on first down was the most unexpected down to do it, and it showed based on the reaction, or lack of, by the Florida defense.
Shaq Non-attack. On the downside, what in the world? I’m sad when I think about how much talent Shaq Roland has and he can’t seem to get out of his own way. He can, however, get out of the way of a defender and almost end Brandon Wilds’ season.
I hope he can get it together, and not for the football team, but for himself.
Rival Report. Terrible news came down for Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Georgia’s Todd Gurley, both of whom tore ACLs on Saturday on non-contact plays. For Watson, it’s the end of a season. For Gurley, it’s most likely the end of a tumultuous season and his collegiate career.
I will say this about Watson – I feel bad for the young man and hope he heals and comes back 100%. He’s a talented, talented player and has and extremely bright future ahead of him if he can stay healthy.
On the flip side, I’m glad we don’t have to face him in two weeks. I’m not a “want to face them at full strength” guy. Beating them without Watson will not diminish it one bit for me. Like we’ve had to do in the cases of Connor Shaw (2012) and Marcus Lattimore (2011, 2012), they’ll have employ the “next man up”. If their next guy isn’t good enough, so be it. Not our problem.
Update: Reports came in Sunday night that Watson does not have a torn ACL, only a sprain. Great news for Watson, but it remains to be seen if he will play against USC, and if so how effective he will be.
Go Cocks, beat Alabama!
What? Oh right, South Alabama!