Some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 35-17 loss to Clemson on Saturday:
Broken. The streak ended on Saturday, and based on what we’ve seen from the South Carolina football team this season it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone. Due to a stunning drop in talent level on defense and perhaps the worst collective coaching job of the Steve Spurrier era, the 2014 regular season came to an end with a resounding thud at Memorial Stadium.
After the Gamecocks’ initial touchdown it felt like what we’ve been saying all year long – “we’re in their heads”. Something about the block C and fighting Gamecock on the sides of those white helmets and the legendary HBC on the sidelines made the Tigers of Clemson quake in their cleats. The thought of another senior class not experiencing victory over South Carolina was running through the minds of all those in orange, and it was distracting them.
Except it wasn’t true. Not this time.
The game against Clemson on Saturday felt like something from the 80s or 90s, and it was something we haven’t experienced for a number of years. Clemson was the better team almost across the board – bigger, stronger, faster and more talented at most positions on the field, and it showed. Dylan Thompson ran for his life all day. We had lost yardage plays on first down seemingly every other set of downs. Our defensive ends froze while Artavis Scott of Clemson streaked by them on the Tigers’ horizontal “pass” play.
After the first Thompson turnover, it turned out they were in OUR heads. And it was there they set up shop all day.
What now, Steve? The next few days and weeks will be very important to the future of our football program. The fan base has been calling for the head of Lorenzo Ward for the majority of the season. Spurrier has been in Ward’s corner for most of the year, but when asked about staff changes yesterday he simply replied it “wasn’t the time to talk about that.”
Will Spurrier fire Ward and put on a full-court press to get Will Muschamp? Will he keep Ward and instead fire Deke Adams and Kirk Botkin as scapegoats? Or does he keep most of the defensive staff together for fear of losing members of his highly ranked 2015 recruiting class? I think the only thing that is certain is that he has to do something to show he cares about fixing this historically bad defense.
Of course, if you listen to perennial pot-stirrer Josh Kendall of The State, there’s still the issue of whether Spurrier is going to come back at all. Rumor has it Spurrier has turned over most of the play calling duties to Junior the last few games, a part of the game he has admittedly loved more than anything. Could this be a sign?
I doubt it. Spurrier is too much of a competitor to go out with a 6-6 team while he still has a breath in him. My belief is going into this season he felt like he had the program on solid footing and could just “roll the ball out there” and win 8-9 games going forward. After this year, he might have to work a little harder than he expected, but I fully expect him to do just that.
By “fully expect” I mean “I hope”.
Team Thompson. Dylan Thompson had a pretty bad game yesterday while becoming the Gamecocks’ single-season passing leader. He made some poor decisions and poor throws, but in fairness was under extreme pressure from the formidable Clemson defensive line all game long.
Still, there were people on our timeline last night bidding “good riddance” to Thompson, not for his performance yesterday, but for his performance all season. And I guess it finally hit me, Thompson’s biggest downfall this season was that he was not Connor Shaw.
He didn’t lead our team to a record number of wins. He didn’t lead a miracle comeback at Missouri. He didn’t make plays with his legs. He didn’t get aid from a stingy defense laden with NFL talent. He simply made the mistake of following the guy who did.
Look folks, if you have your mind made up about Dylan Thompson and haven’t changed it at this point, nothing you read here is going to help. But God help Connor Mitch next year if he isn’t Connor Shaw.
Pharoh. Didn’t get enough touches yesterday, it’s as simple as that. Going forward, I think there’s a chance he plays quarterback next year, but I really hope he doesn’t. If he does, we become a run-first and run-often offense, and that’s mainly because he can’t throw the football because his mechanics are awful. Please don’t take that as a knock on Pharoh either, he’s our offensive MVP. But as a wide receiver.
Damn lies and statistics. Bear with me for a moment while I go old man on you. Does it bother anyone else that Deshaun Watson gets credit for a completed pass on ball that could’ve just been an easily handed off? And I’m not saying this because it’s Watson or Clemson, this goes for anyone who runs that play.
Watson got credit for passing touchdowns of 53 and 70 yards for a ball he essentially flipped in the air in front of him. That’s 40% of his credited yardage and all of his credited touchdown passes. I mean, I get it, it doesn’t matter, they would’ve scored on a handoff just as easily. It’s just a statistical flaw that really annoys me.
Back in my day you had to actually throw the ball downfield to get credit for a touchdown pass. And yes we wore leather helmets then, but he point still stands.
The great ACL debate. It was revealed after the game yesterday that the aforementioned Watson was playing with a torn ACL during the game. There was a lot of Twitter outrage over playing a kid with an injury like that, but quite frankly I don’t think it’s as big a deal as most are making if out to be if he was cleared by a doctor and could stand the pain. BJ Symons of Texas Tech played several games his senior season with a torn ACL and set an NCAA passing record. Tennessee has an offensive lineman that has been playing with a torn ACL all season. Again, I’m not a doctor, and I don’t truly think Dabo Swinney would risk such a young, outstanding talent like Watson over one game. However…
Watson initially injured his knee against Georgia Tech. What was initially feared to be a torn ACL that would require season-ending surgery was ultimately revealed to be a knee sprain that would require treatment but no surgery. Watson then reportedly re-injured the knee at practice the week before the Georgia State game, and now will indeed need surgery to repair the ACL.
Is there a problem practicing or playing a kid who has a torn ACL and needs surgery? Probably not, as long as there is no fear of further injury. Is there a problem practicing or playing a kid with a knee injury that doesn’t require surgery with the possibility of further injury that could require surgery? Absolutely. There is a huge difference between non-surgical rehabbing of a knee injury and having major surgery to repair that knee.
That is something with which we should have a major problem.
Bowl Game. Birmingham anyone? Hahaha just kidding. But if I’m not kidding I’ll be very, very sad.