Some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 24-21 DCI Bowl victory over Miami:
Happy Endings. There were so many things to be disappointed about in South Carolina’s 2014 season – a humiliating opening loss on the SEC Network, a maddeningly ineffective defense, fourth quarter collapses peppered throughout, our first loss to Clemson since 2008. None of those things were wiped away by our fourth consecutive bowl win yesterday. But it sure felt nice to end the season on a high note.
Yes, it was December 27. Yes, the game was in Shreveport. Yes, there was a (much) less than full stadium there to watch it. But judging by the smiles on the faces of Steve Spurrier and our players after the game, it was as important as any game we played this season. It was important to have a lasting memory of hoisting a trophy to close out 2014. It was important to send an extraordinary group of seniors out with a win. It was important to lay that first mental building block for 2015.
As frustrated as you and I have been throughout this season, I promise you it doesn’t come close to the frustration felt by those players and coaches. I’m both happy for and proud of them for going out with a win.
Pharoh. Speaking of 2015 building blocks, look no further than Pharoh Cooper as one of the cornerstones. Cooper woke up a slumbering offense with a 78-yard touchdown catch for USC’s first score, and went on to grab nine balls for 170 yards and the Independence Bowl MVP honor. He finished the season with 1136 yards receiving and will surely be first-team all-SEC heading into next season.
Hello defense. (Nice to see you. It’s been a long time.) In the first quarter it looked as if Miami’s Duke Johnson might be on his way to a record-setting day in the DCI Bowl. But embattled defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward and his defense made important stops to hold Miami to field goals early, then played just well enough in the third and fourth quarters to help secure the victory.
Skai Moore (defensive MVP) and the suddenly Urlacher-esque Jonathan Walton were outstanding at linebacker. If the help coming on the defensive line next year lives up to its billing, and some of our young DBs develop the way freshmen to sophomores should, the defense could be back to respectable (or even better!) next year.
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes? To the dismay of many Gamecock fans, Steve Spurrier announced after the game that there would be no coaching staff changes until at least after signing day in February, and hinted there may be no staff changes at all.
“If something happens down the road and we can strengthen our staff somewhere, then, obviously, I have to look at that,” he said.
Team Thompson. I’ve pretty much defended Dylan Thompson in this space all season, so I guess I’ll do it one more time. Yesterday’s stat line: 22-34, 284 yards, 2 TDs passing, 1 TD rushing.
And yet, I still saw tweets complaining when Thompson threw into coverage or overthrew receivers. I made the mistake of visiting a message board last night and saw his game referred to as “garbage” and a couple of people saying they are glad he won’t be back next year.
Such is the life of a starting quarterback, I suppose. Just don’t forget Thompson set the record for most passing yards and completions in a season, and is second in TDs for a season.
I’m not advocating that Thompson is the greatest quarterback in Gamecock history by any stretch of the imagination. But he deserves a lot more respect than he’s gotten this year, both as a player and an ambassador for this program. If you don’t like the fact we went 7-6 as a TEAM, or his religious views, or his haircut, that’s fine, you are certainly entitled to your opinion.
But from a purely football standpoint, if you like USC football and you’re happy Dylan Thompson has played his last game in a Gamecock uniform, then I can only assume you are an idiot. At least from a football sense.
Snaps shut. This concludes Snap Judgments for 2014. I must admit, this has easily been the most difficult season since we started this blog in 2010. It’s easy to stay up late on Saturday or get up early before church on Sunday and write when you’re winning. It’s even fun.
When you’re losing though, and hooboy losing the way we lost some games this year, it can be pretty tough. But it can also be therapeutic, and it was many times over the course of the season. Thanks to everyone who came back week after week, it is very much appreciated.
So until next season, Go Cocks!