Snap Judgments – 2015 USC @ Tennessee Edition

Jonathan Walton celebrates an offensive (!) touchdown. (Photo:
Jonathan Walton celebrates an offensive (!) touchdown. (Photo:

Some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed (and very late) thoughts from South Carolina’s 27-24 loss to Tennessee:

Due credit. We, along with many other Gamecock fans, have been highly critical of Lorenzo Ward and/or Jon Hoke since the beginning of the 2014 season for obvious reasons. While the offense has not been totally blameless over the last two years, it is easy to point to numerous games where the Gamecock defense has given up an unacceptable number of yards and points, or has failed to come up with a defensive stop with a close game on the line. The blame? Poor tackling, bad alignment, awful positioning and good old-fashioned getting whipped by the guy across from you were all candidates at various times. But in the end it all came down to the guys in charge – Ward and Hoke.

So when Tennessee ran 14 plays for 142 yards (10 yards per play) and two touchdowns on their first two possessions on Saturday, it felt like the same old same old for present-day Gamecock football. USC was on the verge of being humiliated by the surging Volunteers. But South Carolina held the high-powered Tennessee offense to only 266 yards on 61 plays (4.4 yards per play) for the rest of the game, including one touchdown and two field goals. Considering the way the game started, and the way the defense has performed over the last 22 games, that was quite a turnaround.

The credit for the momentary prowess on defense? Quite simply, we corrected many of the bad things we’ve been doing since the start of 2014. For the first time in over a year and a half we looked like an SEC defense. And if we’re going to blame Ward and Hoke for our failures, then I believe we need to tip our cap to those guys for the way we played on Saturday.

With offensively challenged Florida and FCS program The Citadel on the horizon hopefully we’ll be able to keep this trend going. But the true test will come in three weeks against #1-ranked Clemson. If we can slow those guys down enough to stay in the game for four quarters, then ‘ll personally come to Columbia and buy Lorenzo Ward and Jon Hoke the beverage of their choice.

Orth and goal. A lot of people were calling for Perry Orth to take a seat on the bench very early in the Tennessee game. Let me tell you why he didn’t get benched, and why, barring injury, he will take the vast majority of snaps over the next three weeks.

One – the kid has intangibles that have endeared him to his teammates. Call it guts, call it moxie, or think of your own Orthian cliché. All the other players know his story. They know he lacks the raw talent of Connor Mitch and Lorenzo Nunez. But he’s been able to go out and lead this offense down the field by any means necessary. It hasn’t always been pretty, or even effective. But given the situation into which he has been thrust I personally feel like he’s done an admirable job.

Two – There is currently no one on the team who can run the offense better than Orth. Mitch hasn’t played a live snap in eight weeks, and Nunez is still a baby deer running around out there not quite sure what to do. Perry Orth gives us our best chance to win, which is why we’ll ride or die with him in November.

Adams Family. Hang in there Jerell, you’ll get a chance to redeem yourself.

J-Train. I didn’t know Jonathan Walton played running back in high school. But after seeing how good he looked on his touchdown catch and run against Tennessee, I’d like to see him play it in college. Granted, it was the only play he touched the ball, so I know I should temper my enthusiasm and not overreact. But with Brandon Wilds graduating, I’d love to see 28 get some carries to see what he can do. If he runs the ball the way he tackles people, he could be a nice, bruising addition to the backfield in 2016.

Affirmations. So yeah, a lot of positivity coming out of Snap Judgments after a loss, I know. But as I stated last week, what good is being a Debbie Downer going to help at this point. We are what we are, and I’m personally looking for some nuggets to give me a shred of hope for the future. The good news is I’m finding a few. I even said to some folks last week (prior to the Tennessee game) that I thought Florida was a good matchup for us and we would give them all they could handle. Of course, I also said Tennessee would beat us by three touchdowns, so what do I know.

Coachwatch ’15. Top-ranked Tom Herman defeated Cincinnati 33-30. Number two ranked Kirby Smart dominated LSU 30-16. Third-ranked Justin Fuente suffered his first loss of the season against Navy 45-20.

The good news from the weekend is Georgia righted the ship against Kentucky, so maybe they’ll hang on to Mark Richt and we’ll have one less open job to compete with. The other good news is that the three guys on our list are not necessarily being looked at as closely by other schools with open HC jobs. Virginia Tech is reportedly zeroing in on Rich Rodriguez, while Mario Cristobal has emerged as the top candidate at Miami. Southern Cal seems likely to hire a west coast guy (maybe Utah’s Kyle Whittingham) or someone who has “family ties” to the Trojans. I believe we have the clear advantage over all the other schools looking for a head man.

Have a good week and Go Cocks!

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