Some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 24-14 loss to Florida:
We’re Number 14! Back in the spring, the day before the Garnet and Black game, we had the privilege of being on Sportstalk with Phil Kornblut, Kevin McCrarey and Tom Hayes. We had long discussions about the spring game and the upcoming season. Part of the conversation centered around the record Gamecock fans would “sign up for” prior to the 2015 season. I was comfortable with 8-4, even 7-5 with a win over Clemson. I think I even laughed and said I might sign up for 6-6 with a win over Clemson.
Not long after, a local Atlanta radio host came out with his way-too-early SEC bowl projections. He projected South Carolina to the Pinstripe Bowl in New York City and asked on air if we would be all right with that. I don’t remember who the opponent was, because I immediately dismissed it as poppycock. “No thanks,” I tweeted to the radio host, “we’ll take our chances”.
What an idiot I was.
After yesterday’s oh-so-predictable 24-14 loss to SEC East champion Florida, we are guaranteed record-wise to be the worst team in the SEC. (Missouri will likely lose their last two and finish 1-7 in conference as well, but since they beat us they get the tiebreaker. Congrats Tigers!) Oh sure, you can argue we’re not the worst team in the SEC, since we would probably beat Kentucky and Missouri if we had another shot at them. Add that to the Vandy victory and we would finish a semi-respectable 3-5 in conference.
But why would you waste your breath? Does in really matter when you finish anywhere from 10-14 in the SEC? Nobody has ever lifted a 12th-place trophy with any amount of pride. We might as well get a participation trophy, it would be just as worthless.
Just about 22 months ago we were celebrating a number four finish in the polls, the best in school history. We were 33-6 over three seasons. We were a program on the rise. Here to stay. Top 10 program. #HereSC.
Now it’s all gone. The standings have been flipped, and we’re at the bottom of the pile. USC fans haven’t really cared much about the last three games since Steve Spurrier resigned, and I don’t get the sense many people care much about the next two. We just want to know who is going to come in here, sweep up the ashes, and start a new fire.
Offensive. South Carolina had zero points and a grand total of 44 yards on 30 plays through three quarters against Florida. Somehow Perry Orth and company figured out who to move the ball against a stout Gator defense, but by then it was little too late. A lot of people were throwing G.A. Magnus, Orth, and the rest of the offense under the bus for most of the game without acknowledging that Florida has NFL talent across the field on defense. Sure, the totals were nothing short of embarrassing for most of the game, but give credit where credit is due. This was a simple case of men against boys.
All or nORTHing. Orth was simply getting buried for most of the game. At times he held onto the ball too long, and he was a step too slow against this Gator D to make anything happen with his legs. But most of the day he didn’t have time to look beyond his first read.
I know it was frustrating, and it’s easy from our couches to call for him to be benched. But seriously, do you think Lorenzo Nuñez or Connor Mitch would’ve done any better? Nuñez had one good game against possibly the worst team in the country, and completely crapped the bed against an elite defense in Missouri. Florida would’ve eaten him alive. Meanwhile, Mitch hasn’t seen live action in two months, and the time he did play he didn’t exactly invoke memories of Steve Taneyhill.
As we said in this space last week, barring injury Orth will get all the meaningful snaps for the rest of the season. Even if they’re meaningless.
Ride the Hurst. Gman said on last week’s podcast to look out for Hayden Hurst, he thought the kid had a good future for us. It looks like the future is now. Based on his number of targets yesterday, Hurst appears to be our number two wide receiver.
Oven mitts. Our defense was good at times yesterday, but couldn’t come up with the big play when the opportunity presented itself. One such opportunity was missed by Chris Lammons, his fourth missed opportunity in two weeks, when he whiffed on an interception of Treon Harris that resulted in a Florida touchdown. I think Lammons will be our best cover corner next year, but Lord have mercy I hope he learns to catch a football over the summer.
Machine gun. Sean Kelly averaged 46.7 yards on punts, including a long of 69 against the Gators. I don’t keep up with SEC punters, but I have to think he’s in line for some all-SEC honors. (But please stop saying Kelly is the Gamecocks’ MVP, even if you’re being facetious. It’s an insult to say a guy who plays about six plays a game is our MVP over a guy like Pharoh Cooper.)
New lids. I didn’t love the new helmets. I didn’t hate them. I do think it would’ve been better if more of the Gamecock had been featured on the decal. Seemed kinda weird to just have the rooster’s ass.
Coachwatch ’15. In the showdown we’ve all been waiting for, Tom Herman and Houston defeated Justin Fuente’s Memphis club 35-34 in a really fun ball game. Two schools are going to get really good coaches in these two guys. I just hope we’re one of them. But if not, there’s always Kirby Smart, whose Alabama defense is currently reaching into other teams’ chests and pulling out their hearts and showing it to them.
Regarding Herman, the talk of him coming to South Carolina heated up significantly this week. That’s exciting to hear, but it’s also the type of thing we heard about Will Muschamp becoming our defensive coordinator after last season. Right now rumors are just that – rumors. And unless we hire someone who is not currently coaching, which seems highly unlikely, we will not officially know who our next head coach is until December 6 at the earliest.
Now I’m going to go try to sleep until then. Wake me up when it’s over.