Snap Judgments – 2016 USC @ Mississippi State Edition

White Cam Newton torching us with another big run. (Photo: forwhomthecowbelltolls.com)

White Cam Newton torching us with another big run. (Photo: forwhomthecowbelltolls.com)

Some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 27-14 loss to Mississippi State:

1-1. Admit it, you looked at the schedule before the season started and you saw us opening with road games against Vanderbilt and Mississippi State and you thought, “I’d like to get a split out of those two games.” Two road games, at night, in the conference. Coming out of those 2-0 seemed a little too much ask didn’t it? Of course it did.

Then we won at Vandy, and MSU shockingly lost their opener to South Alabama. We all got a little greedy, thinking we could come out of the first two undefeated.

But the fact is we played poorly at Vandy and barely escaped, and the MSU loss to South Alabama was but a fluke. The Bulldogs came out Saturday night and played with more focus, more intensity, and more desperation, knowing they couldn’t fall to 0-2. Combine that with the fact they were light years better than USC along the line of scrimmage and we got the outcome we deserved.

South Carolina is still a broken football program. Garbage recruiting and poor coaching caught up to us at the end of the Spurrier regime, and now Will Muschamp and his staff have been tasked with fixing it. This will not be easy, and it will not be fast, and we should have known a 3-point win over Vanderbilt didn’t signify some sort of turning point. Muschamp and Co. get a pass for last night, and I submit to you they should get many more over the coming months. That doesn’t mean we won’t get frustrated, yell at our TVs, question play calls and ask why on God’s green earth did we hire this guy. I’m just saying after a few deep breaths we should all take inventory of everything that has happened over the last 18 months and give our staff a little grace.

And right now we should take our 1-1 record, kiss it on the mouth and be thankful. It could be worse, we could be 0-2.

Slow starters. For the second week in a row the Gamecocks got off to a terrible start, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. But unlike last week, the defense joined in against MSU. The Bulldogs picked up almost 200 yards of total offense in their first three possessions as they jumped out to a 14-0 lead. Only a fourth down stop by USC inside their own 10-yard line prevented things from being worse.

Meanwhile, the offense once again went scoreless in the first half. That’s now zero points in the first half of both our games this year.

Hopefully being at home next week will help change things up and get our guys into a groove early. With a young, inexperienced team like we have, we can’t afford to have to dig out of double-digit holes week after week.

QB1. Now the debate begins in earnest. In last week’s Snap Judgments I stated that Perry Orth might not be the quarterback we wanted, but he was the quarterback we needed. A whole seven days later I believe the dynamics have changed. It appears this will become Brandon McIlwain’s team sooner rather than later.

Part of the reason is that Orth has simply reached the limits of his potential. We’ve seen the very best of Perry Orth, and it’s not going to be good enough going forward with the talent we have behind him. I don’t believe we will be “taking our lumps” by turning the job completely over the Bmac, I truly believe he will give us our best chance to win. One of the main reasons I believe that is…

O(MG) Line. Our offensive line was atrocious last night. To Mississippi State’s credit, we were playing against some grown ass men that flat out beat us. But that’s the type of defensive line we will see for most of the season, and we will need someone with some escapability taking snaps. Several people tweeted at us last night, “if our offensive line plays like that it won’t matter who’s playing quarterback.”

Wrong. That’s precisely why we need Brandon McIlwain in the game. He has the ability to elude the rush and pick up positive yardage. He can also keep the ball on those zone reads occasionally to keep the defense honest. Orth cannot do those things.

Yes, BMac will pull the ball down too early at times and he’ll air mail some throws like we saw last night. But he will also get better with time and repetitions, and will ultimately put us in position to win ball games.

Record setters. How many players have set school, conference or national records against South Carolina over the last 20 years? I’m not sure, but if feels like all of them. We seem to have a knack for giving up huge games to not only good players, but also average players. Last night it was Nick Fitzgerald’s turn. This dude looked like a sack waiting to happen, but instead we allowed him to become the white Cam Newton with a school record 195 yards rushing. For good measure he also threw for 178 yards and two touchdowns.

Spreading it around. Out of 20 completions last night between Orth and McIlwain, there were eight different receivers – 4 WR, 3 TE and 1 RB. Hayden Hurst led the way with eight catches.

Ghost of running games past. I’m no X and O guru, but our running plays look eerily similar to the ones from the Spurrier era. I’m sure somebody who has coached at a high level would tell me “yeah but the blocking scheme is different” or something along those lines, but I just expected to see a little more variety out of Roper.

Speaking of ghosts. No David Williams last night. At this rate I’ll be shocked if he hasn’t transferred out of Columbia by the end of the calendar year. So much potential, it’s really disappointing.

On the other hand, it was nice seeing Lorenzo Nunez at least dressed out last night. He’s a guy I feel like could really help this offense. I understand learning the wide receiver position might not be easy, but how about a small package of plays? Maybe a speed sweep, or reverse, or a straight run out of the QB position. He’s shown he can make things happen with the ball in his hands, I just don’t understand why we’re not using him.

Injury report I. I’m stealing this from a tweet I saw last night (h/t @scoatnee36), but Deebo needs to be in yoga five days a week to get those legs stretched out.

Injury report II. This one is a little more of a concern – Chaz Elder. Elder was ruled out of next week’s game against ECU with a “rib contusion”. He was injured on MSU’s first touchdown when he hit Fred Ross as his was crossing the goal line. Take a look at that replay and tell me how that hit resulted in a rib contusion. I’m not saying it’s not possible, but that’s just not what it looks like. As soon as the play was over Tbone texted me “concussed”. And that’s what it looks like – the hit to the head, the way he falls motionless – a concussion.

Elder has a history of concussions while at USC, including two where he was completely knocked out. I’m no conspiracy theorist, but I just don’t like the way this looks. I hope for Chaz Elder’s sake he didn’t suffer a concussion, and for USC’s sake they’re not covering something up.

Go Cocks.

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