Some so quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 24-13 loss to Texas A&M:
In defense of moral victories. Moral victories have a bad rap, and I think older generations such as mine are to blame. I grew up playing sports in a era where winning was the ONLY thing. You win = good. You lose = bad. It didn’t matter if you were winless and took the undefeated team into overtime only to drop a heartbreaker. You LOST son, that sucks, do better next time.
Then when I moved into coaching I tried to pass along that philosophy to the kids I coached. Every season I gave my standard “there are no moral victories” and “winning is fun” speeches. (The second one basically consisted of “So you kids are out here to have fun, huh? Well you know what’s fun? W-I-N-N-I-N-G.”)
We need to really start thinking about what it means to get a moral victory. Because I believe what we got yesterday against Texas A&M, like it or not, was just that. No, you’re not going to hear Will Muschamp or anyone associated with the football program mention those dreaded words. And the Twitter tough guys who lettered at East Podunk High will chastise me for daring to suggest it. But maybe a moral victory isn’t such a bad thing.
First of all, getting a moral victory doesn’t mean that we’re satisfied with a loss and we’ve somehow “arrived” and therefore don’t need to work as hard moving forward. I believe a moral victory properly defined means you performed against superior competition better than most expected, and you have HOPE that you can continue to improve and be more competitive sooner rather than later.
In 2006 the Gamecocks lost a heartbreaker to second-ranked Auburn, and Steve Spurrier admonished the fans for cheering for our team as they left the field. “They thought we were going to get clobbered. We didn’t get clobbered, so that’s O.K.,” Spurrier said. “That’s not O.K.”
I agreed with him then and I agree with him now – to a point. Look at it this way, back in 2006 young teenagers like Marcus Lattimore, Stephon Gilmore, Jadeveon Clowney and Alshon Jeffery were probably watching that game. Since the game was close, they might’ve even thought “wow, Steve Spurrier CAN win at South Carolina, all he needs is a few more players.” And maybe if we had gotten “clobbered” the morale of the team would’ve nosedived and we never would’ve gotten those aforementioned superstars.
Basically what I’m saying is I felt a bit better after losing to top 10 Texas A&M than I did to trash bag Kentucky. I’d be willing to bet our players did as well, whether or not they’d admit it.
There’s still a long way to go, but the little glimmer of hope was back, even in a loss. If that’s what you call a moral victory, then I’ll take it, because the actual victories have been awfully scarce recently.
Revolving door. After week 1 I thought Perry Orth should be our starting QB. After week 2 I thought Brandon McIlwain should be our starting QB. After his performance in week 4, I’m leaning back in Orth’s direction.
One reason I like going back to Orth against Georgia is that McIlwain has shown no ability whatsoever to throw the ball down the field as effectively as Orth. Also, McIlwain has been much less proficient at running the football than I anticipated, which was the main reason I advocated for him in the first place.
Orth looked calm and collected as he threw for 138 yards in fourth quarter action against the Aggies. Meanwhile McIlwain threw for 34 yards in three quarters and had a QBR of 5.8, which I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a number that low.
I know BMac is a freshman, I know he has done some good things, and I know he has been hamstrung by some of Kurt Roper’s play calling. But when we fall behind the chains on first and second down, which we do quite often with our porous offensive line, we need somebody who can pick up chunks of yardage for us through the air. Orth is that guy, and right now McIlwain is not.
If we truly want to win now, it has to be Orth.*
*I reserve the right to change my mind next week.
Rico Suave. I don’t want to be too effusive in my praise of a guy who got the first 9 carries of his career on Saturday, but Rico Dowdle looks like the real deal. He has great size and balance, he’s hard to bring down, and appears to have really good vision. He is the running back we’ve expected David Williams to be the last three years. It’s no surprise he immediately moved into the number two RB spot behind A.J. Turner, and I expect those two to be in those spots for quite a while.
Defensively Speaking. Kudos to the Gamecock defense for holding the high-powered Aggies to 24 points and 422 yards. After TAMU’s first drive it appeared we could be in for a bloodbath, but our patched together squad kept making plays into the fourth quarter. Bryson Allen-Williams and some of the youngsters like DJ Wonnum and Kier Thomas are looking more comfortable each week.
Also, shoutout to Chris Lammons, who we will now stop criticizing. He looks like he’s turned himself into a legit top-notch SEC corner. Love the combo of Lammons and King.
HurstQuake. Hayden Hurst had five more catches for 90 yards and has emerged as the top target in an anemic passing offense. He now has 24 catches for 302 yards on the season. Not bad for a former baseball player walk-on.
Don’t trust college kickers. None of them, not even Elliott Fry. But we still love him.