Some quick, barely researched, not fully formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 37-35 win over Missouri.
Shower power. This was a rough week to be a Gamecock fan. A demoralizing fifth straight loss to Kentucky had fans doubting everything they believed about the 2018 USC football team. A squad that was picked by many to challenge Georgia for the SEC East title had been throttled by the Bulldogs four weeks ago, then completely dominated by the up-and-coming Wildcats last weekend. The team that was supposed to take the next step towards relevance had actually regressed. To top everything off, Friday night it was announced backup Michael Scarnecchia, he of 13 passing attempts over four years, would be starting at quarterback against Missouri in place of the injured Jake Bentley.
The first half of the game against the Tigers didn’t do much to make the Gamecock faithful feel any better. Missouri ran up over 300 yards of offense in the first two quarters en route to a 23-14 halftime lead. USC certainly wasn’t awful on offense but were beneficiaries of a really dumb onside kick call that helped lead to their first TD. Honestly, at the break, it was hard to envision a path to victory for Carolina unless there was some divine intervention.
And then, to paraphrase an old Steve Spurrier saying, the good Lord smiled on the Gamecocks.
I was at home watching on TV, and when the SEC Network came back from a break they said it was pouring rain despite the sun still shining (the devil was beating his wife, for you good ‘ol southern folk). They said the rain was expected to pass shortly.
But it didn’t pass. It kept raining. And raining. And raining.
It rained the entire third quarter, and the Gamecocks took advantage of some serious stumbling and bumbling from the Tigers and ran off 17 straight points to take a 31-23 lead into the fourth quarter. It finally stopped raining and things evened out again, but USC made just enough plays and Parker White drilled a 33-yard field goal for the win.
It was one of the more bizarre games you will ever witness and I commend those of you who stayed through any portion of that rain. (I did it in the mid-90s against East Carolina with much less desirable results.) The term “must win” is overused in the sports lexicon, but beating Missouri at home was critical if this season is to have any decent level of success.
Thanks to a once-in-a decade weather occurrence, we are back on track.
Scar tissue. A week ago Michael Scarnecchia was a good-natured punch line. He was a fifth-year senior quarterback that had been passed on the depth chart multiple times over his career at South Carolina. Orth, Mitch, Nunez, McIlwain and Bentley were all deemed better options at the quarterback position than the 2-star Spurrier recruit from Fleming Island, FL.
“Put in Scarnecchia ha ha!” but we were never really serious, right? Because when it was announced on Friday that he would start, a collective “oh no” came up from the Gamecock faithful.
But now, after yesterday’s 20-35, 249 yard, 3 TD, 0 INT performance, he is cemented in Gamecock lore with the likes of Erik Kimrey. Scarnecchia was everything you would expect out of a fifth year senior quarterback. But most of the time you would expect that your fifth-year senior quarterback had thrown more than 13 passes in his career, and only ONE before this season.
In the spring Will Muschamp said Scarnecchia was unquestionably the backup to Jake Bentley, which was a little disappointing to us fans who were dying to see our shiny new Dakereon Joyner toy in action. But 12 displayed decision making, accuracy and most of all poise in ridiculous conditions, and now he’s a legend.
Beer’s on us Mike, you’ve earned it. And there’s no question you’re old enough.
Sooooo, what next? Well, we apparently have a quarterback controversy on our hands. I’ll give you my personal opinion, and I know based on Twitter comments that some of you will disagree, but here goes – if healthy, Jake Bentley is our starting quarterback.
I’ve stated in this space that Bentley has been disappointing in the fact that he hasn’t really improved since his freshman year. That said, I still think he gives us our best chance to win, and I still think he can and will improve.
What Scarnecchia did yesterday was brilliant and beautiful. But I have my doubts he can sustain it over a period of several games.
Offensive whoas. This would be a much different segment had we lost yesterday, but we’re willing to give Bryan McClendon a pass (ironically) on some of his play calling yesterday. Scarnecchia was put in a lot of difficult situations yesterday due to our unwillingness to pass the ball more frequently on first or second down. Yes, the rain was probably a factor, but we ran just as much on first and second down in the first half as we did the second. Once Scarnecchia showed us his chops, the reins should have come off.
On the flip side, the 2nd and 10 call from our own 46 on our final drive was the most brilliantly executed play of the day. The staff recognized something in the Mizzou coverage and lined up little-used Kyle Markway in the slot. Markway released down the seam on the snap uncovered, and Scarnecchia eyed him the whole way and hit him with a perfect strike for a 27-yard gain to put us in field goal range. It was football at its best.
As I said last week, BMac is still learning the job, and I hope he learned yesterday to trust his ball players.
Jaycee hut. Early in the third quarter, after USC had trimmed the Missouri lead to 23-21, Damarea Crockett broke loose for what appeared to be a backbreaking 70-yard touchdown run. Upon further review, Jaycee Horn swiped at Crockett’s feet and caused him to barely step out of bounds at the 11-yard line. A series of blunders by the Tigers led to a dropped punt snap and a blown scoring opportunity, all the result of great hustle by the freshman.
Horn has arguably been our best player on defense. He is a player and will be a mainstay on all-SEC teams the next few years.
BAWlin. When I say “arguably” above, it’s only because of Bryson Allen-Williams. BAW has finally turned into the player we all thought he would be coming out of high school, a high motor disrupter at the line of scrimmage.
Dead solid perfect. Parker White makes me feel good about placekicking again.
Onside dork. Despite Barry Odom’s denial that his first quarter onside kick attempt wasn’t really an onside kick attempt, it obviously was so I’m calling it one of the dumb coaching decisions of the year. You’ve got all the momentum, a newbie QB on the other side, and you do that? Duuuuumb.
Go Cocks, beat TAMU.