Some quick, barely researched, not fully formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 26-23 loss to Texas A&M.
Tick tock. We are now officially halfway through the 2018 football season (slightly more if we don’t get a chance to make up the cancelled Marshall game) and the game on Saturday was a perfect microcosm of the season so far. In other words, at various points during the game we were let down by the offense, the defense, special teams and coaching.
The offense was borderline putrid in the first half. Couldn’t establish the run, couldn’t throw an accurate pass, couldn’t catch a cold, and couldn’t score a single, solitary point. By the time the second half rolled around it was too late. Even though the Gamecocks battled back to tie the game, the hole that was dug in the first half proved to be too much to overcome.
I saw a lot of people praising the play of the defense on Saturday. I would like to point out they gave up 353 yards passing to Kellen Mood, and while they held to Aggies to 2.6 yards per carry they couldn’t get a crucial stop in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. A&M doubled up the Gamecocks in time of possession (which isn’t necessarily a telling stat, until it is). Yes, the defense was very good in the red zone. And I’m personally getting sick of the fact they continually have to be good in the red zone for us to have a chance. How about get some stops in between the 20s? We’ve been “bend but don’t break” every year that Will Muschamp has been here. I’m ready for our defense to play a little “don’t bend or break”.
Once, when we did get a stop, Bryan Edwards had a great punt return. Then he fumbled and gave the ball right back. Deebo Samuel hasn’t come close to breaking a kick return this year. (On the bright side, Parker White and Joseph Charlton continue to be excellent.)
From a coaching standpoint, we allowed Jace Sternberger to run free through our secondary for most of the game. Sternberger made comments after the game that “(Gamecock) safeties and linebackers kept miscommunicating about how they were going to guard me.” Muschamp denied that, saying Sternberger was simply a matchup problem. I’m not sure which is worse. Honestly, watching how open Sternberger was on most of his catches I tend to believe we were having communication problems.
This loss was a complete team effort, top to bottom. USC had so many chances to seize control of the game, but failed both mentally and physically to do so time and again. With half the season gone and still three wins needed to gain bowl eligibility, time is running out to salvage this season.
Mr. Brightside. Phew, felt good to get that off my chest. Here’s the good news – we are SO close. Even with all our problems we played a pretty darned good Texas A&M team to within 3 points. I believe Tennessee, Florida and Ole Miss are all winnable games as long as we stop making messes so big we can’t clean them up. Despite evidence to the contrary I believe the offense is going to get it going. I believe the defense is going to mature and is going to benefit greatly from the return of DJ Wonnum. The young guys we’ve been playing are going to continue to get better. The very cautious optimist in me is excited for the second half of the season.
Dropsies. You saw it, I saw it, the American people saw it. Our once proud wide receiver corps repeatedly torpedoed any chance we had to win the A&M game with crucial drops. If you haven’t already read it, Ben Breiner with The State did an excellent job of recapping all the lost yardage from Saturday. (Including Rashad Fenton’s crucial drop of an interception late.)
Red state vs. Blue state. The Jake Bentley/Michael Scarnecchia debate turned into a fierce political battle heading into the game on Saturday. Bentley didn’t help his cause for much of the first half, following his standard pattern of being too jacked up emotionally and overthrowing his receivers. When the offense did put together a promising drive Bentley ended it with easily the worst throw and worst interception of his career. Heading into halftime I even tweeted that I thought we needed to start Scarnecchia in the second half just to see if he could infuse some energy into an offense that had been shut out.
But Will Muschamp stuck with Bentley (probably because his dad is on staff I’M KIDDING PLEASE DON’T TAKE THAT SERIOUSLY) and Bentley responded splendidly. While he still didn’t always display pinpoint accuracy, he threw for 174 yards and two touchdowns against no interceptions. Again, the numbers would’ve been higher, and outcome could’ve been different without the butter fingers.
It was an impressive performance by any measure, and perhaps the most important play of the day for him was his scramble and dive for a first down in the third quarter. He was going balls out to get the win, and for the most part the anti-Bentley crowd recognized that and backed off…a little.
Boo birds. Our old pal Kevin McCrarey summed up our feelings about the booing in the first half more eloquently than we ever could.
The bottom line here is this – do your best to treat people with dignity and respect. Those guys on the football field, the folks next to you in the stands, the people you come into contact with online. I know it sounds trite and cheesy, but give it a try. Just because you wanted Scarnecchia to start and somebody else wanted Bentley, that doesn’t make them a moron, idiot, communist, and you won’t get shingles if you come into contact with them. Even though I was in the Bentley camp, each side had a reasonable argument for “their guy” to start on Saturday, and I wouldn’t have surprised or disappointed if had been 12.
But it was Bentley. And when Bentley ran into trouble his supporters didn’t “get what they deserved”, which is something I saw on Twitter more than once along with “I hope they’re happy”. We’re all on the same team here, folks. Just because you disagree over who starts a football game it doesn’t make you mortal enemies.
If that makes you mad that’s cool, I’m going to love you even more. Now come here and give me a hug.
How to win friends and influence people. I think we’re going to re-engineer this tweet and turn it into our core values for the blog.
I’ve always thought our arrogance and inability to offer a basic level of sound analysis are two of our most endearing qualities.
Plus, not only do we have ties to the program, this is Ray Tanner’s burner account.
You folks enjoy the bye week. Go Cocks.