Some quick, barely researched, not fully formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 35-31 loss to Florida.
The Haunting of Will House. The tenure of Will Muschamp as head coach of Florida was an unmitigated disaster. Much of his failure was attributed to his inability to change his antiquated approach to coaching – run the ball, play good defense, grind out the victory. Now don’t get me wrong, running the ball and playing good defense are cornerstones of good football, but his style was much more indicative of a 1970’s or 1980’s brand of football. While running the ball and playing good defense are still great things in and of themselves, they mean different things in today’s world of college football, and his inability to evolve led to his ouster at Florida.
When he was hired at South Carolina he promised a more advanced brand of offense led by Kurt Roper. Roper failed, Muschamp turned to Bryan McClendon, and to us was promised an even more fast-paced, high-scoring offense. While the results have been uneven throughout the season, there is no question the offense has been more productive, more diverse and more exciting. This was no more evident than the Ole Miss game last week and the first three quarters of the Florida game today.
Then came the fourth quarter.
In the fourth quarter, while Florida was mounting a comeback and grounding our defense into a fine powder, McClendon and Muschamp decided they were going to run the ball and bleed clock like the lead was five touchdowns. Gone was the aggressiveness, and soon gone were the lead and the win. Jake Bentley, who was having a solid game, only threw the ball three times in the fourth quarter while the Gators caught and passed the Gamecocks on the scoreboard. It was a moment when Muschamp went back to his old school mentality – run clock, play defense, escape with the win.
Except we didn’t. Instead, we blew a 17-point second half lead and missed a chance at a solid conference road win against a top-15 team. It was classic Muschamp. A Muschamp we hoped and prayed was dead and gone.
But the ghost of Will Muschamp’s time at Florida still haunts us. We hired this guy, we knew what we were getting – a stubborn ol’ bastard who is going to live or die with the football principles he learned back in 1982.
I hope he has changed and this was just a blip. He has certainly grown and evolved while at South Carolina. But if he doesn’t continue to grow and evolve, and has many more moments like the one he had today, the ghost of Gainesville Will Muschamp may cause the death of Columbia Will Muschamp.
Wet paper bag. I’m having a hard time being overly critical of our defense considering all the injuries we’ve had to endure. The biggest loss came this week with the news Bryson Allen-Williams wouldn’t play against Florida (we’ve since been told he’s out for the rest of the regular season).
With that said, the way Florida ran on us today (62/367) was an embarrassment. It’s particularly embarrassing considering Muschamp’s reputation as a defensive guru. Since Muschamp has been at South Carolina the defense has been below average at best, when we were essentially led to believe “at least we’ll have a good defense” with him at the helm.
We need a serious infusion of talent and depth, and we need to get healthy before we’ll ever be able to compete with the big boys. We’ve made a significant leap forward this year on offense, we’ll need the same next year on defense.
QB1. Jake Bentley had another good day, throwing for 239 yards and two touchdowns against one interception. Today it was against one of the better defenses in the SEC, although the naysayers (fewer and fewer each week) will point out his one pick came at a time when we needed a game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter.
What they will conveniently ignore is that he was on point almost all game until the coaches took the ball out of his hands in the fourth quarter. Winning the game would not have required anything special from Bentley, it would have just required the coaches letting him do what he had been doing all game.
Deebo. It started to hit me today, we’re in the twilight of Deebo Samuel’s career as a Gamecock. He had a spectacular day, with 120 yards receiving, 78 yards in kick returns and a fumble recovery on a muffed Florida punt. I’m bummed we’ll only get to see him four more times.
Freak. One play never determines the outcome of a football game. But one play today could’ve made things a lot easier for the good guys. With USC leading 31-14 and just over three minutes remaining in the third quarter, Florida was facing a 3rd and 8 from their own 37 yard line. A stop by the Gamecocks would come close to putting the last nail in the coffin.
After a bad snap that 99% of the time results in a lost yardage play, Feleipe Franks rolled to his right and completed a pass to Trevon Grimes for the first down. On the way to the ground, Grimes obviously fumbled and it was clearly recovered by Jaycee Horn, but the play had already been whistled dead. From that point it was all downhill for the Gamecocks.
Accepting mediocrity. I saw several comments after the game today along the lines of “we have to stop accepting mediocrity.” I’m dead serious here, I’m not sure what that means. As fans there is really only one thing we can do to facilitate change in our programs, and that’s stop going to games. Am I wrong about that? I mean, if people really want Muschamp fired, or Tanner fired, or somebody else fired, don’t you hit them in the pocketbook? Don’t you express your displeasure by spending your discretionary income somewhere else? The powers that be sure aren’t going to make a change based on your tweet or your Facebook post.
Look, we’re not quite three years into the Muschamp regime. While I certainly have my concerns about the long-term prospects for the program, it is not even remotely an option to fire him any time soon. He’s taken the team to a bowl in each of his first two years and will take them to another bowl this year after inheriting a 3-win team. Because we’re going to win one or two fewer games this year than last year is not a fireable offense. (I got news for you, we might win even less next year with the schedule we have.)
I’ve been at this for more than 30 years, and I get as frustrated as anybody on days like this. I don’t know if we’re on the right track or not. But I realize I have very little control over who’s in charge.
Hang on a second, looks like Ray Tanner is calling.