Some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 47-23 loss to Alabama.
Hi Tide. On October 9, 2010, the Alabama Crimson Tide came into Williams Brice stadium as the number one ranked team in the country, defending national champions and sporting a 19-game winning streak. South Carolina was a team and program still searching for a corner to turn early in their sixth season under legendary coach Steve Spurrier.
On a day none of us will soon forget, the Gamecocks pulled the 35-21 upset, and went on to have an unprecedented run of success for the program – an SEC East title followed by back to back to back 11-win seasons. It was the beginning of the salad days for Gamecock football.
This past Saturday, the Crimson Tide returned to Columbia for the first time since that day. In the 8+ years that have passed, Alabama has won conference and national titles and further established themselves as the premiere football program in the land. South Carolina, after those 11-win seasons, fell off a cliff. They watched their hall of fame coach figuratively and then literally quit, started a rebuild near rock bottom with an SEC East cast-off, and are currently trying to work their way back to the upper half of the conference.
The talent gap is so great between Alabama and South Carolina that the Gamecocks never really had a chance on Saturday, no matter how many times we tried to invoke the spirit of October 9, 2010. But they fought, and fought hard, and made a game of it for the better part of two and a half quarters. If you are violently opposed to “moral victories” then skip the second half of this sentence – but what I saw against Bama on Saturday was encouraging, especially after our week 1 debacle.
The key for the rest of this season is to keep moving forward, build on the performance from Saturday, and avoid any form of regression. Will Muschamp and Dakereon Joyner today talked about the team being “desperate” for a win going into Missouri. That is absolutely the right attitude for this week, and for the rest of 2019.
Meathead. We’ve established in this space that Will Muschamp is a meathead. But even so, the evidence is overwhelming that his players (current and former) love the guy. You can see it in the way they play the game – hard, fast and physical.
That said, the way the guy manages a game for 60 minutes continues to be troublesome. Yes, he had some out of character moments on Saturday that showed he may actually be willing to do some things differently – fake punt, fake field goal, going for it on fourth down, etc. Those were very much anti-Will.
But at the same time, you never feel like his decisions are part of a greater plan. They’re just in the moment, they’re the next move, without a lot of regard for the move after the move after the move. Or put more succinctly:
Two hand touch. It’s been talked about ad nauseam since the game, but my goodness our tackling was hideous and cost us huge chunks of yardage and points. It sounds like it’s a correctable thing (tackle first, rip the ball out second, instead of the other way around.) Let’s hope it gets corrected and fast.
IT. Ryan Hilinski is the truth. Aside from his natural, God-given talent, he seems to have IT. He showed incredible poise and leadership to be starting his first SEC game against THE football program of the millennium. I think he’s the kind of guy who is going to be able to keep us in games when we have no business being in those games. This is going to be fun.
Bad intentions. Rico Dowdle and Bryan Edwards are playing like there’s no tomorrow. Both are running with a renewed sense of purpose and quite frankly look like they’re ready to impale defenders with their projectile bodies every time they get a chance. Their stock has risen sharply early in the season.
Let it breathe. There’s not a ton we can take from the first three games of the season, except that we’re 1-2 when we fully expected to be 2-1. We had Charleston Southern completely overmatched, while Alabama had us greatly overmatched.
Missouri will be a great test of where we actually are, but I warn you to not take too much from the result, win or lose. I’m seeing a lot of folks saying “must win”, and I don’t believe that at all. CoMo is a tough place to play, and despite an opening week loss to Wyoming, the Tigers are playing very tough and confident football. A loss there does not end our season.
I think there may be wins on our schedule where we didn’t see wins before. I believe with weekly improvement we can beat Florida and give Texas A&M a run for their money. Vandy, Tennessee and Kentucky can all be had.
In this world of instant and unreasonable reaction, we tend to make judgments on an entire season based on one game (guilty as charged here). Let’s remember there’s a long way to go. Let the season play itself out. Let it breathe.