Some no so quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 24-7 win over Kentucky.
Blue by you. On October 10, 2009, South Carolina defeated Kentucky 28-26. That win was the tenth consecutive for the Gamecocks over the Wildcats and completed a highly improbable decade sweep. Unbelievably the Wildcats broke the streak the following year, beating a Gamecock team that had just beaten top-ranked Alabama the week before and a team that would go on to win its only SEC East championship. (In other words, the most Gamecock loss of all time.) USC would then win the next three, making it 13 out of 14 games in our favor.
As we entered the annual tilt on Saturday night, the Wildcats were sitting on a just-as-improbable five-game win streak over the Gamecocks. The frustration level was such that the Kentucky game – THE KENTUCKY GAME – was circled on this year’s schedule as a must-win just to get the monkey off out back.
And dispose of that annoying primate we did, with a convincing 24-7 win that was as easy going an SEC game as we’ve seen in a while. The Wildcats never really threatened even though the Gamecocks never really pulled away, but you never got a sense that Kentucky was going to be able to mount enough offense to catch and pass USC.
The defense finally played like a Will Muschamp defense, shutting out the Wildcats and holding them to a paltry 128 yards before their final drive of the game. The offense produced two 100-yard rushers (Dowdle/Feaster) in an SEC game for the first time since 2001 (Watson/Pinnock).
It wasn’t always pretty, but snapping a 5-game losing streak to a middle-of-the-road conference opponent was downright georgeous.
The other news. Look, the streak is over, and that’s fantastic. The fans were outstanding, the stadium was loud, the uniforms looked great, and the game ended with the good guys with more points than the bad guys. It’s a pleasant way to go into an off week, we can relax and have a good off week before our showdown with Georgia.
However, this doesn’t mean things are fixed. The UNC game still happened. The Missouri game still happened. We’re still in for a lot of ups and downs over the next eight weeks, I’m certain. The hope, of course, is that this team has figured something out. That they’re learning how to compete week in and week out, at home and on the road.
But I go back to something I said in the offseason – show me. Don’t just show me once. Continue to show me every week, no matter the opponent. Then I’ll start to believe.
Calling his shot. Cole Cubelic says this was pretty cool, and I agree.
I’ve been pretty hard on Will this year, but I’ve always said he speaks the game as well as anyone I’ve ever heard. In 2016 he was one of the coaches in the ESPN Film Room for the Alabama-Clemson National Championship Game, and it was so impressive to hear him discuss formations and play calls. Every time he spoke he know exactly what he was talking about. The man knows the game of football, with that you cannot argue.
Let’s get physical. Kentucky had a five-game losing streak over South Carolina for one primary reason – they were tougher and more physical than us. The Gamecocks turned the tables Saturday night. USC was more physical in every aspect of the game, and it wasn’t close. That feels good.
The game plan. I watched Kentucky and quarterback Sawyer Smith a couple of times this season before Saturday. I thought, while not spectacular, he was more than competent enough to give the Gamecocks some trouble. I was wrong, he was terrible. Like 1999 South Carolina rotating seven quarterbacks terrible. It was obvious Travaris Robinson and company didn’t think Smith could beat us with the pass, employing a one-high safety and keying on the run most of the game. They were right.
Take it easy. I’m not sure if Ryan Hilinski was hurt against Missouri. I’m not sure he wasn’t hurt against Kentucky. All if know is about 90% of our passes were within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Were they taking pressure off Hilinski? Or taking pressure off his elbow?
If it is the elbow we should all be grateful for the bye week. Because we’re going to need number 3 to sling it around the ballpark at some point this season.
Let’s all get healthy during the bye week and come back ready to kick Georgia’s ass*.
*quoting Ryan Hilinski’s prayer, which was hilarious