Some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 41-21 loss to Tennessee.
Hard Knox. Over the course of the last several months I didn’t hear much worry from Gamecock fans about our biennial trip to Knoxville. When looking over the schedule our game against Tennessee was generally though of as an easy win for us at best, and a toss up at worst.* That led me to write and post on Friday night about our frightening history of games in Neyland Stadium. I mostly wrote this as a sort of warning to the South Carolina faithful – don’t take these guys lightly, even when we’re good and they’re bad, we seem to have a tough time at their place.
The game couldn’t have started any better, with Ryan Hilinski hitting Shi Smith for a 75-yard catch and run touchdown on the game’s first play. Then the game couldn’t have gone any worse, with Tennessee outscoring the good guys 41-14 in a whitewashing rarely seen in this series in the last 20 years. In the darkest recesses of my mind I didn’t see us getting whipped by three touchdowns and getting goose-egged 24-0 in the second half. It was a supremely frustrating performance, so much so that I left at the end of the third quarter to attend a birthday party to which I arrived ON TIME. I don’t have to tell you that’s extremely out of character for me.
Two weeks ago the South Carolina football team was flying high after beating fifth-ranked Georgia in Athens. Those questioning Will Muschamp were quieted. There was no one asking about buyouts, or making lists of coaching candidates. The program was finally trending up, and on the right track.
Last week against Florida the Gamecocks let one get away. The lead story was the poor officiating, but USC had chances to make plays and pull a second consecutive top ten upset, but couldn’t get it done.
On Saturday, the bottom fell out. Tennessee has been a program in disarray for years. Poor administration, botched coaching searches, bad hires, players with questionable character, transfers, a long SEC losing streak, you name it. Then they started 2019 with a home loss against Georgia State, and entered our game at 2-5 even though they had been playing better of late. But the butt of all SEC jokes ambushed Muschamp and company. They were better prepared, faster, more confident, and looked more like the 1999 Volunteers than the 2019 Volunteers.
So here we are, back where we were after the first week of the season, picking up the pieces after a horrible loss. The good will of the Georgia win is gone. Completely gone. After a mere two weeks.
*I know, this game terrified some of you.
Meltdown. I didn’t get to write a Snap Judgments after the Georgia game, but I think I tweeted something to the effect that our defense was finally starting to look like a Will Muschamp defense. Against the Vols, we got no pressure and gave up 351 yards passing to a quarterback who Tennessee fans dread seeing play and a true freshman seeing his first significant playing time as a collegian. We were consistently shoved around and wide receivers Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway seemed to running through our secondary with a ten-yard force field around them for most of the game. (Both those guys are full-grown men by the way).
I think some of our defenders may have been a little full of themselves after the Georgia game. Maybe this will be a wake up call. Or maybe the Georgia game was an anomaly.
Offensive. After complaining about Bryan McClendon and the offense, I was told by one Twitter follower that I was wrong and I should “break down some film and show the issues”. Well, I don’t really have time to break down film, and I’m not sure I know enough about RPM’s and screen door passes and drawing plays to tell you what’s going on. What I do know is this:
Correct me if I’m wrong, but it appears we’ve regressed in most major offensive categories. If we were a great offensive team to begin with that would probably be acceptable, but we were no better than middle of pack in the SEC last year.
Put the blame on a freshman quarterback if you want, but watching Jim Chaney of Tennessee scheme the hell out of us on Saturday with a below average QB and a *gasp* freshman QB made me long for a real live veteran offensive coordinator.
If we want to continue to be unimaginative and middling on offense, we’re in good shape. If not, we need to open our pocketbooks and hire someone who has a proven track record.
QB1. Speaking of freshman quarterbacks, I have no problem with Ryan Hilinski at this stage of his career. He was thrown into a tough situation, has been getting pummeled in every game, and keeps coming back. He needs to get better, and he will, but right now we have to take the good with the bad.
The Muschamp Dilemma. Ah, yes, so we meet again. First of all, let me state for the record, no one from this blog or Twitter account has ever uttered the words “fire Muschamp”. If you can find evidence to the contrary please share it with us. First of all, calling for his firing would be futile, because it is obvious Ray Tanner is going to live, and likely die, with this hire. Second, nobody listens to us anyway. Third, believe it or not, we really really want Muschamp to succeed at South Carolina, even though we don’t think it is likely.
Once again, this is about using your eyes. Tell me what you see. If you throw out the Georgia game (but please don’t, cling to it like grim death) this has been a program of inconsistency and mediocrity under Muschamp. We’ve been slightly above average at our very best, and average to below average the rest of the time. Even our 9-4 season didn’t see us beat a team of real consequence. Add his time at Florida to his time here and what do you see? After seven-plus years as a head coach, nobody is calling Will Muschamp a coaching superstar.
And stop with the Spurrier argument. Please stop. Spurrier was given a ton of rope because he earned it long before he ever set foot in Columbia. Muschamp has yet to show he can be a successful head coach anywhere, so he doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt. And if your argument is “it took Spurrier seven years and he’s a hall of famer we should give Muschamp more time”, how much time do you want to give him? Fifteen, twenty years? Lord knows, I’ll likely be dead by the time we hire our next head coach.
I know this is going to make some of you mad, it already has on Twitter. That’s not my intention, it’s just a matter of calling it like I see it. You might see it differently, so I’ll make you an offer if you have a strong opinion in the other direction –
Write a story in defense of Will Muschamp and this coaching staff, email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll publish it. Not kidding, if you want a voice, this is your chance.
Until then, go Cocks, beat Vandy.