Snap Judgments – 2022 USC @ Clemson

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Beat Clemson. Before Saturday the last time South Carolina had beaten Clemson was 2013, which at the time was a resounding fifth consecutive victory over the Tigers in a streak that felt like it might never end. As I’ve written before, we were in their heads. We had a spell on them. They were snakebitten. However you want to phrase it, when the fellas in the orange helmets saw the block C and the Fighting Gamecock logo they were spellbound. During our five game streak we never really blew them out, but the better team won every year.

Even in 2014 when a fairly pedestrian Gamecock team jumped out to a 7-0 lead on the Tigers I thought to myself – “we’re still in their heads”. Unfortunately, I was wrong that day. Clemson would win 35-17, and it was the beginning of an abrupt and complete swing in the rivalry.

In 2015 it was 37-32, by far be the closest game in Clemson’s win streak, which was ironic because the Gamecocks were led by a lame duck head coach and had just been beaten by The Citadel. Then it was 56-7, 34-10, 56-35, 38-3 and a demoralizing 30-0 loss at home in 2021.

The rivalry had become gross for South Carolina fans. It was a regular season finale we neither looked forward to nor felt like we had a reasonable shot to win, year after year. The brutally honest question became “when are we ever going to beat Clemson again?”

It certainly hasn’t felt like “next year” for any year since 2014. Clemson was a perinnial ACC Champion and college football playoff contender. South Carolina was wading through the muck of the Will Muschamp era and the subsequent clean up job tasked to Shane Beamer. It was looking like this streak could hit double digits and beyond.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the first Saturday after Thanksgiving. The Gamecocks, after losing to average-as-grits Missouri and Florida, struck the college football world with a lightning bolt last week by thrashing fifth-ranked Tennessee. Meanwhile, Clemson had been regressing ever-so-slightly since the departure of Trevor Lawrence and, despite another 10-win season already secured, did not appear to be the Clemson of old.

Despite this glimmer of optimism, the game on Saturday did not start out like USC was about to break a monmumental losing streak. Spencer Rattler threw an early pick six that harkened back to the 2017 game (Jake Bentley anyone?) and by the end of the first quarter the Gamecocks were down 14-0. It all felt very familiar, as did the smug looks on the Clemson fans in the stands.

But the Gamecocks punched back. And kept punching back, even after a backbreaking interception by Rattler that could’ve cut the Clemson lead to two before halftime. USC scored a touchdown early in the third quarter, only to see Clemson answer with a score that made it fell like they were going to be able to keep us at arms length all day. Then, at 30-21, Rattler hit Juice Wells with at 72-yard dart that cut the lead back to two near the end of the third quarter. There was no quitting this time around.

A Mitch Jeter field goal to put the Gamecocks up 31-30 at 10:54 in the third quarter didn’t feel like they’d be the last points of the game, but the USC and Clemson defenses shut down the respective offenses until late. When Antonio Williams (remember him?) fumbled on a punt return that would’ve put the Tigers in great position for a game-winning field goal we could all taste it. When Juice Wells took a safe screen pass and fought off every Clemson defender in a five-mile radius to reach the sticks for a first down, we could feast on that meal that had been so long coming.

The streak was over. The wait was over. We beat Clemson.

Special. In my life of following football I always give lip service to the “three phases of the game” talk. Sure, sure, but we know special teams isn’t as important and OFFENSE and DEFENSE, right? Bully on me. I’ve never seen a team that relies on special teams to win games the way this Gamecock team does, and Saturday was as prime an example as we’ll every see. A fumble recovery on a kickoff (or free kick after safety if you will). A fumble recovery on a punt. A great punt return by Ahmerean Brown to set up a touchdown. Kai Kroeger continually giving the Tigers a long field to navigate. Mitch Jeter with the tackle that led to the fumble on the free kick, and nailing the game winner while remaining perfect on the season.

Just a dominant performance by Pete Lembo and company.

D-fense. The South Carolina defense, beaten and battered for most of the season, played an incredible second half on Saturday. They held Clemson to 86 yards in the second half, and six of seven Tiger drives in the second half were less than 25 yards.

Rattler and Satterfield. Anything we say here will be redundant, but what a performance from each man the last two weeks. Whether Rattler is back next year or not, he cemented his legacy as a Gamecock yesterday. And Satterfield, a dead man walking three weeks ago, will most assuredly be back next year to run the offense. Quite a turnaround.

Game balls.

  • Nate Adkins. My goodness what a day. Spectacular catch to set up a touchdown. Big third down conversion to set up another touchdown. Punched the ball away from Williams to secure the win. Not bad for a grad transfer from East Tennessee State.
  • Marcellus Dial, Jr. Lockdown all day long.
  • Sherrod Greene. Well deserved for his play and how long he’s stuck it out.
  • Mitch Jeter. Tackling machine, ace kicker.
  • Kai Kroeger. All-American.
  • Juice Wells. Stud, stud, stud.

Streak busters. Streaks that ended in Clemson, SC on Saturday:

  • Seven straight wins for Clemson in the rivalry
  • A 40-game Clemson home winning streak
  • A 68-game Clemson winning streak when leading at halftime
  • A 49-game Clemson winning streak when they have a 100-yard rusher
  • Also, not a streak, but it was only the second time a Dabo Swinney-led Clemson team lost while rushing for 200 yards.

R-E-L-A-X. As I stated in a tweet a couple of weeks ago – never tell a person how to be a fan. We all have different ways of dealing with wins and losses and all the things that go along with fanhood.

HOWEVER…I was flabbergasted at the negativity thay flowed after Spencer Rattler’s first interception yesterday. “The real Spencer Rattler is back.” “Marcus Satterfield must be calling plays again.” And my personal favorite after punting the ball away down 7-0: “We needed to score on that drive, this game is over.” This was with more than TEN MINUTES LEFT IN THE FIRST QUARTER.

We run a Twitter account that was once called “the most negative Gamecock Twitter account in existence” and even we thought that was a little much.

View from the other side. If I’m a Clemson fan I’m furious. DJU’s performance was the worst quarterback performance we’ve seen all year, and it’s not particulary close. (EDIT: I originally said he was the worst QB we’ve seen all year which in retrospect was a little hyperbolic.) There’s no way their backup could’ve done worse. Also, they had a guy averaging nine yards per carry that only got twelve touches. They kept trying to throw the ball instead of run, run, run. Clemson coaching contributed heavily to their loss yesterday.

Also, let’s talk about Dabo for a moment. Many Gamecock fans gave him credit for being humble and kind in his postgame yesterday. Don’t buy into it people. As @chickenhoops pointed out, now that his program is solidly elevated above ours (don’t get mad at that statement, it’s still true) he feels like he can be patronizing towards us even in a loss. His “USC is in California and Carolina is North Carolina” rant should never be far from your mind. That’s the real Dabo.

Football games come and go, but pettiness is forever.

What’s next. A pretty good bowl game, that’s what. A month ago I was dreading another trip to Birmingham to play a quality AAC opponent or something along those lines. But now we’re the toast of the college football world for the second week in a row, slaying another much-reviled orange-tinged program that the majority of the CFB world likes to see suffer.

So what else is next? Heck, I don’t know. What a wild ride the last couple of weeks has been. I’m just going to sit back, let it soak in and enjoy it for the next few weeks. Sound good? Good.

Go Cocks!

Snap Judgments – 2022 Tennessee @ USC

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Oh ye of little faith. I am not a gambler. Oh sure, when in Las Vegas I’ll occasionally visit the blackjack tables and lose a little money. You know, when in Rome and so forth.

But when I saw the line for last Saturday’s Tennessee at South Carolina game I was tempted. The Vols were installed as a 22-point favorite, and had just destroyed Missouri 66-24 while the Gamecocks were lifeless in a 38-6 loss to Florida in which they didn’t score an offensive touchdown. The two offenses were polar opposites of each other, which is why I genuinely expected a blowout loss to the suprising new darlings of college football.

I even went so far as to put an app on my phone where I could lay the points and win some dough. Thank goodness my conscience got the best of me. I never placed the bet going against my beloved Gamecocks. And good thing I didn’t.

Saturday night South Carolina put on the most mind-blowing performance in the 130-year history of Gamecock football. There was absolutely nothing from either team through ten games to suggest USC would score 63 points against the fifth-ranked team in the country while holding their explosive offense to 31 points until a late garbage-time touchdown.

This was a game dreams are made of – national prime time audience, raucus crowd, big recruiting weekend, a playoff spot possibly on the line for the visitors and a heaping spoonful of respect on the line for the home team. And USC responded in every conceivable way, playing with an attitude and ferocity we have not seen since the days of Shaw, Ingram, Clowney and Lattimore.

I have been hopeful and cautiously optimistic during the Beamer era, but my biggest concern was how we have played against the best teams. More often than not it has been not very well.

Until Saturday.

I have no idea if we’ll see the same team when we line up against Clemson this Saturday. It’s possible we’ll revert back to the team we saw against Missouri or Florida. But if we can start to put together performances even close to this consistently, we’ll be well on our way to being the team and program we’ve been waiting for.

Fingers crossed.

Marcus bleeping Satterfield. Two guys have been taking the brunt of the criticism for our offensive struggles this year. I’ll start with Marcus Satterfield. I don’t know what kind of pep talk, or ultimatum, or threats from the administration he was given last week, but Satterfield put on a show with his play calling against Tennessee. There have been hints of this type of performance for a quarter here and there over the course of two years, but Saturday was a master class in calling offensive football from wire to wire.

Satt knew where the Tennessee defensive weaknesses were and exploited them throughout the game. Every offensive player who suited up touched the ball at some point it seemed. Bell, Juju, Brown, Brooks, Juice, Adkins, Vann, and the list goes on and on. We’ve talked about the quality of offensive weapons we have all year and how we’ve underperformed. But the drain was unclogged on Saturday and the yards and points came flowing out.

The conspiracy theory that Satterfield wasn’t calling plays is kinda ridiculous. Some “experts” Zapruder-filmed the sidelines and came to the conclusion that Marcus wasn’t talking into his headset or communicating with the offensive staff. Intead, they theorized the play-calling duties were “spread out” among a number of coaches. That sounds really plausible and efficient, no? What did they do, set a rotation order for play calling among these coaches? Did they draw straws to see who got to go first? And if that’s the case why in the world did Beamer give Satt a game ball?

It’s ludicrous, and while we’ve been plenty critical of Satterfield most of the year, it’s time to give credit where credit is due. He did a helluva job Saturday night.

Spencer bleeping Rattler. I’ve been a huge Spencer Rattler fan from the time he arrived in Columbia. I’ve beat the drum about is talent and skills and have been waiting for his breakout week after week. But after the Florida game, I was certainly questioning my evaluation of Rattler. Was I way off base? Is he really not very good?

To throw for over 400 yards, six TDs and no interceptions against anybody is pretty impressive. But to do it against a top five team on that stage is how you prove you are the guy we thought you were. It was absolutely spectacular, and one of the top three offensive performances in Gamecock history.

Overheard. SEC Network’s Spencer Hall commenting on South Carolina running out of fireworks towards the end of the game because they’d scored too many points: “I’ve never seen anyone in South Carolina run out of fireworks in any context.”

People I’m happy for. Off the top of may head, Josh Vann, Jordan Burch and Sherrod Greene. They all deserved a game like this. I’m sure there are many more.

Hate week. What a glorious week it has been, and the Tennessee win has added a 55-gallon drum of intrigue to this weekend’s Carolina-Clemson game. I don’t know if we can replicate what we did to the Vols, but Clemson has been less than impressive for stretches this season. At the same time, we’ve had trouble keeping this game close for years now. It should be a fascinating game to watch.

Go Cocks.

Snap Judgments – 2022 Texas A&M @ USC Edition

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Texorcism. In 2014 Texas A&M came into Williams-Brice Stadium for one of the most anticipated season openers in South Carolina history. The Gamecocks were coming off four straight outstanding seasons and had finished 2013 ranked 6th in the country, our highest finish ever. On top of that, the Aggies and Gamecocks were tapped to be the first game ever on the new SEC Network.

If you’re a Gamecock fan at all, you know what happened on that fateful night. TAMU rolled USC 52-28, signalling the end of the salad days fo Gamecock football. Since then our permanent West opponent (which has always been a weird thing) has been a major thorn in our side, winning every subsequent match-up and outscoring us by almost three touchdowns on average. Much like our win over Kentucky perhaps signalled a turning point in that rivalry, to really feel confident that our program is on the right track we needed to exorcise the Texas A&M demon.

Our guys responded with a blistering start to build a 17-0 lead over the first five minutes, and did just enough to hold on for a 30-24 victory, our first ever over the Aggies.

Honestly, Texas A&M is quite the dumpster fire right now. The story nationally is much less about our ascension and much more about how College Station is paying box office superstar money to a guy who started the season in the top 10 and is now floundering at 3-4 on the year.

But I don’t think we care much what the national folks are saying now do we? Getting a win over the Aggies took a huge monkey off our backs, and proved we could compete with a roster of elite athletes, no matter how dysfunctional they are.

Competitive fire. If you read this column regularly, you know my biggest complaint of the Beamer era so far has been our lack of competitiveness against very good to great teams. The last two games against Kentucky and Texas A&M have helped allay those concerns somewhat. While neither team is near the “great” category, they both carried long winning streaks against us into this season and have typically beat us through physicality and/or sheer talent. Our wins in those games this year both felt like we were more “SEC” in the trenches and with our physicality. Neither game was close to perfect, but our toughness under fire has been impressive.

X factor. Xavier Legette set the tone with a 100-yard return for touchdown on the opening kickoff. Later in the game, he de-cleated Texas A&M start Devon Achane on the kickoff coverage team. Legette has been a bit of an enigma over his three years at South Carolina, contributing big plays on occasion but never becoming a consistent threat at wide receiver. It was a great to see a major contribution out of him last night.

Fresh for everyone. Punter Kai Kroeger had a huge night last night, averaging 49 yards on six punts. HIs biggest contribution came in the second half when he had back-to-back booming 55-yard punts that helped keep the Gamecocks out of trouble in a close game. Sometimes punters are weapons, and it’s safe to say Kroeger was one last night.

Lloyd Lloyd all null and void. MarShawn Lloyd continued to establish himself as one of the best running backs in the SEC with a 92 yard, two touchdown performance against a stout A&M front. I made the suggestion that perhaps Lloyd is our best running back since Marcus Lattimore, which brought out the Mike Davis fan club in full force. Fair enough people, check back with me when Lloyd’s career at USC is done and we’ll compare notes.

Rattlerfield. The two most discussed and maligned members of the Gamecock offense – OC Marcus Satterfield and QB Spencer Rattler – had uneven nights that didn’t leave anyone feeling like our offense is about to take off.

Satterfield once again had an evening that consisted of about 75% brain farts and 25% really good play calling. There are moments of borderline brilliance (like, one drive per game), but many times he just feels like he’s trying to be clever and show everyone the genius that is The Satt. I really think he has some great ideas and schemes, but once he gets in the game it feels like the plan is disjointed at best.

As for Rattler, he continues to show his raw talent, arm strength, and scrambling ability. But as the SEC Network crew pointed out last night, he tends to hold onto the ball too long and leaves the pocket sooner than is necessary. He’s been hurt by drops as well, including one in the end zone by Jalen Brooks last night. But right now he’s more of a game manager, and if we’re going to do big things, we need a game changer.

White Lightning. Clayton White continues to get the most out of our defense. TAMU picked up 177 of their 389 yards on two drives last night, with 83 of those coming on their final drive. While the Aggie offense isn’t setting the world on fire, they have a lot of individual talent and the Gamecock defenders prevented any explosive, back-breaking plays.

Rock concert. I haven’t had the pleasure of being in Williams-Brice for a game this season, but judging by what I’ve seen on TV and social media the athletic department has done an incredible job with the game day experience. Sideline reported Cole Cubelic of the SEC Network last night said it was the best enviroment they’ve been in all year.

Go Cocks.

Snap Judgments – 2022 USC @ Kentucky

Photo Credit: Ryan Bethea

Our old Kentucky home. South Carolina won 13 of 14 games against Kentucky from 2000 to 2013. Until last night, Kentucky had repaid that streak by winning 7 of 8 from 2014 to 2021. As middle of the pack SEC teams and similar programs, both streaks were stunning anomolies that didn’t make a lot of sense. Both teams have had ups and downs over the last two decades, but niether’s greatest successes nor deepest slumps would suggest those kinds of win/loss streaks.

Of course, we’ve been on the losing end of the latest streak, and the Wildcats have arguably been the biggest thorn in the side of the Gamecocks as we try to ascend back to the top tier in the SEC East. After all, if we can’t beat Kentucky consistently, how are we supposed to contend with Georgia, Florida and now Tennessee on a regular basis?

Last night’s 24-14 win suggested that perhaps the pendulum is swinging back in our favor. For years the Wildcats have been bigger and stronger than the Gamecocks, pushing us around the way an upper tier SEC team does a lower tier SEC team. But the 2022 edition of USC football refused to let that happen through sheer will and, finally, equal or better talent.

Maybe, possibly, Kentucky has peaked and will begin to slide back to their rightful place in the bottom half of the SEC, allowing us to set our sights on bigger and better things in the conference. If we ever hope to get back to the SEC title game, we first must make sure Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt are in our rearview mirror.

Last night was a step in the right direction.

Play stupid games, get stupid prizes. Mark Stoops was really smelling himself at SEC Media Days this year. In an interview on Marty and McGee he was talking proudly about how he has changed the culture at Kentucky and that’s the reason for their recent, unprecedented success. Unprecedented success that of course includes zero SEC East titles. But I digress.

In the midst of his self back-patting he oddly decided to take a shot at Shane Beamer, a man who knows how to use social media to jazz up his players and fan base. In reference to Gamecock Football’s post where Beamer walks into a room, puts on sunglasses and dances and sings, here’s Stoops:

It’s easy to change a climate. You change a uniform, talk a little game, dance around, put on some stupid sunglasses.

Mark Stoops, speaking on Marty & McGee

Stoops walked the statement back, saying he wasn’t talking about Beamer (not sure who else he could’ve been talking about), and Beamer downplayed the situation as well. But unbeknownst to us, Shane-O tucked that little quip in his back pocket, and after the Gamecocks dispatched the Wildcats 24-14 last night, he went absolutely nuclear on Stoops.

Now I’m not a big believer in bulletin board material and how it impacts what goes on in a 60-minute game. Once the opening whistle is blown and the pads start popping, more often than not coaching and talent take over, weekday trash talk be damned. But in this particular instance, Stoops’ unnecessary comment and Beamer’s response highlight the crusty old coach approach and the new, hip young coach approach.

And the new, hip young coach won this round by knockout.

Marcuspencer Rattlefield. The year 2021 featured perhaps the worst quarterback room at USC since 1999. Not a knock on on the poor young men that were forced into action, but the talent was FCS-level at best. That gave offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield a get-out-of-jail free card when it came to how bad the offense was.

The 2022 season was supposed to be different, with the addition of former Heisman candidate Spencer Rattler, a veteran offensive line, a couple of wide receiver transfers, and a finally healthy MarShawn Lloyd. But the high expectations have not been met to date. After three weeks the team was 13th out of 14 teams in the league in total offense, and a mauling of South Carolina State helped move them up to 11th after week four.

Most of the dissatisfaction has been heaped on Satterfield, his play-calling questioned on a regular basis. Rattler was given a pass the first couple of weeks because of the excitement that surrounded his arrival, but a chorus of naysayers crescendoed during the first half last night due to his inconsistent, and sometimes downright confounding play. (We didn’t say much about Satterfield last night on Twitter, but our frustration with Rattler bubbled over.) The Gamecocks had four opportunities in Kentucky territory in the first half, including one in the red zone, that netted zero points. We can’t win in the SEC like that.

Both men responded with a solid second half that helped us pull away from Kentucky. Satterfield mixed things up, and gave Rattler shorter, safer throws that took advantage of the playmaking skills of Juice Wells and Jalen Brooks. And of course Lloyd was a turbo bulldozer as usual, running for 110 yards and a touchdown.

Is our offense “fixed”? I don’t know, but the last night was encouraging. Rattler is going to have to be better on his intermediate and deep balls to help loosen up the screen and running games. And Satterfield…I don’t know. I’m probably not as down on him as most, but at some point he has to start putting up points or be held accountable.

Brooks & Wells & Vann & Shawn & Juju & Bell & Pine Tree. I literally texted Tbone “is Juice Wells still on the team” one play before his touchdown. The skill talent we have on offense is potentially among the best in the SEC, we just have to find ways to get them the ball. It was criminal in the first half that we barely heard some of these names mentioned. I realize there’s only one ball, but many OCs across the country would kill for a set of playmakers like this. I say this partly in a complaining way, but more in a hopeful way that this offense will get rolling in the second half of the year.

Sack attack. The Gamecocks skyrocketed from last in the SEC in sacks to 11th with a six-sack performance against a porous Kentucky offensive line last night. Strangely, Georgia is now last in the SEC in sacks.

Special. Ho-hum, another punt block. We’re leading the NCAA in that category. Too bad we didn’t score off of it.

Funhouse. I know we had some fun wins last year over Florida, Auburn and North Carolina, but there was something different about the win over the Wildcats last night. Maybe it was getting a really big monkey off our back, but it was positive and fun for the first time in a long time. Here’s to many more days/nights like that in the near future.

Next. Bye week baby, let’s get healthy and hit the second half of the season like a boss.

Go Cocks.

Snap Judgments – 2022 Georgia @ USC Edition

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1-2 Punch. About halfway through Georgia’s 48-7 dismantling of South Carolina yesterday, the justifications for why we were being administered such a thorough beating starting pouring in: what do you expect they’re number one in the nation, we’re missing five defensive starters, and my personal favorite – it’s going to take time! The justifications were a response to angry and frustrated fans as a virtual “CALM DOWN” to those raging about a pathetic and frustrating performance against the defending national champions.

As someone with an unquenchable thirst to win at anything at any time, during the heat of the moment these all come across as excuses, not reasons. Of course my resonable side takes over at some point and I regain the ability to recognize there are some very good reasons we are nowhere close to beating Georgia right now. But those reasons don’t cover up the disturbing observation that we simply don’t appear to be very well coached at the moment. Shane Beamer is wonderful at all the off the field stuff, including recruting, but on the field we have no offensive identity, our offensive linemen are constantly making the wrong choices leaving defenders running free, our defense is getting physically whipped. Someone will come back at me about how it’s the players and the recruiting and how the coaches aren’t the ones responsible for missed assignments or dropping passes or bad routes.

But I have a secret, the coaches ARE responsible for those things. They’re responsible for recruting the right people. Coaching them up. Teaching them to catch and run and block and recognize formations and get stronger and TACKLE. The accoutability lies with this coaching staff.

I saw many comments along the lines of “did anyone really expect us to be anything other than 1-2 at this point”. With all due respect that’s a lazy take. I’d say if we were all betting our life savings on what our record would be after three games that 95% of us would’ve said 1-2. That’s not the point. The point is for two weeks against big, strong, fast teams, we have looked small, weak, and slow. The competition has been tough, we have not.

Use your eyes and tell me what you see. If you’re disappointed but encouraged by what you’ve seen in this 1-2 start then I don’t think you’re looking very hard.

Offensive. I have been very benefit-of-the-doubt-ish about Marcus Satterfield until yesterday. We had one of the worst offenses in the SEC last season (and we’re 13th so far the season), but we also had the worst quarterback room. Early in the season the offensive line has played very poorly. Can’t blame these things on the OC, right?

But on the first series of the game yesterday, facing 3rd and 6 on the third play of the game, Spencer Rattler was replaced with Dakereon Joyner. I think everybody in the house knew what was about to happen, and sure enough Joyner tucked the ball and ran, and came up well short of the first down. We punted.

Instead of putting the ball in the hands of a former Heisman trophy contender, he put the ball in the hands of a guy who hasn’t played this season and has essentially had ONE good game in three years at South Carolina. It was absurd. Satterfield continued to make poor decisions on third down the rest of the game.

Satterfield needs two great games against inferior competition the next two weeks or his stint at USC will prove to be a short one.

Wet paper bag. Of our two coordinators Clayton White certain drew the most praise for the performance of his defense last season. But after three games we are last in total defense in the SEC and only have two sacks on the season. White is coaching with one hand tied behind his back so far, and he proved last year he can coach, so I’m not quite as concerned on the defensive side of the ball. Yet.

Squeezed. Juice Wells was leading the SEC in receiving after two weeks, but caught zero passes yesterday. Josh Vann continues to be milk-cartoning his way through this season, but did have a catch yesterday. Without looking up his stats I believe that’s two for eight yards on the year.

Rattled. So much of the blame was placed on our quarterback play last year, it stood to reason the addition of Spencer Rattler would be worth 1-2 more wins this season. But he has been extremely inconsistent so far, throwing five interceptions against only two touchdowns. Like Satterfield, he needs to gain some confidence over the next two weeks against non-SEC opponents.

Emmanworrior. The one person who does not deserve an ounce of blame or criticism for our play so far this season is Nick Emmanwori. This true freshman is an absolute ball player and I can’t wait to see him continue to grow and make plays.

GET OFF THE FIELD. No idea what was going on between quarters that led do a delay to the start of the second quarter, but that was the embarassing cherry on top of an embarassing Saturday.

Mr. Brightside. I know this hasn’t been fun to read. But I’m still optimistic we can reach a bowl this year. We need to settle in and play well against these teams where we have a decided advantage, win our toss up games and possibly pull an upset or two against teams not named Georgia.

Go Cocks.

Snap Judgments – 2022 USC @ Arkansas Edition

Hogtied. On Saturday Arkansas showed us a glimpse of who we hope to be in the not-too-distant future. The Razorbacks were in their own version of purgatory before Sam Pittman was hired in 2020. Pittman was seen as a very ho-hum hire at the time – a guy who is not particulary young, not well known, and was not on a lot of coaching hot lists. But what he has been is the perfect guy to follow Chad Morris (who was 4-18 and 0-14 in the SEC in his stint at Arkansas). Pittman has endeared himself with his no-nonsense approach, his aw-shucks personality, and his ability to recruit exactly the kinds of players he wants to run his schemes.

Yesterday Arkansas was the epitome of bigger, stronger, and faster for sixty minutes of football. The Gamecocks showed fight, something they always do. But don’t let the fact we cut the lead to one score in the third quarter fool you, there was never a moment where this game was really in doubt. The Razorbacks did what they wanted, when they wanted, against an inferior opponent.

This may sound harsh, but actually it should be encouraging for Gamecock fans. Pittman has accomplished in two years what we hope to do in short order – made his school relevant again in the SEC.

M*A*S*H Unit. The defense had so many guys hurt yesterday that I couldn’t keep up. There was at least one key contributor at each level of the defense that was lost for the game – DE Jordan Strachan, LB Mo Kaba and CB Cam Smith all left with injuries and did not return. Smith sounds like he’s going to be ok, but as of this writing it appears likely that both Strachan and Kaba have season-ending injuries. Both have had to overcome ACL injuries in their careers. For Strachan this could be especially heartbreaking because he’s a sixth year super senior who decided to return instead of pursue an NFL career. Per the ESPN broadcast, “Strachan’s family was in tears and joined him in the locker room.”

Boogie Huntley also went down early in the game but fortunately was able to return.

Satterfold. The identity of the South Carolina offense is still a man dressed in blue button down shirt, khaki pants and a paper bag over his head. The play calling was odd from the start, and that’s being kind. According to the ESPN broadcast, the Gamecock staff (read: Marcus Satterfield) was approached by Spencer Rattler, on behalf of a furious MarShawn Lloyd, about the lack of run plays called through the first three series. And voila! USC produced an 11-play touchdown drive featuring ten run plays on the very next drive.

Now it’s not atypical for a coordinator to ask his players “what are you seeing out there” and take some playcalling cues from that, but the story was a litte bit more disturbing in that our players sounded very frustrated at the game plan. Color analyst Dan Orlovsky pointed out a couple of times defensive alignments that would be perfect to run on, and we threw each time.

Satterfield, with all his unearned confidence, needs for the offense to have a good week sometime soon, or Shane Beamer’s decision to keep him as OC will look worse and worse.

Milk carton heroes. Syvelle Newton summed up my thoughts nicely.

What in the blue blazes are they doing with Jaheim Bell? Four carries for five yards and zero catches. And is Josh Vann still on the team? Zero targets yesterday after having only one catch for nine yards last week. We have too many playmakers to not be using them more effectively.

On the bright side, to my untrained eye the offensive line appeared to play better yesterday.

Spencer for hire. Spencer Rattler had his moments yesterday, both good and bad. He threw for 376 yards and a TD, but also had three fumbles (one lost) and one interception in the end zone. He’s a dude with massive talent, but I’m afraid we’re going to have to live with that good and bad Rattler all season, and hope the good outweighs the bad.

The Rain. Dadgummit, last week as part of my recap I was going to write that even though Jalen Brooks was the leading receiver that I thought Juice Wells would eventually be the primary target for Rattler. Wells proved me right (as far as you know) with a monster game – 8 catches for 189 yards and one TD. He’s currently the leading receiver in the SEC with 244 yards after two games.

Up next. To hell with Georgia, the cesspool of the South.

Go Cocks.

Snap Judgments – 2022 Georgia State @ USC Edition

Jeets. (Photo courtesy of The State)

Hope springs eternal. South Carolina had an offseason of hope unlike any other in the last few years. It was an offseason fueled by seven wins following a two-win season, a third-tier bowl victory, surprising recruting successes, and – something that is still a little surreal – a five-star QB at the helm. But as Georgia State’s Darren Grainger sprinted into the end zone early in the second half of our season opener for a 14-12 lead, an old familiar feeling started to creep in.

Don’t lie, you felt it. The memory of so many sluggish games at Williams-Brice against teams we should dispatch with relative ease. Sometimes we rally to pull it off, sometimes we don’t, but it’s almost always like passing a kidney stone. Slow and painful.

Fortunately, our five-star QB drove us right down the field to re-take the lead. We blocked a punt for a TD. Then did it again. And the party was on, complete with a world class light show. No, it wasn’t pretty, but after the first couple of minutes of the second half, football was fun again, and the promise of the Shane Beamer era was still in tact and still on schedule.

We’re in for some bumps in the road this season, you can count on it. We lost four of our six games last year by 20 or more points. We didn’t beat Kentucky or Missouri, which is imperative for us to take the next step. Our wins over Florida and Auburn were fun, but both of those programs were disasters by the end of the season.

People have short memories when things start going well. That’s the hope in all of us, that THIS TIME we’ve really turned it around. And maybe we have, we have eleven more games to find out.

There’s a ton of room for improvement, but to be able to breathe easy in the fourth quarter last night was a good start. One that we’ve too often not had the luxury of enjoying.

Rattle and Hum. There was no question heading into the season the greatest infusion of talent we had was Spencer Rattler at quarterback. Last year’s quarterback room was an island of misfit toys, and having a guy like Rattler could be worth two or more wins this season.

He did not disappoint last night. When a guy is special at the postion you can just tell – pocket presence, arm strength, accuracy. He has it all, but is also not above making mistakes, and he made a few. Most people will point to the interception where he could have run for a first down or hit Juju McDowell right in front of him and instead chose to throw the ball downfield for an interception. But the interception that glanced off of Ahmareon Brown’s hands was simply a bad throw. Brown was wide open and the throw should’ve been easy, but it sailed on him. Rattler also threw into triple coverage late in the game and was lucky to not have that picked off.

You know what, I’ll just shut up. Spencer Rattler is the most talented quarterback we’ve ever had and nitpicking his first ever game in a Gamecock uniform is stupid. Let’s sit back and enjoy.

The third phase. Holy cow Pete Lembo. Two blocked punts for TD, two 50-yard field goals, a fake field goal to give us a first and goal. It might’ve been the greatest special teams night in Gamecock history and Lembo should get a bonus.

Kicks Jeter. Mitch Jeter is a kick god. For a college kicker to come out in front of 75,000 fans and hit the first two field goals of his career is one thing, but to make both from 50+ yards is amazing and SEC Special Teams Player of the Week material. I question how many times this has been done in college football history, if ever.

Scatterfield. Marcus Satterfield took more heat than anyone in the Gamecock progam last year. Our offense was anemic until the final game. So much so that many thought he would be relieved of his duties at the end of the season. He survived, and was given votes of confidence by both Shane Beamer and the incoming Rattler. Satterfield himself seems to have a lot of confidence in his scheme and doesn’t care much for what fans and outsiders think. I like that.

What I don’t like is the offense didn’t look much better last night than it did most of last year. Last year’s excuse was the QB position. Last night it was our porous OL. These are seemingly legit reasons for an offense to not perform well, but at some point the offensive coordinator has to be the responsible party for a lack of yards and points.

Offensive. Our offensive line was atrocious, there’s really no way to sugar coat it. For a veteran group to get abused by a G5 school like that is not a good sign. I actually felt sorry for Lynch and the other backs last night. There were missed assignments and white jerseys in the backfield all night. Georgia State did a nice job of bringing pressure for different angles and positions, but for them to be that disruptive for four quarters is inexcusable.

Showtime. What a tremendous job by our athletic department with the new light show, music, highlight packages, etc. I wasn’t there but it looked like a great upgrade to the gameday experience.

Ex-Cocks. Last night marked the return of former Gamecock coach Shawn Elliott and former player Jamyest Williams, two dudes I’m very fond of. Elliott has done a really nice job at Georgia State after a stint as interim head coach at South Carolina. Who knows how close he came to becoming our head coach, but at minimum he was in the mix and in retrospect couldn’t have done a worse job than Will Muschamp.

Williams was one of the most talented high school players I ever saw. He was absolutely electric with the ball in his hands, but never got a chance under Muschamp, instead spending all his time at defensive back while at USC. It’s good to see him thriving at running back for GSU.

It’s good to be back. Go Cocks.

The Legacy of Phil Petty

Photo courtesy of The State

Farewell to thee! but not farewell

To all my fondest thoughts of thee:

Within my heart they still shall dwell;

And they shall cheer and comfort me.

“Farewell”, Anne Bronte

As you get older death tends to accelerate around you. That sounds morbid, but it’s the natural order of things. We get older, and people who have had some sort of impact in our lives, big or small, seemingly die at a more frequent pace. Some elicit a mild response, like “aw man bummer”. Some tug at you a little harder. Some take your breath away.

I was on a tarmac Thursday getting ready to fly home to Atlanta when I got a text from my nephew that Phil Petty had died. It took a moment for it to register with me, because Phil Petty was a young man and was not supposed to die. Phil Petty was supposed to be home with his wife and two kids, preparing to coach this upcoming football season, spinning yarns about his days playing under the blazing sun at Williams-Brice stadium under Lou Holtz.

It took my breath away, much like when I heard the news about Kenny McKinley.

Petty came to South Carolina in 1998 as a Brad Scott recruit, just as Scott was putting the finishing touches on running the USC football program into a ditch. Petty was just another guy really, there were no gaudy star ratings, no YouTube mash-ups of his high school career. He wasn’t a runner, and he didn’t possess a particularly strong arm. But he showed enough that freshman year to earn playing time in ten games as the Gamecocks limped to a 1-10 finish.

In 1999 under his new head coach, the aforementioned Holtz, he only played in six games due to injury as South Carolina ran through eight starting quarterbacks (yes, it’s ridiculous, you might want to check my math on that). That season ended 0-11 and the Carolina football program was at the low point of its 100-year history.

When the 2000 season rolled around there was really no reason to believe Phil Petty was our savior at the quarterback position. He won the starting job, but against no real competition. After breaking a 21-game losing streak against New Mexico State, ninth-ranked Georgia rolled into town for what was sure to be a bloodbath. But South Carolina stunned Georgia that day 21-10 behind a ball-control offense and a suffocating defense, and football was reborn in Columbia. Petty was solid in the face of a tough Georgia defense, finshing 18-28 for 154 yards and no turnovers.

The Gamecocks would ride that momentum to an 8-4 season and which included a stunning 24-7 win over Ohio State in the Outback Bowl, completing one of the great turnarounds in college football history. And Petty was the steady hand at the helm all the while.

In 2001 the Gamecocks picked up where they left off, winning their first five games, including a 14-9 victory at Georgia. South Carolina scored with just over a minute left on one of the gutsiest throws we’ve ever seen a USC quarterback make.

Also included in that opening streak was a rousing 37-36 comeback win over Alabama, which for my money is one of the most exciting games ever played in Williams-Brice. Petty, often described as a game manager, had the best statistical game of his career, throwing for 291 yards and 3 touchdowns, including the game winner with two minutes to go.

The 2001 season ended with another Outback Bowl win, once again over Ohio State, and a final record of 9-3.

Think about that: from 1-10 and 0-11, to 8-4 and 9-3. Prior to 2000-2001 South Carolina had won eight or more games TWICE IN OUR HISTORY.

That is the legacy of Phil Petty on the football field. His toughness and resolve helped fuel a miraculous turnaround for a program in the depths of despair. He helped put the program back on solid footing and showed that you CAN win at South Carolina, and paved the way for the likes of Shaw, Lattimore, Clowney and the rest. Those years were incredibly fun and memorable.

The legacy of Phil Petty off the football field can be summed up in one quote for his former coach Lou Holtz, “I would be proud to call him my son.”

Farewell to thee. Forever to thee.

Snap Judgments – 2021 Clemson @ USC Edition

Photo courtesy of

Our Clemson Problem. From 2009 to 2013 Steve Spurrier and South Carolina owned Clemson like no other time in the rivalry’s history. Clemson had consistently good (not great) teams, finishing in the top 25 three times and the top 10 twice, which made the winning streak that much sweeter. As the streak grew I even commented multiple times about how the Gamecocks were “in the heads” of Clemson. The Tigers came to fear the block C when they saw it, and despite their best efforts they couldn’t find a way to beat USC.

The game in 2014 at Clemson started swimmingly for South Carolina. The Gamecocks took the lead on a 20-yard Pharoh Cooper run and the same refrain echoed in my mind – even at 6-5 -we’re in their heads. Alas, it didn’t last long, as Deshaun Watson and Wayne Gallman and Artavis Scott proceeded to gash a porous USC defense and end the five-game losing streak. It was a turning point for Clemson as a football program, and a turning point in the rivalry.

Since then, there has been one close game, in 2015. Miraculously a Spurrier-less squad hung tough and lost 37-32 against a Clemson team that would eventually lose the 2016 National Championship game to Alabama. In the games since then we have lost by 49, 24, 21, 35 and 30. That’s an average losing margin of 31.8 points over five games, and it’s embarrassing and unacceptable in a rivalry that was lopsided in the first place.

I’ve preached in this space about being competitive against elite competition. Our track record against Clemson the last five years is the opposite of competitive. Other than recruiting and coaching better I don’t know what the answer is. Spurrier famously took down the “beat Clemson” signs in the USC locker room and said “I want to beat everybody” and in effect de-emphasized the importance of the rivalry.

Regardless of how we get there, it is becoming critical that we start closing the gap on Clemson. And in a year with many positive accomplishments by our new coaching staff, I’m afraid the gap widened even further last night.

We have to get them out of our heads.

If you had told me… I lost count of how many tweets I saw last night after our caning that said something to the effect “if you had told me back in August we’d be 6-6 and going to a bowl game yadda yadda yadda”. People have to right to prop up Shane Beamer and the job he has done this year to squeeze six wins out of this schedule with this level of talent*. I’m on the Shane train too, somewhere in the middle of the caboose looking for a comfortable place to sit down.

*Side note: for those still talking about going from two wins last year to six wins this year dare I remind you we played an all-SEC schedule last year and didn’t have the luxury of playing Eastern Illinois, East Carolina and Troy.

My problem with the “if you had told me back in August” argument is we’re skipping everything that helps us form our opinion of this team. We have sliced and diced every game and have come to many conclusions that may or may not support our being happy with six wins. If you’re happy that’s great, and if you’re not particularly happy, I think that’s ok too, because HOW we got here is just as important as the record. Let’s review:

  • Eastern Illinois – whatever, we could’ve rolled out the JV squad and beat them by 20.
  • East Carolina – very bad offensive performance, escaped an average group of five team by 3 points.
  • Georgia – landed some shots, but overall completely outclassed by the best team in the country.
  • Kentucky – bad, bad, bad home loss to a decent team, missed opportunity because our offense stinks.
  • Troy – typical mid-season struggle against a team we should dominate. (FYI, Georgia State beat them by four touchdowns yesterday.)
  • Tennessee – embarrassing loss to another team with a first-year head coach.
  • Vanderbilt – needed a minor miracle to beat the absolute worst team in power five.
  • Texas A&M – have I used the word embarrassing enough yet? TAMU finished 8-4 by the way.
  • Florida – YAY, fun game!
  • Missouri – Boo, horrible game against a team we should be benchmarking ourselves against.
  • Auburn – Wow, big upset, hope for the Clemson game!
  • Clemson – …………….

When you look at it that way, maybe it gives you a different perspective on those six wins and how we got here. There is still a LOT to be cleaned up. We need to assert ourselves against teams like Vandy and Troy, we need to pass Kentucky and Missouri sooner rather than later, and we need to be able to play competitively into the fourth quarter against Texas A&M, Georgia and Clemson.

I’m not telling any of you to not be positive, please do. But the realistic side of me tells me we may have further to go than the Florida or Auburn games tell us.

Satter-fired. Marcus Satterfield has been relieved of his offensive coordinator duties by almost all Gamecock fans. Whether or not Shane Beamer actually does it remains to be seen. But this offense has been the main point of pain for us the entire season. Satterfield has stated, somewhat arrogantly, that this offense if one that is “being run on Sundays”. That’s nice, but on Saturdays it has ranked 13th out of 14 teams in the SEC in pretty much every major category.

One way to overcome talent deficiencies on offense is through scheme. We need someone creative, and someone who can scheme against the level of defenses we play week in and week out. Here’s hoping there’s a new OC under the Christmas tree.

The QB Carousel. Also needed under the Christmas tree is a QB from the transfer portal. If there’s one thing we all know is that most teams cannot be great without a great signal caller, and I don’t think we have one on the roster at the moment. You can make your case for Luke Doty or even Colton Gauthier, but there is no real evidence either one is “the guy”. If there is an opportunity to make the QB room better through the portal, we HAVE to do it.

Help wanted: Wide receivers. What the heck is going on with every receiver we have besides Josh Vann? Aren’t there other guys on scholarship? Geez.

What’s Next. I apologize if these Snaps are bringing you down, but my realistic side seems to kick in when I actually have time to write. The truth is I really, really like Shane Beamer and the positive energy he has brought to the program. His style is not my favorite all the time, but that’s just the old man in me coming out. More than anything, I want this program to WIN, and I want it sooner rather than later because I’ve been at this for a long time. And I’m obnoxiously competitive, ok?

Anyway, I’m excited about the opportunity to see this team play in any bowl game (even Birmingham!) and about how recruiting is shaping up. We need a big influx of talent over the next few months, and I think the way the program has progressed will allow us to get it.

See you next month, Go Cocks!

(Not so) Snap Judgments – 2021 Kentucky @ USC Edition

USC QB Luke Doty hobbles for a few yards against Kentucky. (Photo courtesy of

Kentucky Blues. On October 7, 2000, South Carolina eked out a 20-17 win over Kentucky in Lexington. That began a run of ten straight and 13 out of 14 victories over the Wildcats for USC. (Strangely, the only loss was during the Gamecocks’ SEC East title season in 2010.) Some years during that run the Gamecocks were a little bit better than Kentucky, and some years they were a LOT better than Kentucky. But there was no question during the Holtz and Spurrier years that South Carolina was a better PROGRAM than Kentucky. Better players, better teams, better recruiting, pretty much better everything.

And that’s the way it should be, right? The universe decided long ago Kentucky was going to be elite at basketball, and football would forever be relegated to being a second-rate opponent worthy of scheduling for homecoming. As USC fans, we decided Kentucky should be a dub roughly 13 out of every 14 years for all eternity.

But in 2013 UK turned their program over to Mark Stoops, an uninspired hire that felt like they were simply scraping the bottom of the Stoops brothers barrel hoping for a little magic. As it turns out – while they haven’t exactly built a title contender up in Lexington – Stoops continues to field teams that are a royal pain the butt for USC. How much of a pain in the butt? After Saturday’s 16-10 loss to UK, Carolina has now dropped seven of its last eight to the ‘Cats.

There was a lot of excitement and anticipation going into Saturday night, and rightfully so. Hope springs eternal, and the fightin’ Shane Beamers had given us no reason to NOT expect an early statement victory over a middling SEC team.

Alas, it turns out middling SEC teams play pretty good football, especially against teams coming off a 2-6 season with a new head coach and a ton of unproven players on both sides of the football. The Wildcats had hosses along both lines of scrimmage, playmakers on the edge, and a bulldozer disguised as a running back. Even when they tried to give us the game, we couldn’t take it from them.

As much as it pains me to say, at this point in time Kentucky has a better football program than we do. And until we start beating them again, we should stop looking down our noses like we’ve beaten them 13 out of the last 14.

Scatterfield. What happens when you can’t pass, catch, run or score? You become statistically the worst offensive team in the SEC. (I’m currently not counting Vanderbilt as a team in the SEC for obvious reasons.) Take away the opening game victory over Region 4-AAAA Eastern Illinois (or was it Eastern Iowa? Or Eastern Indiana?) and the Gamecocks are averaging a measley two touchdowns per game.

I don’t have to tell you savvy readers, but scoring two TDs per game in this day and age is pretty…hmmm, what’s the word here…oh yeah, pathetic. I know, I know, one game was against Georgia, a team that basically has an NFL defense. And one was against Kentucky, which has, um, potentially an NFL player or two. And one game was against East Caroli…ok I quit. Pathetic was the right word.

So what’s the problem? Well, a lot of it is players who can’t make plays either because they’re simply not good enough or because they’re hurt (more on that later). A much more frightening possibiity is that Marcus Satterfield simply isn’t very good at his job. Based on some interactions this weekend a few of you have aleady come to that conclusion. I’m not there yet, and probably won’t get there soon based on the fact nobody would be a good offensive coordinator with that offensive line, a hobbled QB, running backs who aren’t living up to their billing, and for some reason a couple of our receivers are playing with oven mitts on their hands.

Of course there’s this to make you feel better:


Wounded Walking. Something I have to continue to remind myself is how playing with and/or recovering from injuries can impact a player. I’ve been disappointed we haven’t seen the explosive MarShawn Lloyd this season that we were all expecting. But even when cleared to play, players coming back from an ACL, particularly running backs, often aren’t the same for two years.

Everyone keeps saying Kevin Harris doesn’t look the same, and he doesn’t. Twice on Saturday night he was stonewalled by a guy his size or smaller that he would have steamrolled last season. He had a mysterious back procedure in the preseason that must have been worse than we’ve been told.

And then there’s the case of Luke Doty. There was fear that Doty had broken his foot in preseason practice, but then we were told it was a sprain and he would be back early in the season. But now it turns out…his foot was broken!

Last year Luke was more of a “reckless abandon” kind of guy, but he’s obviously not running well and is ducking out of bounds as soon as possible when he does run. Now we know why.

So when three of your top weapons are not close to 100%, that’s a pretty big contributor to why your offense might not be clicking.

Scatterfield Part Deux. Marcus Satterfield last week said you can’t get a running back in a good rhythm when he has to share the field with three other guys, and he promised to scale back the running back rotation. The casualties were ZaQuandre White, who got zero carries and I think zero snaps at running back, and Lloyd, who got one snap and one carry if my eyes didn’t deceive me.

The biggest surprise of the season continues to be Juju McDowell, who doesn’t really care who he has to compete with for playing time, he just makes plays.

Those types of dudes we need, you know.

To go or not to go. So real quick – down 13-7 in the fourth quarter, you have fourth and medium or you can kick a 40-something-yard field goal to cut the lead to 13-10. You go for it, you don’t make it, Kentucky drives down and kicks a field goal to make it a two score game with four minutes and change left to essentially seal the game.

So for me, and I’m not saying I’m 100% right, I’m kicking the field goal. You extend the game and put pressure on Kentucky to play perfect football. Not making that fourth down conversion was also demoralizing, as was Chris Rodriguez picking up eight yards per carry on the way to that game clinching field goal for the Wildcats.

“But we had the right call on fourth down and the ball hit him right in the chest.” Right, and he dropped it. If you go for it, you have to be sure you have the players who can execute and ensure you get a first down. When you don’t have playmakers (and for the most part we don’t) that’s the risk you take.

“But we still lost by six so that field goal wouldn’t have mattered any way.” You can’t assume the game would’ve played out exactly the same way, because it wouldn’t have. Maybe Kentucky fumbles the ensuing kickoff and we recover. Maybe Kentucky returns the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. Maybe, maybe, maybe. You have to make the decision in the moment, and we made the wrong decision.

Wait, did I just say I was 100% right? Oops!

What’s next. A 3:30 pm game against a Troy Trojans team we should whip soundly…hopefully. And hopefully we’ll find some offensive weapons we can depend on.

So let’s just kick their butts and get ready for Tennessee shall we?

Go Cocks.