Anxious Moments: 31 Years of South Carolina Season Openers – Ranked

Stephon Gilmore saves the day against NC State in 2007. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

When our old pal Ben Breiner asks a question of the old guard, we feel compelled to respond.

To hopefully somewhat answer Ben’s question, we decided to take a look at the last 31 years of South Carolina season openers to determine which were the most all-around anxiety inducing, aggregating the amount of anxiety before, during and after the contest. There’s no real formula or research here, just memories combined with results combined with a dash of context.

From least anxiety-inducing to most, here you go:

31. 2021 – Beat Eastern Illinois 46-0

Even though it was Shane Beamer’s first game, everyone knew EIU was greatly overmatched before, during and after the game. Complete cakewalk.

30. 1998 – Beat Ball State 38-20

The beginning of Brad Scott’s last season and his last win as USC head coach. The thrill was gone.

29. 2001 – Beat Boise State 32-13

Before Boise State was Boise State they were just another small school headed to Columbia for a paycheck. Good USC team, relatively easy win.

28. 2002 – Beat New Mexico State 34-24

Probably closer than we would’ve liked, but still a bit of a snoozer for what turned out to be a pretty disappointing Gamecock team.

27. 2018 – Beat Coastal Carolina 48-15

Yawn. No matter how much the Coastal folks like to talk these days they’ll always be a cupcake against the ‘Cocks.

26. 1996 – Beat UCF 33-14

Before UCF was UCF, they were just another small school headed to Columbia for a paycheck. But they did have a young quarterback named Daunte Culpepper who we would see again one year later.

25. 2005 – Beat UCF 24-15

Some of you may be surprised to see this game so low given it was Steve Spurrier’s first game at the helm and it was a fourth quarter game. But UCF was in the midst of a 16-game losing streak and GADZOOKS STEVE SPURRIER WAS OUR HEAD COACH.

24. 2007 – Beat Louisiana 28-14

Thought to be a season opening cupcake against the Fightin’ Spurriers, this game was much too close for comfort.

23. 1999 – Lost to NC State 10-0

Lou Holtz’s first game as head coach, game was literally played in a tropical storm. Not much reason for anxiety, but we also didn’t know we were about to go 0-11.

22. 2000 – Beat New Mexico State 31-0

There was the pressure of a 21-game losing streak of course, but NMSU was a bad team and just the medicine Holtz and Co. needed. The goal posts came down that day, and then came down again a week later when the Gamecocks upset ninth-ranked Georgia.

21. 2003 – Beat Louisiana 14-7

Way, WAYYYYY too close for comfort. There were hints at this point that maybe Lou Holtz was starting to mail it in.

20. 1997 – Beat UCF 33-31

Turns out that Culpepper kid was pretty good. UCF led heading in to the fourth quarter, but USC scored twice and then held on for the win.

19. 2004 – Beat Vanderbilt 31-6

Very much anxiety inducing before the game started. The Gamecocks came out in fresh black helmets (for the only season under Holtz), the late Jamacia Jackson had a long interception return for touchdown, and the Gamecocks cruised late.

18. 2006 – Beat Mississippi State 15-0

Starting the season with a road SEC game is never an easy task. But the USC defense was stout and Cory Boyd was “back like cooked crack”.

17. 2015 – Beat UNC 17-13

In retrospect it really didn’t matter that we won this game. The season was disastrous, but the win felt big at the time.

16. 2008 – Beat NC State 34-0

This was the proverbial “game was closer than the score indicates”. South Carolina sent Russell Wilson off on a stretcher (he turned out to be just fine) and piled on points late for the win.

15. 2013 – Beat UNC 27-10

Big expectations could only be met with a fast start, and USC needed a win to get things off on the right foot. They rode a 75-yard touchdown run by Mike Davis for a hard-fought win.

14. 2010 – Beat Southern Miss 41-13

It was a put up or shut up year for Steve Spurrier, and it started with a tough Southern Miss team with a cocky head coach named Larry Fedora. The Gamecocks would pull away and ultimately win their first SEC East title.

13. 2017 – Beat NC State 35-28

This was easily Will Muschamp’s best team. Deebo returned the opening kickoff of the season for a TD, caught two TD passes, and the Gamecocks batted down a pass in the end zone late late to seal it.

12. 2012 – Beat Vanderbilt 17-13

Ugh, talk about anxiety inducing. A really close game for what turned out to arguably be South Carolina’s best team ever.

11. 2009 – Beat NC State 7-3

Just a horrible, horrible football game that ended with a pass batted down by freshman Stephon Gilmore in the end zone. It was a must win with a trip to Georgia the following week, a game which the Gamecocks lost 41-37.

10. (4-way tie) 1992 – Lost to Georgia 28-6; 1993 – Beat Georgia 23-21; 1994 – Lost to Georgia 24-21; 1995 – Lost to Georgia 42-23

That’s right, we started the season against Georgia four seasons in a row. That, my friends, is anxiety inducing on so many levels.

6. 2016 – Beat Vanderbilt 13-10

Will Muschamp’s first game, and you just can’t lose to Vandy in your first game. Elliott Fry drilled a long field goal for the winner in what was a nail-biting 60 minutes. (Muschamp also punted in plus territory about 15 times, tipping his hand for the rest of his tenure.)

5. 2020 – Lost to Tennessee 31-27

Tough way to start Muschamp’s final season (an SEC-only schedule in the middle of the pandemic) as South Carolina had a chance to win but a Tennessee punt hit Cam Smith, and the Volunteers killed the last minute and a half for the win.

4. 2022 – Beat Georgia State 35-14

Maybe some recency bias on my part. The optimism of the offseason, a team that beat Tennessee two years ago and almost beat Auburn last year, USC being behind early in the second half…it all made for a relatively stressful second-year opener for Shane Beamer.

3. 2019 – Lost to UNC 24-20

Everyone in Gamecock Nation was feeling the pressure in this one. Will Muschamp needed a big season, and a win in Charlotte over UNC would be a great way to start. But the Gamecocks imploded in the fourth quarter, getting outscored 15-0 en route to a crushing loss.

2. 2011 – Beat East Carolina 56-37

USC was coming off their first ever SEC East title, and Connor Shaw had won the starting QB job over Stephen Garcia. ECU ambushed the Gamecocks, leading 17-0 early and 28-14 at the half. USC exploded in the third quarter to take control, but I mean to tell you, that first half was about as anxiety-inducing as it gets for me.

1. 2014 – Lost to Texas A&M 52-28

I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever been so excited for a season opener. We had lost a lot of personnel from the teams that had won 11 games in three straight seasons, but I believed in Steve Spurrier and believed the good times would continue to roll. Instead, an unheralded Texas A&M squad, with something called Kenny Hill at quarterback, thottled the Gamecocks from start to finish. This was the day the clock started ticking on the Spurrier era.

These are the opinions of Buck and Buck alone. Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think.

Snap Judgments – 2021 USC @ Texas A&M

Use your eyes. I didn’t get to watch a lot of the Gamecocks 44-14 loss to Texas A&M last night because I was busy watching my beloved Atlanta Braves earn a trip to the World Series. And thankfully the Braves are in my life, because Gamecock football continues to be an exercise in futility and disappointment.

The USC offense has been sad all year long, ranking 13th in the SEC and not even on the radar nationally in most statistical categories. Vandy hero Zeb Noland got the start last night at QB because of Luke Doty’s season-ending surgery, and because he presumably gave the Gamecocks the best chance to “win”. He proceeded to go 7-12 for a whopping 30 yards, mostly because he was running for his life because our dog of an offensive line continued their substandard play. (We had SIX yards of total offense 3/4 of the way through the game.)

The USC defense has been somewhat of a bright spot for most of the year, playing above their talent week in and week out. Last night they appeared to walk out on the offense like a cheated on spouse – “hey, if you’re not going to try to save this relationship I’m not going to try either.” The Texas A&M offensive line shoved our guys around all night long and created freightliner-sized holes to run through.

Special teams? Well, giving up a 95-yard punt return for a touchdown barely two minutes in kinda helped set the tone for the game.

TRC member Tbone flew right by criticizing Shane Beamer last night and went all in on Ray Tanner. And I wasn’t mad about it. Six years ago Tanner plucked Will Muschamp off the garbage heap hoping he could right the South Carolina ship even though he flopped at Florida, a place much easier to win at than Columbia, SC. Then after the Muschamp experience failed miserably, Tanner quickly zeroed in on Shane Beamer,

Beamer sold Tanner and the USC brass on his enthusiasm and love for the university. Never mind that Beamer had never been a coordinator, much less a head coach, or that we were competing with absoutely nobody for his services. I don’t really recall anyone saying he was a rising star in the coaching ranks or somebody who should be on lists for teams looking for a coach. This was a concern that was covered up quickly by slick videos and tears and enthusiasm and LOVE.

Before anybody goes off the deep end and thinks I’m calling for Shane Beamer to be fired, I’m not. But if you’re not concerned about how this season has played out you’re not paying attention. No we don’t have great talent, but the coaching mistakes we’re seeing are glaring. For the “give him time” crowd, you’re missing the point. What you want to see in a first year is progress, that kids are getting the schemes, making fewer mistakes each week, being COMPETITIVE. We have seen the exact opposite of that, especially the last three weeks.

28-0 first quarter deficit to Tennessee (who also was a train wreck and has a first year head coach.)

Last second touchdown to beat Vanderbilt by one point. (Vandy lost 45-6 at home to Mississippi State last night.)

44-0 deficit to TAMU before we scored a point.

At South Carolina we’re used to our football program being average, that’s our brand. But getting embarrassed is where we should draw the line as Gamecock fans, and the last three weeks have been downright embarassing. And don’t give me the “lack of talent” angle either. You can’t tell me we don’t have at least comparable talent to Tennessee and much better talent than Vanderbilt.

It is highly concerning, and it’s all on Ray Tanner at this point for taking such a risk for a head coach.

Finally, I see a lot on Twitter about who the real fans are, and how “real fans” wouldn’t turn on the team. First of all, I’m turning on the adults in charge, I’ll never turn on the guys who put on the pads day in and day out.

Second, if you’re not pissed off at what you’ve seen so far this year, then I’d argue you’re not the real fan. We deserve better. @3×5 said it best last night:

Go Cocks.

Snap Judgments – Vanderbilt @ USC Edition 2021

(Photo courtesy of

A win is a win? When Vanderbilt took a 17-14 lead late in the third quarter over South Carolina yesterday, I pretty much decided there would be no real positives to take from this game, win or lose. After all, this was a Vandy team that hadn’t won an SEC game in 15 tries, lost by three touchdowns to East Tennessee State, needed a last second field goal to beat the worst team in FBS (UConn), and lost by a combined 104-0 to Georgia and Florida. Sure, we’re dealing with a rebuild and a first year head coach, but Vanderbilt is a never-been-built whose football history makes South Carolina look like Notre Dame in comparison.

With about two minutes left and Vanderbilt well within field goal range to extend their lead to 20-14, I tweeted this:

Now, I know better. And I knew better as soon as I hit send, and walked that tweet back before the game-winning drive even began. (We don’t delete tweets for the most part, because we believe owning our stupidity is a path to growth, and deleting something that eventually turns out to be wrong is cowardly.)

But even though Zeb Noland rescued us from the fire yesterday, the point of that tweet still stands. Who are we if we lost to THAT Vanderbilt team? Or even come that close to losing to that Vanderbilt team? I was highly critical of our team last week when we fell behind to Tennessee 28-0 in the first quarter. Someone on Twitter came back at us with “well what did you expect this season under a first year head coach?”

I’ll tell you what I expect, to not be 13th in the league in almost every statistical offensive category. To not have to kick a last second field goal to beat East Carolina. To not lose a game to rebuilding and first-year head coach having Tennessee before the first quarter is over. To not struggle against the likes of Troy and Vanderbilt. To not commit boatloads of penalties and have critical turnovers every game. To not have to question at least one major coaching decision every week.

Look, I know who we are, I’ve been at this for 30+ years. I don’t expect us to compete for championships, quite frankly, but I would love for us to at least be COMPETITIVE. We have at least the resources of Ole Miss and Mississippi State, and they continue to be more competitive than us year in and year out for the most part. And occasionally they’re pretty darned good.

Somone will accuse me of being a miserable Gamecock fan. I can assure you I’m far from it. I will admit that I am fiercely competitive and despise losing at anything, but the part of me that used to carry a Gamecock loss around with me for several days is long gone. But I do like to still write about it, and I try to tell the truth as I see it.

The truth is, we deserve better. And we should all expect more.

Old man yells at cloud. I feel like I have to repeat this every week, but I really like Shane Beamer. He has done a fine job of selling a family atmosphere to both the players and the fan base. He wins every press conference, and like last night, when one of his kids jumps in his arms at the end of game and he has a big smile on his face you can’t help but think “awwwwwwww”.

However, you know what Shane Beamer I really like? The Shane Beamer I saw with about two minutes left against Vandy. He was pissed, stressed, and had a look on his face like “how is this happening”. He looked like a football coach who wanted to chew somebody up and down for allowing this to happen.

This is probably going to sound idiotic, but I don’t mind the positivity that comes out of Beamer. But there are also times to be an old school football coach. This blog lived off of making fun of Dabo Swinney for being a “cheerleader” instead of a coach for years. And don’t deny it, you did as well. It would be hypocritical of me to sit here and say I love it when Beamer does it but hate it when Dabo does it. I don’t particularly like it when either does it.

Here’s the gist, and I keep saying it but I think a lot of people aren’t really getting it – at the end of the day winning matters. It doesn’t matter what your personality or sideline demeanor is if you produce wins instead of losses. Winning cures all, and losing…well, we all know what losing does.

I have high hopes that Beamer will start winning, and winning big. And then he can come out in a Dumb and Dumber tuxedo and dance a jig after every first down for all I care.

Bad choices. Last week we let a defensive end throw a pass that was intercepted in the end zone and yesterday we passed on three points to go for it on 4th and 5. Like I said, I feel like every week we’re talking about at least one terrible coaching decision by this staff. Personally, I need to feel good that these coaches can handle the pressure of making basic football decisions on game day.

Noland to the Zebscue. After the first two drives of the game yesterday, Luke Doty just didn’t have it. And he threw two really, really bad interceptions that could’ve easily cost us the game late.

Zeb Noland finally came in with a minute and a half left because Doty had a *cough cough* “flare up” in his foot. Noland looked like Joe Montana as he marched the Gamecocks to the winning touchdown.

I am indeed beginning to question the long-term viability of Doty as a difference making QB. Yes, he’s still very early in his career, but there aren’t even really flashes of that “it” factor that good signal callers have. Has the OL been terrible? Yes. Has Doty been hurt? Yes. So there are reasons/excuses for his lack of great play other than he’s not very good. But we need to find out what he is soon, or we have decisions to make about transfers in the offseason.

Oh, and if he’s still hurt, STOP PLAYING HIM UNTIL HE GETS WELL.

Game balls. Zeb, of course. And welcome back Xavier Legette. And way to keep balling Jaylan Foster.

What’s next. Texas A&M, a team that has all of the sudden found itself in the last two weeks. A very tough challenge for the Gamecocks, but a good chance to show that competitiveness we’ve been talking about.

Go Cocks.

Snap Judgments – 2021 USC @ Georgia Edition

Jalen Foster snags one of his two interceptions on the night. (Photo courtesy of

Dog days. On October 12, 2019, the South Carolina football team went into Athens and pulled off one of more improbable upsets over Georgia in the history of our rivalry, 20-17. At that moment in time there was a feeling of, “hey, maybe Muschamp has figured this thing out”. Indeed he did not have it figured out, as the fortunes of both schools have gone in drastically different directions since that day.

South Carolina would win three more games under Will Muschamp against 13 losses until he was fired at the end of the 2020 season. Included in those 13 losses was a glorified scrimmage against Georgia last year that illustrated just how far USC had fallen behind the Bulldogs. The talent disparity was borderline embarrassing and the lack of effort from USC signaled the end of a bleak era.

Going into last night’s game USC was a 32-point underdog, which I think (but never confirmed) was the largest point spread the Gamecocks have faced since joining the SEC in 1992. Throughout the game the talent gap was on full display, as Georgia’s defensive line pushed us around, and their offense easily converted third downs and got behind our defensive backs for long scores multiple times.

But despite the 27-point loss, there was something different about last night. There was hope. Not the kind of hope that kills you, but the kind of hope that breeds more hope. The Gamecocks fought hard against what is most likely the best team in the country at the moment, and while we didn’t land nearly enough punches, we were able to land a few.

Are we anywhere close to the level of Georgia right now? No, not really. But we’re closer than we were a year ago in both attitude and talent. This is a year for Shane Beamer to build momentum and gain ground on not just Georgia, but all of the teams ahead of us.

Last night was a glimpse of just how far we have to go.

Cool hand. Zeb Noland has done an admirable job and has been a good story for us the first two weeks of the season. But after having his hand stepped on in the first series last night, we were able to get our first look at Luke Doty in 2021.

Doty is still a little raw, but it was quite obvious to these untrained eyes that he has a skill set that no one else on our roster can match. He obviously can move around inside and outside the pocket, which adds another dimension to our offense. I was also impressed by his arm strength, which is something I don’t recall from his limited action last year.

Regardless, it’s obvious he is our QB1 and will be for the foreseeable future. I’m looking forward to watching him break out over the next few weeks.

Unmarked Vann Again. Josh Vann continued to cement himself as our number one receiving threat with three catches for 128 yards and a touchdown. He had another acrobatic 40-ish yard catch called back when the replay officials said the ball touched the ground, which it clearly DID NOT…maybe.

BROOKSIE. Jalen Brooks made what might turn out to be the catch of the year. Brooks has potential to be a solid number two receiver, but he has to start making the easy catches along with the hard ones.

Boneheaded. On one of Vann’s catches he immediately jumped up and mugged over the Georgia defender, drawing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty. Now look, you can get mad at the stupid rule, and you can get mad at the stupid SEC official for throwing the stupid flag. But eventually our guys have to realize they’re putting the team in a hole with these types of antics, and we’re not nearly good enough to be able to absorb those types of penalties. Shane Beamer expressed frustration with it as well after the game, saying he’s had to talk to the team about it after each game this year. Clean it up fellas.

Boneheaded Part II. With about half a minute left in the second quarter USC stopped Georgia on third down just on our side of the field. Not wanting to concede the half, Shane Beamer called a timeout. I liked it! Who knows what could happen – bad snap, blocked kick, long punt return – give it a shot I say!

What happened next is Georgia punter Jake Camarda pinned the Gamecocks down at the one-yard line with 32 seconds left in the half. The choice to me was clear – run a QB sneak once, let the clock run out and we get the ball to start the second half down by two scores and feeling pretty good.

Instead, we ran play action against a defensive line that had been destroying us all half. Doty dropped NINE YARDS DEEP in the end zone, and was swarmed and sacked for a safety. We then kicked to Georgia, who hit a couple of long passes and added a field goal as the half expired. Five crucial points that took the air out of a team that was still in the game, only two scores down.

I know it’s taboo to criticize Shane so early after he’s done so much so well, but this was a boneheaded decision. What exactly were we going to accomplish from 99 yards away in 32 seconds? Against THAT defense? Some of the arguments I heard in favor were:

  • “We need to be aggressive, unlike Muschamp!” – Muschamp lacked aggressiveness when we had the ball in plus territory with 30 seconds and three timeouts left. This was not the same. The situation matters. Also, for the second week in a row, quit bringing up Muschamp.
  • “The o-line was playing so poorly the QB sneak was just as much of a risk.” – Please, please stop.
  • “We weren’t going to win anyway, take a shot!” – I’m certain our coaches were not thinking this, even if some of the more pessimistic fans were.

Look, this is of course forgivable, but it’s about risk/reward. Beamer took the blame for it after the game, and hopefully it will be a lesson learned. I like being aggressive, but again, the situation matters.

What’s next. The Kentucky Wildcats come to Williams-Brice next Saturday in a game I think our fan base is all of the sudden pretty confident about. UK struggled mightily against UT-Chattanooga yesterday, but they were impressive at times in their first two games, including a win over Missouri.

We’re still young, and a win over the Wildcats would go a long way confidence-wise. But this will be a tough, tough game, as it pretty much is every year. My gut tells me this entire year will be filled with inconsistent play, some really good, some really bad.

Which will we see next week? Heck if I know, check back for Snap Judgments next Sunday…

Go Cocks.

Snap Judgments – 2021 USC @ East Carolina Edition

Photo courtesy of

A win’s a win. South Carolina took a right cross to the jaw at the opening bell yesterday, giving up a 75-yard touchdown on the first offensive play of the game to East Carolina. Then they took jabs and body blows for rest of the first half with penalties, missed assignments, turnovers and generally bad play at the game of football that led to a 14-0 deficit with about a minute left in the first half. With ECU poised to add to the lead, Damani Staley took advantage of a fortuitous bounce off a botched screen play and raced 63 yards to cut the lead to 14-7 and change the complexion of the game. The second half was no thing of beauty, but a stout defense, some key plays from Josh Vann and Juju McDowell, and a clutch kick from Parker White helped the Gamecocks escape Greenville with a 20-17 victory and a 2-0 record.

This was an ugly win, something we’ve become used to as Gamecock fans no matter the coach or roster. The good news is Shane Beamer managed the game beautifully down the stretch to make White’s kick about as anticlimactic as a game-winning kick can be. Beamer is the first USC coach in four decades to go 2-0 in his first two games as head coach. The schedule gets exponentially harder next week with a trip to Athens, but after games against a really bad team and a moderately competent team, the message is…so far, so good?

They have the Big Mac, we have the Big Mic. I watched JuJu McDowell last December in the Georgia AAAAAA state championship game roll up almost 300 yards of total offense, and I thought “wow, he’s a good ball player but it will be a while before he sees the field at South Carolina.” It was a reasonable thought considering we were bringing back the SEC’s leading rusher in Kevin Harris, our highest rated running back recruit ever in MarShawn Lloyd, and a very capable backup in Zaquandre White.

But with the game on the line yesterday it was McDowell who was in the game, and he produced. On the final drive, he ripped off runs of 8, 15, 5 and 16 yards to put White well within his range to hit the game winner. Throw in a 63-yard kickoff return on the previous drive when the Gamecocks tied the game, and it looks like we have quite a freshman ballplayer on our hands.

Unmarked Vann. Last week I lamented our lack of a big play receiver on the team. Yesterday Josh Vann finally looked like he might live up to the considerable hype he had coming out of high school, hauling in five passes for 116 yards and almost a touchdown. But beyond the stats, I’m a big believer in body language on the football field, and for the first time Vann looked like he WANTED to be the man.

Is our defense…good? Well, who knows, but after two games the defense appears to be better than it has been in recent years. The defensive line is salty, and the cobbled together back seven are flying to the football and for the most part not giving up explosive plays. Clayton White isn’t afraid to blitz, which I LOVE, and has called a really good first two games.

Blind leading the blind. Yesterday’s officiating crew called about the worst game I can remember an SEC crew calling, and that’s saying a lot. The most egregious (non) call is when they failed to overturn a Dakereon Joyner fumble when his entire lower leg was on the gound before the ball was pulled out. There was an blatant false start on the ECU left tackle in the third quarter that wasn’t called, but in our favor Z White was moving towards the line of scrimmage on Zeb Noland’s touchdown throw to Dakareon Joyner. Those are the ones that stick out off the top of my head, but I know there were many, many more.

And for the record, the Vann fumble at the goal line and the Vann TD that were called back were both the right call. One Twitter follower disagreed on the TD saying he was “transferring” the ball, but when you look at it over and over, he was still gathering the ball, not transferring it. Anyway, we won, so don’t matter.

Zeb. Zeb’s numbers turned out OK – 13/24, 214, 1 TD, 1 INT – but man he looked lost at times in the first half. He settled in the second half and made some very nice throws. I think he gets the start at UGA next week, but I’m certain we’ll finally get our first look at Luke Doty at some point.

Where there’s a Will. People are still strangely obsessed with Will Muschamp. Last week after the win over Eastern Illinois, we saw tweets of “a Muschamp team would never put away a team like that.” And after the win yesterday, “Muschamp never won games like that”. First of all, as bad as Boom was, neither of those statments are true. We actually had some moments of positivity under Muschamp, even though they may be overshadowed by his face plants.

Second of all, let…it…go. This is Shane Beamer’s program now, let’s judge him based on his merits and not those of the bumbling defensive guru who preceeded him.

Go Cocks.

Snap Judgments – 2019 Charleston Southern at South Carolina

(Photo courtesy of

Some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 72-10 victory over Charleston Southern.

Temper, temper. Your expectations that is. Trust me, I’m not trying to be a downer because there were plenty of things to get excited about as we watched the Gamecocks run up and down the field against an overmatched and undermanned Charleston Southern squad. Ryan Hilinski had a spectacular debut at QB. We had two running backs go over 100 yards, including Kevin Harris doing his best Earl Campbell impersonation. The defense played like a Will Muschamp defense is supposed to play. However…

It WAS Charleston Southern.

Some folks jumped us for tweeting that on Saturday, saying it doesn’t matter who we’re playing, football is football, we’ve played down to our competition many times before, etc., etc. Which, hey, fair enough on the point that we’ve struggled with teams like them before. But, that was easily the worst team on our schedule this season, and we did exactly what we were supposed to do to them – drag them. You don’t get any extra credit from this stodgy old blogger for winning in the manner you’re supposed to against highly inferior competition.

There were encouraging signs coming off a terribly disheartening loss to North Carolina, but the fact is Muschamp and company didn’t have to make any tough decisions, Hilinski wasn’t under any pressure, there were running lanes the size of Assembly Street for our backs, and the CSU offensive line was tissue paper. That won’t be the case for the next ten, eleven, twelve or thirteen games (see, optimism!).

For those of you thinking “WHY CAN’T YOU JUST ENJOY THE VICTORY”, trust me I did. It was fun to watch all those new and/or young guys out there contributing. There are few things better than a South Carolina football game where the outcome is never in doubt for the good guys. I just don’t think a 62-point win over an FCS team means our problems are solved.

Hope in Hilinski. Make no mistake, Saturday’s star was Ryan Hilinski. The true freshman came out and played about as well as he possibly could, completing his first twelve passes and finishing 24-30 for 282 yards and two TDs, and threw in a rushing TD for good measure. He was calm, poised and collected running a college offense for the first time, and validated all the excitement we’ve had about him since he arrived on campus.

Again, things get exponentially tougher against Alabama this week, but Hilinski made his first impression count.

Offensive stars. The Gamecock offense was sharp this week, and a lot of guys got to show off their wares to the home crowd. Dakereon Joyner was electric, racking up 67 total yards and given the QB position a dimension that will be needed down the road. The aforementioned Kevin Harris bulldozed his way to 147 yards and three TDs on six whole carries, Mon Denson had 9-118, Rico Dowdle 10-87 and Tavien Feaster 6-64. Overall the Gamecocks rushed for a program-best 493 yards while averaging 13 yards per carry.

I’ve been very cautiously optimistic about the running back position lately, and now I’m just optimistic.

Farewell to Jake? When we tweeted last week during the UNC game that the Jake Bentley era was over at USC, we certainly didn’t expect it to end this way. With word coming down that he would be having season-ending surgery to repair his broken foot, you have to believe his career at South Carolina is likely over. You have to believe Hilinski is the future, even if he stumbles some during the course of the season. It would be hard to imagine Bentley coming back next season and winning the job just for one year. Logically, it seems like he would rehab, enter the transfer portal and play in 2020 for a team that will be able to showcase his talents for NFL scouts.

That said, I appreciate the person and player Jake Bentley has been at South Carolina. We’ve been mostly positive about him and defended him on this blog and our other properties. Only recently have I thought it might be time to go in another direction, and I’m sad for Jake and his family that it had to happen this way. He brought us some great moments at USC, and there’s no reason to do anything but thank him for his hard work for or football program and our university.

Thank you Jake, you will be missed.

Go Cocks.

Snap Judgments – 2018 USC @ Clemson Edition

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Some quick, barely researched, not fully formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 56-35 loss to Clemson.

The balance of power. In the fall of 2009, Clemson came to Columbia having won 10 of the last 12 games in its rivalry with South Carolina. Many of those years both teams were average and/or forgettable, but for the most part Clemson had the better teams, so it wasn’t a big surprise they went on such a run. But Clemson had something else during those years. They had an edge. They had “it” (whatever “it” is). You always had a sense they believed they were going to win, while South Carolina was just hanging on and hoping they wouldn’t lose.

In ’09 that changed. Once Stephen Garcia and company broke through that day with a dominating 34-17 victory, that orange helmet with the tiger paw wasn’t so intimidating. For the next four games the likes of Melvin Ingram, Jadeveon Clowney, Connor Shaw, Alshon Jeffery and DeVonte Holloman played for the team that was feared. When South Carolina and Clemson played from 2009-2013, it felt like Clemson had no interest being on the field with the guys in garnet and black. We were in their heads, and it showed particularly late in games. 

The balance abruptly shifted again in 2014. That year the Gamecocks had taken a significant step back in talent and wins, and the Tigers had a guy named Deshaun Watson shred them on a torn ACL in the annual showdown. Clemson was no longer intimidated by the block C. The shoe was once again on the other foot.

For the past five years Clemson has experienced unprecedented success, moving from “nice program” to “elite program”. They have a National Championship on their resume, several ACC titles, and have finished in the top four in the country the last three years. They have also had South Carolina beaten before the two teams ever stepped on the field the last few years. The Gamecocks have been outclassed by a mile in talent, but they have also looked afraid and intimidated, which are two things you absolutely cannot be on a football field.

Last night in Clemson the balance did not shift back to South Carolina, but we did see something out of the Gamecocks we haven’t seen in a while in this rivalry – fight. For the first time since 2015 (ironically our 3-9 season) we saw a team that wasn’t scared. We saw a team that took a punch, and then threw one right back.

Yes, we still lost by three touchdowns. But after the way we’ve been beaten the last two years, last night was certainly a step in the right direction to get this rivalry back on even footing. 

Rage against the dying of the light. No play better captured the effort the Gamecocks put in last night than the next to last play of the game. With about 30 seconds to go, Deebo Samuel took a 20-yard throw from Jake Bentley, turned it upfield and ran like his life depended on it. He desperately weaved through the Clemson defense in a lost cause and picked up another 24 yards before being brought down, and then popped up and sprinted to his position to get ready for another play. Bentley then completed one more pass to Rico Dowdle for another first down, and you could see Bentley run to the line of scrimmage calling for a spike so they could get one last throw to the end zone. But the referees didn’t stop the clock for a first down and the game ended. 

Even to the final second, these guys were trying to score just to stick it to the Clemson defense one more time – a meaningless touchdown that wasn’t so meaningless. 

Bravo Deebo. Samuel will leave South Carolina without a win over Clemson, but he will leave as one of the most dynamic playmakers in school history. He torched the vaunted Tiger defense last night for 210 yards on ten catches with three touchdowns. He was spectacular and will be greatly missed. 

The Snake. Jake Bentley has had some kind of year. We all know his story – preseason hype, uneven play, calls for the backup, then a resurgence. He capped off his comeback story last night by putting up video game numbers against one of the top defenses in the country, throwing for 510 yards and five touchdowns. It was the greatest statistical performance by a Gamecock quarterback in history. 

Since the first half of the Texas A&M game Bentley has been that quarterback we’ve all been waiting for. The only continued knock was his performance against elite competition. He kicked that door in last night.

There has been very little talk of Bentley possibly leaving for the NFL since early in the season. I haven’t heard anything after his performance last night, but I’m wondering if scouts will start looking at him again. Keep in mind, the NFL doesn’t value “signature wins” like fans do. They value size, arm strength, footwork, etc. – all things that Bentley has. I highly doubt he’d be able to work his way into a first round draft pick in the 2019, but if he continues at this pace he could certainly be there in 2020. 

M*A*S*H Unit. The defense gets a pass for last night (no pun intended). Clemson’s explosive offense took advantage of the Gamecocks missing their best player at all three levels, and multiple other key players. I doubt even at full health we would’ve won that game, but it sure would’ve been fun to find out. 

BMac. Bryan McClendon has come into his own the last few weeks. He continues to improve every week, and has thrown some innovative wrinkles into the offense that are fun and effective. I said before the season started that if he took the Gamecock offense into the top half of the SEC statistically it would be a minor miracle after our pitiful performance last year. Praise Jesus, BMac has done just that. 

Running it up. The controversy this morning, and you knew there had to be one, revolved around Dabo Swinney scoring a late touchdown instead of taking a knee and letting the clock run out. Let me be clear for any Clemson fan who may be visiting this site: I have no problem whatsoever with Swinney trying to score a late touchdown. The Tigers are positioning themselves for a top seed in the college football playoff. Style points matter. Beat every team by as many points as you can. I get it. 

The problem I, and many Gamecock fans had, was his explanation:

“Aw gee shucks man we was just running a basic play and they didn’t tackle him. How was I supposed to know we’d score hyuk hyuk.”

I mean, just shut up. Own the fact you were trying to score and I’d have a lot more respect for you. Don’t insult everyone’s intelligence by acting so innocent. Either take a knee or tell us you needed to score that touchdown for “insert any reason”. I could live with that. 

Then today he goes on a rant against some Clemson straw man who was apparently upset that they “only won by 21”. But Dabo being disingenuous is just, well, Dabo being Dabo. 

Onward and upward. Clemson fans are getting a good chuckle out of us claiming a “moral victory”. In the immortal words of my millennial friends – whatever. Losing sucks, but losing the way we lost last night is a lot more palatable than the way we lost the previous two years, I can tell you that. The Tigers are not happy at all that we’re taking satisfaction in punching their defense in the mouth repeatedly last night, and we can take some joy in that. 

I have no idea where we go from here, but it’s hard not to feel like the future is still bright. We need players, and a lot of them, on defense. The offense is shockingly better than I expected them to be at this point. Let’s roll Akron and then whoever we get in a bowl game, and get ready for 2019.

Go Cocks.  

Much Ado About Muschamp


  1. Josh Kendall asked Will Muschamp about the election on Tuesday. Will Muschamp’s response has caused a stir.

2. Josh Kendall’s question was an innocuous attempt to get a quick soundbite about an important day in our country. He had no agenda. He wasn’t somehow baiting Will Muschamp. It was a softball. Josh Kendall is not an undercover agent for the University of Georgia and he is not at fault here.

3.  Despite his answer, Muschamp did actually know yesterday was Election Day.

4. I don’t know why Will Muschamp answered the way he did, but I almost immediately recognized he was being facetious. Maybe he was trying to make the point that he was solely focused on the Florida game. Maybe he was trolling Kendall. Maybe he was simply being a smartass. Maybe he was honoring his former boss.

5. Muschamp’s answer does not mean he does not care about his players. As a matter of fact there is a lot of evidence that he cares a great deal about his former and current players, and they feel the same way about him. He has actually put measures in place, including the hiring of Marcus Lattimore as Director of Player Development, to help players deal with life away from the game.

6. Muschamp’s answer is not indicative of some great systemic failure by Muschamp, the University of South Carolina, the Southeastern Conference, college football, or college sports in general to mentor and care for our kids.

7. Muschamp could’ve given an answer that was more pleasing to some folks and this whole episode could’ve been avoided. Or people could’ve taken his actual answer for what it was worth – about one grain of salt.

8. Will Muschamp is a meathead. I say that as a term of endearment. He’s a football lifer, a guy who played like a maniac and many times coaches in the same manner. He has gifs and memes making fun of his intensity. Some folks in the public eye are playing off this to make him look like a guy who chews up and spits out players and only cares about what they can do for him on the field. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

9. Despite an insane series of tweets from Bucky Brooks, Will Muschamp is not a racist and trying to discourage minorities from voting.

10. Shut up. Everybody. Please. Including me.

11. Beat Florida.


Snap Judgments – 2018 Tennessee @ South Carolina Edition

That’s my bike, punk. (Photo:

This week Jorge de los Gallos (@jorhay) fills in for Buck on Snap Judgments. Jorge is a former contributor to Garnet & Black Attack, has his Master of Arts in Siqq Edits, and is the author of The Yearly Pessimist: Predictions for South Carolina Football. 

JAKEY SHAKEY START? The narrative’s established at this point: we’re a slow-starting team. Behold how each of our drives ended this game, in chronological order:

Field Goal
Field Goal
Kneel out
Not unlike my journey from “first forays into the dating scene” to “being engaged,” it started out abysmally and ended with one knee on the ground (but unlike 2018 Gamecock football, my dating life is ending with a ring on my finger ha ha ha /weeps.)
Were the early gremlins all Jake’s fault? His first half line was 8-13 for 61 yards and a pick, which are HIGHLY UNSEXY NUMBERS. However, it would seem it’s partially the result of a few things out of Jake’s control. Other than the tipped interception (which, yes, can be blamed on Jake throwing a highly tipable ball), I thought Jake was eeeeeeh fine the first half and largely the victim of our offensive strategy, a few arguable P.I. no-calls, and UT’s success in extending drives (5 of 7 on 3rd downs.)
But! Would our strategy have been so run-forward if Jake had a better first half track record? What if Deebo Samuel had not created a highlight-reel touchdown out of yet another air-mailed touch pass? And despite UT’s success on 3rd downs and being +4 on time of possession, South Carolina actually ran two more first-half plays than Tennessee. We had our cracks at a big half.
In any case, I have a harder time evoking the “same ol’ first half Jake” argument this game than I have in the past. The goal was clearly “run it down their throats”–Muschamp was open about that. And for what it’s worth, that’s what we did.
A GOOD CASE OF THE RUNS. Evidently we like running all over teams from Tennessee. We’ve gone 5+ YPC in two conference games, those being Vanderbilt (5.69) and UT (5.6). Our next-best showing was nearly a yard worse per carry.
THREECO DOWDLE. It was damn fun to watch #5 execute his craft last Saturday. This was Rico Dowdle’s 3rd 100+ yard rushing performance of the season. He averaged a cool 10 yards per carry, [Butthead voice] totally scored, [/Butthead voice] and never went negative on a run. And also he didn’t fumble nope definitely didn’t check the stats
(Now someone tell Rico to stay in bounds when the game is sealable kthx.)
SPEAKING OF THREE. That’s the number of completions Jake Bentley had in the second half of this game. That stat blew my mind but it’s true. Granted, one was a 73-yard bomb, and another was a nice red zone touch pass to Ty’son Williams off a blitz recognition. Both of those could have gone for touchdowns had the receivers maintained balance for two and one more yard respectively. If they had, Jake’s got a 3-1 TD/INT line which is what the kids call “gooder optics”.
MORE LIKE TURD DOWN EFFICIENCY.  Bad day for the defense on third down, allowing a conversion of 11 of 16 chances. But man, props to Jarrett Guarantano for making some nice reads. If he wasn’t so slick on third, Tennessee’s night would have been a lot longer.
WONNUM THERE EVERY GAME. While our defense wasn’t necessarily living in the UT backfield, DJ Wonnum made a major statement in his return, sacking Guarantano twice, including the game sealer. Shades of JD Clowney’s strip-sack of Tyler Bray in 2012.
INJURY BUG MORE LIKE INJURY SWARM OF LOCUSTS. This is purely anecdotal but it sure seemed like we had a man down after, like, every other play. I know we can’t necessarily blame Jeff Dilman for this but can we anyway? This, a spate of reviewed plays, and some oddly-placed timeouts made for what felt like a grueling viewing experience.
TURN 0-VERS. We had exactly zero turnovers this game. We’re 2nd to last in the SEC in turnovers created, and tied for last in margin at -6. Turnovers are good, and fun to see happen and frankly, we should have more of them. This is just how I feel.
Go Cocks.


Snap Judgments – 2018 Georgia @ USC Edition


Some quick, barely researched, not fully formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 41-17 loss to Georgia.

Chasers. When we woke up on November 29, 2015, Kirby Smart was the odds on favorite to become the next head football coach at the University of South Carolina. Athletic Director Ray Tanner had courted Houston’s Tom Herman, reportedly come to an agreement in principle, and then was turned down. Smart, the defensive coordinator at Alabama under Nick Saban for eight years, was the next logical choice. He was interested in becoming a head coach, and it seemed like a matter of time before he would be introduced in Columbia.

By the end of that day things had changed dramatically. Mark Richt was fired by Georgia, fresh off a 9-win regular season. The Bulldog brass were frustrated with the lack of championships despite Richt consistently keeping Georgia among the top 10-15 teams in the country and winning five SEC East titles and two SEC championships. It was clear when they fired Richt they had only one coach in mind to run their program – Kirby Smart.

It was an easy decision for Smart to return to his alma mater and take over a 10-win team with more than enough talent to compete in the SEC. South Carolina hired Will Muschamp a short time later.

I bring this up not to say we’d be better off with Smart than we would Muschamp, there’s no way to know that. No matter who took over at South Carolina, he was going to have a significant uphill battle, and Muschamp has done a more than adequate job to this point. I bring this up because it appears for the first time in 30+ years Georgia has the right man at the helm of their program, and that’s terrible news for South Carolina.

Georgia has had everything in place for years to be an ultra elite program but has been unable to put it together consistently on Saturdays. With Smart at the helm their recruiting, which was excellent to begin with, has gotten better and their play on the field finally looks like that of a consistent SEC and national championship contender.

Let me put it this way – Will Muschamp took a 3-9 Gamecock team to six wins in his first year, nine wins in his second year, and has vastly improved recruiting and the overall culture around the program. And during that period we LOST significant ground to Georgia.

I have no idea what the answer is now that the sleeping giant in Athens has been awakened. I sure hope Will Muschamp does.

Whipped. The first half of yesterday’s game was somewhat encouraging, and was pretty close to what I expected to see from the two teams. It was clear that Georgia was the more talented team, but aside from a flukey pick six and a shanked punt the Gamecocks had scrapped their way to a pretty even game.

The second half was a completely different story, and is what you often see when a supremely talented team go up against an average team. The average team can scratch and claw to keep the game close, but eventually talent and depth is going to take over. That’s exactly what happened as Georgia carved up the Gamecocks on their first three drives of the second half,  covering 75, 75 and 86 yards in a display of brute force and lightning speed.

On that second 75-yard drive it was clear the Gamecock defense was whipped. I saw quite a few people on Twitter use the word “quit”, which is a really lazy and disrespectful take unless you’ve had experience with 6’6″, 330 lb. offensive linemen shoving you around for 60 minutes. Our guys were still playing hard, they were just physically and mentally beaten.

Speed Kills. Georgia’s first touchdown of the second half was a great example of the talent discrepancy between the two teams. Mecole Hardman, a former 5-star recruit, took a simple swing pass that put him one-on-one with former walk-on Steven Montac. Montac didn’t take a great angle to begin with, but still had a chance to at least draw even with Hardman and push him out of bounds. Instead, Hardman turned on the jets and blew by Montac, shedding his attempted tackle and cruising in for the back breaking TD.

Gameplanning. Opening the first two series going empty backfield and no huddle was a very strange decision. Also, it was obvious we were hell bent on getting Deebo the ball, while Georgia was hell bent on letting anyone but him beat them. We waited way too long to start trying our other options. We have too many offensive weapons to focus so much on just one.

Bentley Takes. Hoo boy the Jake Bentley takes over the last 24 hours. The one I probably agreed with the most was the most basic:

It’s not the way we want to describe our QB after 22 games as the starter, but it’s hard to argue otherwise. He’s not awful, but he’s also not a guy you can trust to put the offense on his back and lead to victory against a good defense. He’ll make some great throws (touchdown to Edwards yesterday) but he’ll also make some mind-numbing decisions (pick six against Clemson last year).

I get the “wasn’t his fault” arguments, there are definitely some of those. But you can’t point to very many big game performances that make you confident that he’s going to have more big game performances. After 22 college games you usually know what your guy is, and for Bentley that is average. I’ll give you slightly above average if you push me.

He can certainly improve, and he’s easily the best we’ve got. But for this team to exceed expectations, Bentley has to start to exceed personal expectations.

Hype. Let me make one thing clear – nothing the South Carolina media team does has any impact on the football team’s performance on the field. That said, until we start winning some of these big games I’d like to see us tone down some of these over-the-top uniform reveal and hype videos. It’s borderline embarrassing when you have a day like yesterday.

Also, no script helmets for a while. Bad memories.

What’s Next. Our chance to win the SEC East is gone, and in retrospect never really existed in the first place. I believe we can still win eight, maybe nine games if we can not let yesterday’s game beat us twice. That game needs to be flushed, and we need a good performance against Marshall to re-instill some confidence.

Clemson is a loss, don’t @ me. Besides that we have a couple of wins on our schedule and a whole bunch of toss-ups. Buckle in. Hopefully we won’t have any more performances like yesterday in our bag.

Go Cocks.