If you’re looking for a nice, happy column that attempts to make light of the last two weeks’ losses and paint a pretty picture, you’ve come to the wrong place.
There isn’t enough space here to detail all of the things we did wrong Saturday in Gainesville. I don’t even know where to begin. I’ve traveled to multiple road games every season for most of the last decade now. There was a long stretch through most of middle and high school where I’d often get asked how my trip was. “It was awesome. Except for the game, of course. But everything else was great,” was my standard response during that dark time.
It’d been a couple of years since I returned from a road trip with a similar refrain. But after amazingly fun, competitively lifeless trips to New Orleans/Baton Rouge and Tampa/Gainesville these past two weekends, it feels like I’m stuck in 2007 again.
Some of the Gamecocks’ issues have been around for years, and the fact that we don’t ever fix them is so frustrating for the thousands of faithful fans who are let down just when the team gets tantalizingly close to greatness. When was the last time our offensive line lined up and blew anybody off the ball? Can anyone remember? I sure can’t. I remember Spurrier’s second recruiting class in 2006 that had eight offensive lineman. We were told then that we’d finally see improvement on the line. Yeah, it was a “finally” six years ago. And it still hasn’t happened yet.
Or what about set up some semblance of a blocking scheme on kickoff returns? It has been over ten full seasons since the last time Carolina returned a kickoff for a touchdown, a stat we documented a few weeks ago in our post asking whether South Carolina’s newfound success on special teams could be sustained over the course of a full season. Will Muschamp said in his postgame press conference that Florida works on special teams for at least twenty minutes at practice. Every day. With the horrible blocking on both punt and kickoff returns Saturday, it looks like we haven’t practiced twenty minutes all season on how to block for returns. Just like it has for a decade now.
Other issues are specific to Saturday’s game, but are indicative of much larger problems. Like our coaching staff’s defeatist attitude in a two-score game by pulling our admittedly ineffective starting quarterback (he’s objectively our best chance to win–there’s a reason he won the starting job) at halftime in favor of a backup who somehow looked even more scared of the big atmosphere.
Or how about the playcalling? Do the coaches not notice that plays involving routes developing twenty yards downfield take way, way more time than our underachieving offensive line can provide? How many more times do we have to run the zone-read option to see that it’s just not there this season? Why can the 80,000 coaches in the stands see that the I-formation works well for our offensive personnel (we gained 240 yards on 36 plays in the second half at Kentucky, 30 of which were run out of the I), yet we’re so intent on four wide receivers and a running back, minimally protecting a quarterback with a bum shoulder and happy feet at the first sign of trouble?
Is it so hard for a quarterback to go through his progressions and/or keep his eyes downfield while running around outside the pocket? Is it so hard to get a decent punt off? Is it so hard to maintain three points of contact on the football? Is it so hard for wide receivers to gain a work ethic and finish running routes (looking at you, Mr. Football)? Is it so hard to recognize that Carolina has never lost when Marcus Lattimore has over 20 carries?
I’m a firm believer in the old adage that defense wins championships. But that doesn’t mean the offense can take entire weeks off at practice. After gaining 402 yards in the last two games combined, with many coming in garbage time, I’m starting to think that’s the only logical explanation. Or maybe the Georgia fan who said that we play so well at Williams-Brice because we “hypnotize the visiting team with gay techno glow-stick music” is on to something.
It’s not that I’m throwing in the towel this season. Important goals are still in play, including a second consecutive double-digit win season, a fourth straight win over Clemson, and a top-ten final national ranking. But this is a season that will leave Gamecock fans dreaming of what might have been rather than reflecting on the magical moments that happened in 2012.
Don’t worry, Gamecock fans. Baseball season is a mere 122 days away. Then maybe we can have the privilege of watching a team willing to walk into a hostile environment without blinking and not throw its national championship hopes away with such a listless, uninspired effort.