We had plenty of chances to put this game away. Our South Carolina Gamecocks competed, just like I said they would, but didn't have enough at the end of the game to get a win against the Texas A&M Aggies. As usual, there were some great performances and some outings that left a bit to be desired. Let's take a look.
Hey Skai, Never Change
The defense had another rough day at the office but, as usual, Skai Moore turned in another outstanding game. Skai finished the game with a team high (and career high) 14 total tackles, including 0.5 tackles for loss. Without Skai Moore, who knows where this defense would be. It's already bad, but you've got think that without Skai this defense would be in a much worse spot. He also convinced Jon Hoke to change the defensive gameplan for the second half yesterday. The USC defense then proceeded to only give up 7 points (7 of A&M's 14 second half points came off a Perry Orth pick-6) in the second half; proving that he's not only a physically gifted player, but a very intelligent one as well.
Coach Shawn Elliott said in his press conference that he would've gone for two if we had scored a touchdown on our last drive. I think it's great that he was planning on going for the win, especially on the road as a big underdog. But that being said, I don't understand why we didn't go for a first down on multiple second half 4th down situations in plus territory. Playing by conventional strategy is fine when you're a large favorite. But when you are a 16 point underdog you can't stick by conventional wisdom and expect to win. I know Shawn Elliott wants this job more than anything. But if he plans on being a serious contender for the permanent HC job, he's going to need to prove he can take risks when necessary.
Red Zone Offense and Playcalling
We came into this game with only 6 redzone touchdowns on the year and we managed to score 3(!) redzone TD's yesterday alone. This is partially due to improved execution, but also better playcalling in the red area. GA Mangus did a good job of reaching fairly deep into the playbook to get better production. We'll need to continue to come up with creative playcalls if we want to keep having chances against more talented squads the rest of the season.
On Moral Victories
The post game press conference atmosphere yesterday was, safe to say, weird. I got the impression that players were actually satisfied with their performance. The attitudes between the players seemed to consist of "Good job, guys!" and "High five on that 66 yard run, Perry!" I don't know if anybody other than me noticed, but didn't we lose yesterday? I'm all about staying positive, especially with the way this season has gone, and praising the effort of the players and the improvement that is being made (which is pretty significant). But let's not sit here and act like losing what turned out to be a winnable ballgame is just simply okay. There's no such thing as a moral victory. There's also a fine line between praising the effort and the improvement of a team and being excited over losing a close game to a heavily favored squad. We need to make sure we don't cross that line.
Our Gamecocks travel to Knoxville, Tennessee to take on the Volunteers next Saturday.