I’m almost at a loss for words. At some point, flat performance after flat performance becomes inexplicable. At some point, you run out of excuses to use. That being said, I’m not sure anything I say below is going to be anything others haven’t already said. But, hey, I’ll do my best.
Composure: The South Carolina Gamecocks coaching staff and players preached “composure” throughout the week. They talked about how they didn’t want to get into a war of words with the Kentucky Wildcats on or off the field and wanted to do their talking between the white lines. Despite all of that, literally as soon as the game started we couldn’t keep our mouths shut. Look, I’m not against trash talk, but if you’re going to run your mouth, you better pick your spots and be able to back it up. It’s clear that this team is not very mentally tough, especially in big time environments. The trash talk ranged from annoying with Steven Montac running his mouth after tackling Benny Snell on a 20 yard run to downright detrimental with Jaycee Horn getting a 15 yard penalty for taunting after the defense got a big stop. It’s clear we let Kentucky’s chippy play and attitude get in our heads. We saw this same trend in the Clemson game last year. We were so focused on running our mouths that we ended up blowing assignments and/or drawing 15 yard penalties after we made a big play or got a stop. For once I wish we would come into a big time environment composed, play hard and leave it all out on the field. This kind of leads me to my next point...
Put up or shut up: Don’t tell me, show me. Whatever mantra you want to go with, it’s time to put it to use. We are in the middle of year 3 of the Will Muschamp era at South Carolina. The team, record wise, has improved each year. Ranking wise, recruiting has improved. New facilities are being built. Yet, despite this, we are still missing a signature win under Muschamp’s leadership. And for those who might be wondering, yes, a victory last night would have counted as a signature win. Outside of the win over Tennessee in 2016, every time this group has a chance to make a statement they flop. Is it a lack of player leadership? Coaching? A combination of factors? I don’t have the exact answer but, if Muschamp wants to be here for more than 4 or 5 seasons, he better figure it out quickly.
Emptying the bandwagon: Is there anybody left that believes Jake Bentley can take us to the next level? I know I have been a staunch Jake defender since he took the QB1 job in the middle of 2016. But, honestly, I’m not sure I can defend him anymore. He often looks great against sub-par competition but, when things get tough, he folds like a cheap tent. Last night was yet another example of this. At the half, Jake had 9 yards passing...NINE. Sure, there were some drops. And we certainly can’t blame Rico Dowdle’s fumble on the QB. But, there’s honestly no excuse for his repeated lack of production against team’s with a semblance of a pulse. I’m still willing to admit that he’s *probably* the best option we have right now at QB. However, if his production against quality opponents doesn’t improve this season, the job should be opened up between Jake, Dakereon Joyner, and Ryan Hilinski going into 2019’s spring practice. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for all of Jake’s contributions to the South Carolina football program. But it doesn’t seem like the kid has “it.”
Once again, there are obviously more observations I could’ve written about. What did y’all learn from last night’s ballgame? Make sure to let us know in the comments.