Success isn't something that comes easy to anyone - and that especially seems to ring true with South Carolina.
It seems like every year, even during the three 11-win seasons in a row, the Gamecocks dropped a game or two they shouldn't have. Even at South Carolina’s peak of competitiveness, an untimely loss every year for all of those three seasons set them back from winning the SEC East, which forever tarnishes those seasons to me.
Now, with all of that being said, I could give a crap about the win-loss column. Obviously, I want the Gamecocks to win every game. If Carolina goes out on the line and puts everything they have in the game every weekend, I can't be upset. Football is 45% effort, 35% game planning, 15% talent, and 5% luck. If a player has talent and plays with effort but doesn't know what he's doing, it probably won't work out. Any way you look at it, if a team doesn't fill up everyone of those categories, the season could be bad.
Now, it is very likely that Louisiana Tech will win Conference USA. Does this make a difference? No. South Carolina should flick teams like these to the side. But before starting, I’d like to point out that BAW, Dante Sawyer, and Zack Bailey did not play in this game. Those three are all leaders on this team, so I do kind of give them a small break for the team performance. Bryson is out for the season, which is a huge blow.
I really do believe kicking is something like 90% mental and 10% talent. If a kicker is misses his first FG or PAT of the day, then he might just have a crappy day. What does a kicker need to do to get over this? Make a game-winning field goal. I do think Parker White is going to have a good season.
So, time for some of my thoughts on the game against LA Tech.
—South Carolina was only forced to punt twice in this game. Which is good; however, what’s not good is that they missed two field goals and had two turnovers. The first two games of the season (both wins) we did something well: win the turnover battle. The last two, we either tied or lost it, and we lost to Kentucky and almost lost to LA Tech.
—When we played NC State, we lost in time of possession by about 13 minutes. We won that game because of Deebo Samuel. Plain and simple. He wasn't as effective in these last two games, mainly because he couldn't play most of them. We couldn't repeat the big play success in the last two games that we had in the first two except once against UK and LA Tech. So, when you lose TOP and don't have big plays, you lose.
—The missed field goals hurt. Not having Elliot Fry back there sucks. I’m glad Coach Muschamp is making Parker the guy because I was not a fan of the two kicker system at all. I think a lot the kicking game is mental, so making that game winner is going to be a huge confidence boost.
—I love Jake Bentley. I love the mentality he brings to the game and how fired up he is. It’s something I haven't seen since Connor Shaw. There are just some plays that remind me of Stephen Garcia that just leave me scratching my head. He has a average QBR this year of 55, which is right above average. Last year he had a 62, so it looks like he is heading for a sophomore slump. This team, as any, rides on the play of the quarterback. I saw this stat on Twitter, so I’m going to give credit where credit is due.
In the Kurt Roper era over 16 games, South Carolina's offense averaging 22.8 PPG.— Brad Crawford (@BCrawford247) September 24, 2017
46 total TDs over that span is 13th in SEC. (UF has 44)
Since Bentley began playing, that has improved to 25-ish points. However, South Carolina has thrown up duds offensively against Kentucky and LA Tech. Florida scored 28 on Kentucky, and the Gamecocks failed to score more than six going in to the five-minute mark in the game. That just isn't a good sign. But, the talent difference between what Roper took over and what Florida has is huge.
That being said, Jake Bentley’s third down passing, no run game, missed FGs, and play calling at times cost us a game against Kentucky and can down the road. Bentley missed a lot of open receivers and rushed a couple throws against Kentucky and LA Tech, but he’s still young and improving. Replacing Elliott Fry isn't going to be easy,. Penalties are dumb and should be as limited as possible. A lack of run game is going to hurt Bentley - he isn't the type of player who can attempt 40+ passes and win games right now. The offensive as a whole must improve.
—Something we did do well against LA Tech was play defense. I think this defense is good, but not great. I love TJ Brunson - he is currently leading the SEC in tackles with 46. To be a sophomore and do that is crazy to me, and I think he will be playing on Sundays. People are going at Jamyest Williams, but the kid is in a trial by fire. He is going to get better. This team is young and it will improve.
With all of this being said, I loved the way the Gamecocks fight and clawed throughout these two games. Through everything that happened, we still were within in a possession with less than five minutes in the ball game. I honestly don't know what the rest of the season holds, but I believe in them. I just don't get the people who abandon ship after one game. If you're going to call for a coach’s head and call players names at this point, I think something is wrong with you. Will Muschamp took over an atrocious team that Spurrier left out to die, and he has done a good job so far. Sure, he hasn't brought in huge name recruits, yet. He’s going to have to reestablish a culture that left with Clowney and those boys. Do I believe he can do it? Yes, absolutely I do. Will he? I don't know.
With that said, am I sold on Kurt Roper? No, I am not. I think his play calling is questionable at times. I think if you're at 4th and short or third and short, you should get under center and ram the ball down the other team’s throat with a big back. Roper is starting to incorporate some pro-style stuff with the single-back formations and some other things, which I like a lot. I think he did learn from his mistakes against Kentucky, rushing Ty’son Williams 13 times for 95 yards, with 35 of those coming on his great touchdown run against LA Tech. I want to pound the ball with Williams, so it allows Bentley to run action and go deep to Bryan Edwards or OrTre Smith.
Considering everything I just laid on the table, South Carolina can still have a very good season and be competitive in every game. Will they win every game? I doubt it. There are going to be growing pains; it’s a part of the process. I believe this team can still finish top 3 in the East and might even win if they get lucky. Gotta remember, everyone can always use a little bit of luck.