So Gamecock fans, whom do we blame for another humiliating loss to Kentucky? Was it the walk-on quarterback who threw the interception or the personal foul committed by the center that forced a field goal? Was it the decision to go for two, the decision to run the wildcat, or wide receiver Pharoh Cooper’s fumble that we want back? Maybe we should blame the kicker for that missed FG after quarterback Connor Mitch got hurt in the first half? There is plenty of blame to go around after this one.
Gamecock running back Brandon Wilds knows whom to blame. In the post-game press conference, he let it be known that the problem is that he’s not getting enough touches. While he may or may not be correct about the Gamecocks commitment to the run, I’m not sure what planet he’s living on. Perhaps he forgot who his coach is? Steve Spurrier likes to throw the football. Pattern your game off Fred Taylor, young man. Get comfortable with screen passes and draw plays because that’s where you need to go to get fed as a running back in a Spurrier offense.
Interestingly, the choice to go for the two-point conversion when down 22-24 was not only the right call according to the coach’s sheet, but the decision to run the ball in that situation was also correct. According to Warren Sharp’s analysis of NFL two-point conversion attempts, running plays are successful about 60 percent of the time, while passing plays are successful only 45 percent of the time. The decision to put the ball directly into the hands of your best playmaker was a sound coaching decision, but Cooper has to hold onto that ball.
The whole Gamecock defense deserves blame for atrocious tackling. Kentucky racked up over 300 yards of total offense in the first half, including 176 yards rushing. The Gamecock defense was handing out rushing touchdowns like Oprah Winfrey was calling plays. JoJo Kemp, YOU get a touchdown! Mikel Horton, YOU get a touchdown! Quarterback Patrick Towles, YOU get a touchdown!
Now I haven’t seen anything reported on what was said during halftime but a different defense took the field in the second half. It was as if the Gamecocks suddenly remembered how to tackle and the Wildcats had nowhere to hide. They had 22 yards of offense in the entire third quarter. The Gamecock defense forced four straight three-and-outs and gave the team a chance to mount a comeback.
In an alternate universe, it would have been fun to imagine that junior walk-on and backup quarterback Perry Orth, forced into duty only minutes before, had stood up before the young team and given an impassioned speech full of cliches like “next man up” and “let’s play our game” before leading a come-from-behind victory. He came out with that quality we love to attribute to backups: moxie. He led four straight scoring drives to start the second half, each longer than the last. Orth was throwing the ball down the field instead of checking down. He began getting defensive pass interference calls, and the home crowd woke up. When Orth finally hit Adams for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, Williams-Brice Stadium went berserk.
The interception was a terrible throw. You have to think Orth was a little drunk on the crowd and his early success. He was a little carried away in the moment as Spurrier reportedly told him, “It was first down.” But you have to like the moxie of this kid. Conner Mitch was playing scared, and the offense went nowhere. The Gamecocks have a better chance to win with Orth.
Not that the Gamecocks have a chance to win this week. I’ve been warning you about Nick Chubb for four weeks now. He had 189 yards on 19 carries last week against Vandy. Saturday night the Gamecocks go between the hedges in Athens to try to stop him and the 7th ranked Bulldogs. The good news is that Georgia has a quarterback controversy of their own. Greyson Lambert, who transferred to Georgia after losing the QB battle at Virginia, was 11-21 for 116 yards in last week’s win. I expect Jon Hoke to aggressively blitz the gaps to try stop Chubb and force Georgia to put the ball in the air. Based on the rushing yards allowed against UNC and UK; however, I don’t expect it to work. Chubb is a runaway train.
But what do I know? The Gamecocks always seem to beat Georgia when they suck and lose to Georgia when they are good. Anything can happen.
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