When folks call for a team to be more aggressive, it usually means more effective.
That’s the nature of football, and really any sport. Aggressive seems good; conservative seems bad. Even though one is about process and the other about outcome, they’ll get conflated until the end of time.
It’s a perceptions battle the likes of Will Muschamp and Kurt Roper will hear about until the end of time, with the hope they win enough that it becomes less of a question.
While it’s fair to say Muschamp’s teams are on the conservative side historically, there are more moments of aggression than they get credit for, and there were a few against Florida.
Going deep: It’s entirely possible the ball goes where it does here because the mechanics of the play dictate it. Quarterback Jake Bentley could be reading the safety and going to the concept on the right side of the field because of it.
But on this play, A.J. Turner looks pretty open on the swing, and OrTre Smith looks pretty open breaking outside after faking in. But Bentley is already trusting his top receiver to win a jump ball, which he spectacularly does (extra credit for the fact Bentley puts the ball where he does despite a free rusher hitting him moments later).
End of half: Some folks seemed to be complaining about this, but USC didn’t really hold back with 1:18 left in the half.
The staff called four passes in a row, and the first one wasn’t any screen or quick toss, but a throw 20-plus yards past the line of scrimmage.
USC followed with gains of 11 and 6 to the 41, and seemed to be in business after calling timeout with 52 seconds left. But one play can change a 1-minute drive. A sack left USC facing third and 11, and rather than risk Bentley trying to do too much or a punting issue, the Gamecocks let the clock run and ran the draw to finish.
Maybe a little conservative at the end, but that’s not where it started.
Quasi-aggression late: Maybe everyone throws here, but the clichéd image of Will Muschamp does not.
USC is facing third and 4, the box is a little stacked, and a run can take Florida’s last timeout. The time, 3:32 left, might be a little long to think clock over first down, but again, an uber-conservative team might side that way.
Instead, Bentley threw to his best receiver covered by Florida’s best corner, after clearing a linebacker on a slant-flat combination. It took a really nice defensive play to prevent a completion with a good size mismatch.
Bentley’s day was marred badly by the three interceptions he threw. He described each as being worse than the last, and all are worth looking at.
No. 1: Just a miscommunication. Looks like Bentley expected his receiver to carry the route downfield, but the receiver broke it off on a comeback route.
Worth noting, if the corner stays with Edwards, it’s a harmless incomplete. He breaks well off the receiver.
No. 2: Schematically, USC gets about what it could want from a three-receiver side. Both outside guys go in, pulling coverage, and the linebacker sits in the flat before looking like he was panicked as Hurst went by on a wheel.
But the safety makes a really nice play. It’s not clear his exact assignment, but he starts shading to his right at the snap and covers a lot of ground to make the play. Maybe a better (or more conservative) throw hits Hurst a little earlier, but maybe not.
No. 3: First of all, just not a great throw. He’s got a rusher in his face and is moving backward.
After just flicking it up, he’s targeting Hayden Hurst on what looks like a pair of stacked wheel routes off a fake sweep (a kind of cool concept). It’s not the easiest interception to make, but that ball just isn’t anywhere that Hurst can get it.
Block of the game
South Carolina fans have not been enamored with running inside zone on third and short. It worked for Mon Denson on one of his touchdown runs, and a lot of credit goes to Jacob August.
As USC’s line is washing down on Florida’s front seven, watch August plant his man on his back and then get to the next level to block someone else. That 2-for-1 will spring some things.
(It also works against a separate narrative, in that poor tight end blocking often leaves reasonable calls ending with fans wondering, “Why that play?”)
Knockdown of the game
Sure Jamyest Williams caught the game-ending interception, but Javon Kinlaw makes it happen.
Watch as he knocks his man down, and that man trips up the offensive lineman next to him. With a clear path to the QB, one wouldn’t have blamed Kinlaw for continuing his rush. But he’s got the wherewithal to see the pass coming and get his big mitts up (a specialty with that 6-foot-6 frame) for the deflection that ended things.