David Cloninger

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Georgia



It’s great to see Darius English living up to his massive potential. He had another sack on Sunday to raise his season total to six, which is the most sacks a Gamecock has had in a season since Kelcy Quarles had 9.5 in 2013 (previous highest: Darius English, 4.5, 2015). He came unblocked around the end and gave Jacob Eason a faceful of mean, and although Eason got the throw off, Mark King dropped Sony Michel quicker than the Republicans dropped halfway decent Presidential candidates. I always thought English would be a great edge rusher … better late than never, right?


That’s why South Carolina planned its offense around Deebo Samuel. The guy is a great possession receiver, runs tight routes and is able to stretch the field or go over the middle. He had four catches for 90 yards with two outstanding grabs Sunday. Hopefully he stays healthy – if not, in 2016, there has to be some kind of metallic hamstring from a spare Terminator he can borrow.


Sean Kelly must have had a traumatic experience with footballs as a child, because he kicks the laces off them. He’s the best punter USC has had since (this space available) and while he had one bad shank Sunday, that was a rugby-style punt out of his end zone. Otherwise he bailed the Gamecocks out of trouble with a long of 57 yards, and averaged 49.4 yards per kick.


With their fourth loss, the Gamecocks are treading dangerously close to the Land of No Bowls. Then again, if your prize for a .500 season is a holiday trip to Birmingham or Shreveport, have you really won anything?


The USC women’s soccer team is all by itself in first place in the SEC, up a game with four to go and holding tiebreakers (for tournament seeding) over the next two teams. To borrow a line from my best friend, use the disposable income you had in the “bowl fund” for a potential trip to the College Cup.


Basketball practice started last week.


We’re all still here. Matthew tore a chunk out of our state but we’re all still here. Thanks to an emergency-planning governor and some well-prepared responders, we managed to avoid catastrophe. Well done to state officials for their efforts and well done to USC for managing to keep a football game in town, with no loss of safety.


Those of you who bemoaned losing the first round of the Tom Herman Sweepstakes last year, take heart. USC has no need for coaches that lose to Navy.

Been there, done that.



USC knew. It knew Georgia was going to run the ball. That’s what they do.

Yet the Gamecocks still looked completely caught off-guard when Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and the Bulldogs’ front three (and fullback) relentlessly went middle, middle, middle. Seems to me, especially the way it turned out, stacking the box and forcing Eason to complete many more of those overthrows would have been a good plan.

They adjusted (somewhat), managing to keep the carnage a little contained, but the problems kept resurfacing every time USC managed to get a stop. Georgia would simply change its direction and go elsewhere. Brian Herrien finished 18 yards short of giving the Bulldogs three 100-yard rushers.

That is beyond deplorable.


I realize many coastal residents, or folks that perhaps offered shelter to them, couldn’t attend the game. Many could have decided not to interrupt church and regular Sunday activities to go to Columbia. The students, out of class since Tuesday night, perhaps decided to take it easy after filling the Five Points coffers five straight nights.

I’m not blaming anyone. But it was just a weird vibe at Williams-Brice Stadium. Nobody seemed into the game, you know?


Seems pretty simple. Ball’s in the air, go catch it. Hayden Hurst, who has been marvelous this season, was put on punt return specifically for that reason. They even told him, “Don’t worry about returning. Just catch it.”

The first four punts were nowhere near him. I figured the Bulldogs were afraid of him. The fifth bounced right in front of him.

He stood there and watched it roll right past him for an inexcusably cheap downed ball at the 3-yard-line.

I’ll overlook it, just this once, because it was his first time. But that combined with more special teams mistakes (kickoffs not in the end zone, an untouched onside kick returned for a touchdown) are heaping more misery on an already bad football team.


Hurst was tackled in the end zone on an uncatchable ball and that was pass interference. Two other Gamecock receivers were pummeled on catchable balls and those weren’t. Plus a block in the back that was called on USC’s first series but not on Georgia’s first punt return.

I know they miss some, but could they at least try to be consistent?


Terry Googer caught a pass with room to move the chains and he bobbled it to himself, then stumbled himself into a tackle with nobody touching him. A.J. Turner handled a pitch from Perry Orth like it was a bag of cobras (is that a just-against-Georgia thing?). Rico Dowdle fumbled and Orth threw a pick.

Again, there are enough problems without adding to them.



First, I don’t blame Will Muschamp or Kurt Roper at all for this. I know the popular trend is to scorch them because their Florida offense surely didn’t work (reasons for that are plentiful, especially in Roper’s case). This USC offense isn’t all on them.

That makes it no easier to accept.

* The first 10-15 plays are scripted. Who scripted two penalties (a mysterious illegal block and holding by Alan Knott) on USC’s first two plays? Then after a 20-yard strike from Orth to Hurst, no gain from Rico Dowdle on a mixed-up handoff and an incomplete that should have been a pick-6?

* I mentioned last week that if Turner doesn’t break a big play on his first touch, it sure seems like the game won’t go well. Turner didn’t break a big play on his first touch Sunday.

* Defenses know they can play Orth to pass and not run. So when he has the ball in his hands with a tailback beside him, on zone-read or an option, they know he won’t run so they play the tailback. Pre-dict-a-ble.

* I talked with a former player – and I mean, very recent former player – Saturday and he just shook his head about some of his teams and this one. “We just find ways to lose,” he said.

Watching USC start to move downfield on two middle-of-the-field passes, then go back to the short game; or turn it over when moving the ball; or seeing Orth throw passes behind the sticks on fourth down, I knew what he was talking about.

* The damning part – who out there is hoping for a turnaround? USC is boxed in. Play Orth and the passing game works but the running game doesn’t. Play Brandon McIlwain and the running game kind of works but the passing game doesn’t. Roll the dice and burn Jake Bentley’s redshirt, and either watch him experience the same problems as the other two while losing confidence and wasting a season; or watch him win, and face the looming question – why didn’t you play him earlier? This a no-win situation.

In what’s shaping up to be a little-win season.

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