David Cloninger

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Missouri

Game Balls: Top South Carolina performances against Missouri

Carson Mason awards game balls to some of the top performances in South Carolina's win over Missouri.
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Carson Mason awards game balls to some of the top performances in South Carolina's win over Missouri.

THE GOOD

WHATCHA WANNA BET HE CAN THROW THIS FOOTBALL OVER THEM MOUNTAINS?

Coach has decided to put Rico Dowdle in, even if it’s for state in ’82. And Dowdle, after some first-half issues, responded. It’s great to see a running back constantly fall forward, remember that hitting the circle on the PS2 controller works in real life just as it did on the video screen and churn through tackles for yards. Dowdle ought to start trading jockstraps after the game instead of jerseys, since he’s juked so many guys out of theirs.

I’m sure he also got an earful at halftime about taking what he can get on any given carry. Many of the problems in the first half were because of bad run-blocking, but many were because he seemed unsure of which lane to take. They can’t all be 75-yarders, kid.

Sometimes par is good enough to win, says Romeo.

MR. RUCKER TO THE STAGE, PLEASE

Darius Rucker promised a free concert in Columbia if the Gamecocks attained bowl eligibility. Start tuning that axe, Hootie, because USC is a win over Florida, Western Carolina or Clemson away from six wins and that goal.

I realize some folks will scoff at awarding prizes for what’s really a simple task, but these are the same folks who gush over throwing pizza parties for undefeated seasons. What, was the local rec center not available for a lock-in?

BOOSTIN’ THE BENTLEY

Getting perilously close to swallowing my pride …

Jake Bentley plays some smart football. His numbers continue to grow and he doesn’t make bad decisions. Even when he got gypped of a beautiful touchdown catch by K.C. Crosby (it was the right call, considering Crosby was bobbling the catch, but it was mainly not reversed because no official is going to award a touchdown there), he calmly waited through the replay, then flicked a pass to Dowdle’s back shoulder in the other corner that bounced off the defender’s back shoulder.

ON THE T SCALE

That’s “Taneyhill Scale.” How did The Kid rate this week?

* Three straight wins, just like his predecessor, but Taneyhill earned a fourth. RANK: 7.5 of 10

* Taneyhill began his career with left tackle Ernest Dye (first-round NFL pick, played five years) and right tackle Corey Louchiey (third-round NFL pick, played three years). Bentley is playing with Mason Zandi, who’s a nice guy, on his left and a revolving door of other nice guys on his right. It’s amazing he can do all this while getting jailbreak-blitzed most of every game. RANK: 12 of 10

* There has to be a leftover Halloween costume with a long blonde wig somewhere. And an earring. RANK: 0 of 10

* The Swamp beckons. It was Taneyhill’s only loss in 1992, and that was due to a terrible call. Bentley is going to play a team that is nowhere near as good as it was then next week but it’s still on the road, where they’re honoring former SEC champions and the former coach for each team is on the sideline. There’s also the not-so-small matter that the last time USC was there, it cost its current coach his former job. Wonderboy pulls this off and it’s RANK: 15 of 10

* It gets bigger every week. Crack a home run out of Memorial Stadium (the proper name) on Nov. 26 and he’ll be good enough to play tight end for Alabama. RANK: 20 of 10

I … AM … (NEARLY) NUMBER ONE …

The Gamecocks got three more turnovers Saturday, none more clutch than Rashad Fenton’s stride-for-stride interception of an underthrown pass to the end zone. No idea why Missouri would throw downfield when the running game was carving chunks out of USC’s hide, but it did and Fenton did.

The Gamecocks are second in the SEC with 20 turnovers after Texas A&M did enough to end its loss to Mississippi State with 21. The best part of USC’s is they’re coming at timely opportunities – like backup Steven Montac forcing one early Saturday.

AND SPEAKING OF ACCEPTING WHAT’S OFFERED

Missouri went 13 plays without handing the ball to a running back despite USC being a bad run defense. Considering what happened afterward …

FRISCO FRY

Elliott Fry, an un-recruited, preferred walk-on from halfway across the country who is a Type 1 diabetic, is the leading career scorer for an SEC program.

That means go cut the grass, you lazy scoundrel.

FIVE-CESS

Another win and it’s even more punny. The Gamecocks may only make a small bowl game, but any bowl game for this program should never be overlooked. They didn’t happen all that often before that guy in the visor showed up.

And who’s to say they’re settling for six?

THE BAD

MAGIC 8-BALL

I know that Kurt Roper (who Will Muschamp says calls every play) didn’t walk into a great situation. There just wasn’t much proven talent and now that the cream has started to rise, he’s had to re-do the playbook.

Most of it’s working. Hand the ball to No. 23 or have Bentley throw a jumpball to a receiver. That’s really all you need.

But when there are some other points in the game … make a decision and stick with it. Specifically, when closing out the first half.

Maybe it’s because of the previous coach or being raised in a Madden environment where every wasted second of game clock is a sin, but the last two games have featured some white-flag play-calling to end the first halves. Yes, USC won both games, but when each opponent had the ball first in the second half, and the first opponent had been a second-half team all year, and the second opponent was slicing you like an 8.99-a-pound Butterball, I don’t understand ever giving away a possession.

The Gamecocks were going to sit on it Saturday, then got a first down, then decided to go for it. Bentley got sacked so they went back to sitting on it.

To Roper’s credit, he needed to send out Fry to make it a two-score game late on fourth-and-1 and did it. He also did it for a 46-yarder on fourth-and-1 earlier and Fry missed.

Sometimes kickers miss.

Sometimes games are lost because playing not to lose does just that.

MUST HAVE MISSED THAT MEMO …

… where you’ll only show up for a kickoff at 7 p.m. or later. For any SEC home game, especially the way this team has played since the bye week, to not be sold out is a disgrace.

Crowds don’t win or lose ballgames. They can inspire the home team to win, though. It picked up late … but the energy at Williams-Brice early was as high as a dog’s under a rusted-out Ford truck on an August day in Mississippi.

TRENCHED

The offensive line was allowing constant pressure on Bentley and its run game was being stuffed for most of the game. The defensive line was getting pushed out of the way or shoved into the turf to allow Missouri chunk yardage.

I find it hard to believe every opponent on the schedule can find better linemen on both sides of the ball.

NICE LONG RESTS

Chris Lammons was ejected for the second straight game. Yeah, the targeting rule is horse apples and it looked like he did everything he could not to hit the guy.

But after swearing all week how he made a mistake last week and it wouldn’t happen again, it happened again. Lammons is far too valuable to miss halves.

Then again, if he changes the way he’s played this season to abide by other guidelines, is he as effective as he’s been?

PUNTING ON THE THAMES

On one punt, the returner ran forward and let it bounce. That’s about as good as it’s going to get for USC this season.

On another, he was hesitant to run forward and catch it, so he held up and let it bounce. It rolled past for 10 extra yards.

At some point, you just cue up your palm to hit your forehead on every punt.

LOOK GOOD, PLAY GOOD

If USC has learned anything from how not to do things from the 4H Club up the road, it’s that some colors are main and some are trim. Garnet looks good with white and garnet, black looks good with white and black.

If garnet and black are going to be used as main colors, one should be dominant and one trim. That’s handsome.

When both are used as main colors, it appears to be burned fire ants.

I will say that USC at least learned the color wheel in first grade (purple and yellow are complimentary, purple and orange are not) but man, the Gamecocks trotted out looking like Rock Hill High.

Put it this way. Missouri comes out in purple and gold, that game’s over before it starts. #TrojanPower

THE UGLY

IT’S TRUE

A big reason why I don’t immediately throw myself on the sword is one of the points I raised about Bentley taking over fully out there. That would be, “Why didn’t they start him sooner?”

Lot of answers for that one. And none can be really answered.

So I’ll just say that had USC beaten Kentucky, it’d be going to Florida next week knowing that a win clinches the SEC East championship.

(Note: The Really Ugly part of this tome could be described as what Alabama’s going to do to the SEC East champion)

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