David Cloninger

Gamecocks exhibit spirit, but not results

Missouri running back Ish Witter braces for a hit from South Carolina's T.J. Gurley on Saturday at Faurot Field in Columbia, Mo.
Missouri running back Ish Witter braces for a hit from South Carolina's T.J. Gurley on Saturday at Faurot Field in Columbia, Mo. dmclemore@thestate.com

What’s really frustrating is that the team attitude is night and day different from last year. This year’s group of Gamecocks is a fun bunch, they love each other and will lay down in traffic for any of their teammates.

Problem is, they’re also night and day different in terms of talent, and it was once again (not?) on display in a rock-fight loss at Missouri.

The Gamecocks don’t have very many playmakers, and it’s showing. Lorenzo Nunez and Pharoh Cooper are the only two on offense, and the Tigers’ top-ranked SEC defense knew it. Skai Moore and T.J. Holloman are the stars of the defense and they can do only so much; Missouri picked apart the Gamecocks’ feathery coverage like everybody else has.

Recruiting misses have been well-documented, and there are no five-star recruits waiting to be snapped up at midseason. That’s an issue that will have to be addressed, heavily, before Signing Day.

As for what can help salvage this season, suggestions are welcomed. USC is hoping to win a game or two and can’t depend on its talent to do it. It has to have a couple of breaks go its way.

The Gamecocks were still in the game by something just short of divine intervention – Missouri dropped two early interceptions, one in front of Shon Carson that he managed to pick up and take to the end zone. That drive was also kept alive by an incomplete third-down pass turning into a personal foul and Missouri ejection.

It was 10-10, and 17-10 Tigers more than midway through the third quarter. That’s where USC finally broke, on Nunez’s third interception and the ensuing Missouri touchdown.

That brought up the issues again – soft pass coverage, bad tackling, no simple screens or extra offensive linemen to help a young QB and backup running backs. Calling three straight pass plays after a David Williams run to the 1 was wiped out due to a late whistle, leading to a field goal. A crucial break going against USC when it seemed like Cedrick Cooper sacked Drew Lock for a safety – and it was ruled a non-reviewable incomplete pass.

The Gamecocks caught a lot of breaks when they were 11-2 for three straight seasons, and that seems to have caught up with them. They also had a lot of talent on those teams, and when they won so much, they expected to win the next – sometimes it seems as if they knew a lucky break would come.

This year’s team is hoping to win, with sparse talent. That’s a bad combination.

Thus far, it’s yielding a bad team.

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