After watching what took place on the field of Bank America Stadium on Saturday in the football game between South Carolina and North Carolina, many thoughts have gone through my mind as to exactly what happened and why it happened.What it all comes …
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After watching what took place on the field of Bank America Stadium on Saturday in the football game between South Carolina and North Carolina, many thoughts have gone through my mind as to exactly what happened and why it happened.What it all comes back to though is, "Really, what can you say?"
In my 30-plus years of covering USC football and how many ever years before that just observing it as a sports fan, I can't think of a time when a Gamecock team was more ill-prepared.
Where do you place the blame for the 24-20 loss? How about everywhere??!! The offense stunk, the offensive coaching staff stunk, the defense stunk, the defensive coaching staff stunk. Sure, there were moments and plays in which South Carolina performed well, but when you put everything together it was simply a stinker of game that was delivered.
There is no excuse that can be made for that performance. It can't be from a lack of motivation. Having to wait eight months to play a game after laying an egg against Virginia in the Belk Bowl at the same venue should have put a burr under USC's saddle that it was wanting to remove. In reality though, motivation wasn't the problem. While they didn't play good, the Gamecocks played hard.
They just didn't look like they knew what they were doing. South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp has said leading up to the beginning of this season that this was his best team. If that is indeed the case, that leaves you to believe that this can be put on the coaching staff.
The offensive line didn't play well. There were some holes available for running backs Tavien Feaster and Rico Dowdle, but there were more instances where finding running room was difficult. Quarterback Jake Bentley often had no time to go through his progressions, which is a very bad thing because he has happy feet even when he shouldn't.
Which brings us to Bentley. That was the same Jake Bentley USC fans have seen more often than not the past two seasons -- one who overthrows receivers and turns the ball over in the most critical situations. Again, not every time, but definitely in a consistent manner.
Perhaps the worst thing to happen to Bentley was coming in as a true freshman who entered USC a year ahead of schedule and led the Gamecocks to a great second half in Muschamp's first year and ended in a bowl game that no one anticipated happening. The thought was if he could do that under those circumstances then surely he would be better with experience. That hasn't happened; not even close.
Saturday's loss can't be placed squarely on Bentley, but going 16-for-30 for 142 yards with two interceptions and countless overthrows just isn't going to cut it. Ryan Hillinski needs to play early and often beginning on Saturday against Charleston Southern. With the relaxed redshirt rules now in place, there is no reason why the 4-star true freshman shouldn't be playing. That doesn't mean you necessarily start him against Charleston Southern, but you certainly get him in the mix and let him get experience. Bentley showed nothing against UNC that makes you think he's any better, but maybe Hillinski or, dare say, Dakereon Joyner is.
Bentley looked more like the true freshman quarterback on Saturday than the Tar Heels' Sam Howell. Which leads to the most disappointing part of USC's performance: its defense. North Carolina ran the ball successfully and passed it successfully. For someone who came to Columbia with the reputation of being a defensive mastermind, there have been many occasions where his USC defenses have appeared to be anything but that.
Why you aren't throwing different looks, stunting and bringing players from different parts of the field at a true freshman quarterback and a unit in its first game under a new head coach and offensive coordinator is beyond me.
So where does Muschamp go from here? The Gamecocks better destroy Charleston Southern since Furman did so on Saturday, but that's just to keep the critics at bay. And in all honesty, playing close against Alabama or somehow beating it won't quell the critics very much. They'll just say why didn't USC play like that against North Carolina.
Perhaps the only thing that will quieten the multitudes is to make a run like UNC did after it lost to South Carolina in the season opener in 2015 in Charlotte. USC went on to a 3-9 record with head coach Steve Spurrier stepping down in the middle of the year, while the Heels went on to play Clemson for the Atlantic Coast Conference title.
No, don't say it's just the ACC. The Gamecocks' last three losses have come against ACC competition.
See, so many things to say, but really, what can you say?
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