South Carolina gave away the Kentucky game. Bad coaching, poor execution and another loss to a less talented team. It’s one thing to get beat by another team. It’s a completely different feeling when a team loses it all by itself.
Kentucky is a good team but South Carolina just knocked off the No. 1 team in the country last week and it should do better.
Coach Steve Spurrier needs to spend some time in the offseason taking some statistics courses because he’s trying to defy the odds with his game management on both sides of the ball. Every analyst in the country would say South Carolina is more talented than Kentucky. So what happened?
On offense, there were mismatches where South Carolina had advantages all over the place, but it didn’t seem to matter. The Gamecocks had 6’4", 237 lb Alshon Jeffery being covered by 6’0", 187 lb Randall Burden. Gamecock Tori Gurley is 6’5", 230 pounds and is being covered by guys less than 6’0" all day.
Just throw the ball to the taller receiver. Throw shorter passes. The odds become more balanced for the longer throws taking away the height advantage. Every kid playing backyard football knows that a four-to-five inch height advantage and 50 pounds is nearly impossible to defend.
While Spurrier is drawing up all these complicated plays that don’t seem to be getting executed, opponents are blitzing and forcing Garcia to make hurried throws. The end result is missed opportunities and a lot of funny looks by Spurrier.
Throw shorter passes and keep moving the ball down the field. Just chip away at the defense. (just like Auburn and Kentucky did to South Carolina). You’re not completing the longer passes anyway, and the odds favor the taller guys in the head-to-head match-up.
Randall Cobb is the heart of Kentucky's offense. There is absolutely no excuse in the world that Cobb would be open on any play.
On the Wildcats last drive, Cobb was sitting wide open in the end zone on two of the last three plays of the game. One of the plays was a 4th-and-7 where you know he could get the ball. If he is open once, it is an error on the players. The second time, on the biggest play of the game, is a coaches’ error.
So South Carolina gets the ball back and drives the distance of the field in position to possibly win the game. With 15 seconds left, Spurrier calls a timeout with the Gamecocks on the 20-yard line.
The only reason to call the timeout here is to make sure your quarterback knows, if no one is open in the end zone, to throw the ball away or get down closer in the middle of the field so you can kick the field goal.
Not the case. When the ball is hiked, Garcia immediately goes back and throws the ball to redshirt freshman Lamar Scruggs who appears to be double covered with the result being an interception. Of all the players, you throw to Scruggs? Scruggs has two receptions for the entire year. He is seventh on the receiving chart.
Game over. No field goal attempt. No overtime. No top 10 ranking. No win for South Carolina.
Going for the touchdown required a 30-yard completed pass to one of five receivers going up against eight defenders. Pretty tough odds. At best case there would have been four seconds on the clock to get the field goal with the field goal team rushing to the field.
If anything goes wrong, you burn the entire 11 seconds. After the timeout, it probably would have been better to get inside the 10-yard line, kick the field goal and take your chances in overtime.
For the second time this season, the Gamecocks go in at halftime with the lead and the opposing team makes better adjustments, comes back and wins the game. South Carolina lacked focus in the second half with dumb penalties, missed passes, blown assignments on defense and poor coaching.
It’s mathematically impossible to win with so many mistakes.
Fortunately for this team, there’s enough talent to win out the rest of the schedule.
Jay Holgate is host of Southern Football TV on ESPN2.