The story in Columbia could probably best be described by calling us the Bad News Bulldogs (h/t cristilmethod). There was some very poor play on the field. Some inexcusable play for a SEC team, especially in the eighth game of the season.
When you look at all the stats other than the final score and turnover margin you’d have to say MSU played well. And they did do some things well, outside of the turnovers. It’s easy to say that we are right there if we can just get rid of them. Unfortunately the sad truth is it’s something like that every week. Major miscues as I wrote about during game week constantly stifle the Bulldogs in these big games. It was predominately the QB play in this one, but it’s been one thing or another in each big game.
The game started off great – South Carolina gets the ball first, and the defense forces a quick 3 and out. Then Dak Prescott and LaDarius Perkins march down the field in short order for a nice touchdown drive….they never even faced a third down: 60 yards on 9 plays. That’s been a theme this year – great opening drives followed by struggles for the rest of the game. It goes to show we have the ability to prepare well, but the adjustments aren’t there.
You can’t hang this one on the defense. There were some missed assignments and the usual handful of missed tackles (although that seems to be every team these days), but other than allowing Carolina to strike quickly on their 2nd (71 yards on 5 plays) and 4th (54 yards on 3 plays) possessions they played very well.
The mistakes began on the 3rd drive when Dak Prescott threw behind Joe Morrow, it was tipped and intercepted. Morrow was covered well and I don’t mind the aggressive approach, but the defender was blanketing Morrow – maybe that’s why Dak threw behind him but it was just a poor decision. If you’re going to throw into coverage do it when the defender is behind the receiver.
State follows the interception by giving up a quick score. Benardrick McKinney recorded a sack on a nice blitz but then we allowed them to gain the full 23 yards needed to move the chains on a screen pass (see, Mullen and Koenning, a screen pass). Then Nickoe blew his coverage and they scored on a long pass play.
The second turnover of the day was completely unnecessary. On 2nd & 10, Prescott got pressure but instead of taking the sack and living to fight another day, he throws it to Dillon Day who obviously can’t touch the football. It deflects off Day and is picked off. Fortunately the defense was able to hold USC to a field goal despite the drive starting on the MSU 25 yard line.
Good: trying to get more points with 58 seconds left in the 1st half and 3 timeouts. Bad: Blowing all 3 timeouts and not getting a field goal attempt off before time expired.
The game was pretty much over after the Prescott fumble on the first drive of the 2nd half. I couldn’t bring myself to continue watching the replay any further….one time was enough. Too frustrating.
- Clowney wasn’t the major factor everyone thought he’d be. Claussell did a good job with him and we didn’t let him totally disrupt our offense.
- Outside of some blown coverage from the safties on a couple of plays (including those that weren’t capitalized on by USC), the secondary played pretty well. There were some nicely defended passes in that game. Conner Shaw was only able to throw for 147 yards.
- Evan Sobiesk finally replaced Devon Bell and he kicked a 38 yard field goal on his only attempt. Bell took over the punting duties and did very well.
- We are throwing the ball way too much. We used to be a power running team under Mullen but we’re still stuck in finesse too often. 43 passes and 35 runs. We’ve got Dak Prescott and we don’t lack for tailbacks. I don’t get it.
- MSU is just not a well-disciplined football team right now, and that has to come back to the coaching. Execution, mental toughness, you name it.
South Carolina has now won seven in a row in this series. The bad news is we weren’t even close in this one. Two years ago we played a Gamecock team of similar strength and played very well outside of one mistake – putting Corey Broomfield on Alshon Jeffrey at the goal-line. This one was over early. You pretty much knew we stood very little chance when we were down 17-10 at the half since we haven’t won a game when trailing at the half since 2010 and we are terrible in the second half. And yet again the 2nd half is where we play our worst football. Six points in this one. But that’s right on our seven point average pretty much. We just don’t get it done when it counts no matter who we play.
Texas A&M is up next, I sure hope the players can keep their spirits up and go to College Station ready to play. We’ve got good players and a good team, we just need to put it all together from the coaching to the players and win a game.