Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The South Carolina Review

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I finally got down to a game this year. I was starting to wonder if I would. We had several games circled that we planned to attend, but due to work, soccer, or other festivities, I have been unable to attend any games. But, this had been a game that was a "must make". Sure, I admit that I thought this would be the premier SEC Matchup in the preseason, but I am allowed to be wrong occasionally. You don't have to remind me about it, unless you are my wife.....because she does the job of reminding me of when I am wrong for all of you. 

Speaking of being wrong, how about that game? Wow.  I was WWAAAYY off. If you didn't read it, check out my South Carolina Preview. I predicted a 34-10 game. More on that later. 

So, let's talk about the festivities leading UP to the game. Since I don't go to every game, I don't usually have cool stories and pics to show. Not so for this weekend. 

So, Friday night we headed to Auburn as soon as my wife was off work. We stayed with one of my best friends, who lives down there with his family. We did leave the baby at home, since we didn't want to have 8 people (4 of them under 10) in one house. Due to the wonderful traffic on 565, we didn't get into Auburn until fairly late in the evening and decided to watch a little TV and hang out with our friends. We also knew it was going to be a pretty long day on Saturday, especially with a fairly late kickoff. 

The good news was, the Sutton and Friends tailgate would be up and ready for us as soon as we were ready to head into Auburn. So, we got a good nights rest and we were at it early. We headed to the Publix on Moore's Mill and filled up the cooler with all the necessities as well as pick up some appetizers, since the menu for this game was Appetizer Day. And what better appetizer to bring to the Gamecocks game than some hot wings? 

Alyse had found a great parking spot on the backside of the athletic facility, by the practice fields, which makes it a short (but uphill) walk. As we pulled up, we noticed that essentially all the normal parking places were marked off with cones, which is a new thing. But, we spotted a bare spot on a corner by a stop sign. We hopped the curb in the trusty Jeep. But, almost as soon as Kevin pulled the parking break, a police officer stepped out from behind another car. Oh boy. We expected to get the business, as we were regular customers for the Auburn police way back in our Wire Road tailgate days. He walked up to the window, but instead of telling us that we were illegally parked and to kindly step out of the vehicle, he instead instructed us on how to properly park. We were happy to comply. It's nice knowing that not only are you *probably* not going to get towed, but the police officer has blessed your spot. 

And so began the trek to the tailgate spot. We make it look easy, but it isn't. That's a full cooler and two kids. And yes, I am short and Kevin is VERY tall. 

The good news is, once we crested the hill and turned onto Donahue, we could actually ride the cart down the hill to Plainsman Park, where our spot is. We arrived just in time to get the wings on the table and to fix ourselves a plate. We all settled in and watched some football on the TV with our friends. It is probably the only time our kids have been told they can drink all the coke and eat all the food they would like. Aubree had to take it a step further and tried to get access to the Red Bull. I did give her a clinker or two, but managed to keep her on a juice box and coke level for most of the day. We had worried about bringing Griffin, as he doesn't care for sports very much and he has a bad habit of complaining. But, he made friends and he kept himself occupied. Now, I admit that one of the issues with tailgating with kids is the bathroom situation. Since this is right at Plainsman Park, which has open gates, we were 10 steps from good restrooms. 
We were able to visit with some of the Auburn greats, who were signing autographs in front of the Tiger Pregame Show. They had T'Sharven Bell as their guest and at the autograph tent, one of the childhood legends, Stephen Davis. Aubree was able to sneak in and grab an autograph for me! Having kids does have its usefulness! As a treat, I took them over for a snowcone, which neither ate. 
And then it was Tiger Walk. Aubree was so jacked about it that she was at the gates for an hour before hand. But, it worked out because she saved us a premo spot on the line. From there I was able to get video of Coach Malzahn and many of the players! 

And, after Tiger Walk, I was able to do my tradition of getting a chestbump from Aubie. Let the good times roll! 

And then it was time to go to the game! 

The hype movies, the band, and the music got everyone, Griffin included, ready for the game! 

Of course, the game was an instant classic, mostly because The Old Ball Coach came to play. The game featured only 3 punts, Total. And, it featured over 70 points. Now, the Pac-12 may be used to that. Heck, that's common place over on the west coast. But over here in SEC land, that's a rare thing. And, when you are a Top 5 team in the country, playing an unranked team, giving up 35 points isn't something to feel warm and fuzzy about. 

Auburn's Offense vs South Carolina's Defense
Offensively, Auburn did what they wanted, whenever they wanted. What I was the most impressed with was that Auburn didn't need the long ball or 60 yard runs to score. Instead, they methodically marched down the field. The Tigers rolled up nearly 4-hundy on the ground in rushing attack that was 11 yards from having 3 100 yard rushers. While Louis was celebrated for his 100-yard performance and Marshall for his 3 TDs, it was CAP, our Preview Player of the Game, that piled up 167 monster yards, averaging 6.7 per carry and finding pay dirt. 

Marshall was nearly perfect, going 12-14 on the night for 140 yards and a TD to Fulse (surprised?). And while no one had massive numbers, it was Bray who moved the sticks, recording a team high 4 catches for 29 yards.  

But, before we pat the team on the back, let's remember that this Gamecock defense is dead last in the SEC in points allowed and has given up the most rushing TDs. They had 15 on the ground coming into this contest and left with 5 more. Ouch. If you don't have to throw, don't. And, even the TD to Fulse was a glorified run, as the play fake sold every Cock in the stadium and left the big guy wide open. But, there isn't much to say when you punt twice. 

Auburn's Defense vs South Carolina's Offense
Here is selection on what I said last week, leading up to the game:

"The Gamecock offense isn't an offense to sleep on, especially if you can't put together a solid pass rush, which Auburn hasn't been able to do yet, at least not from the defensive line, and it doesn't appear that help will arrive anytime soon. Instead, Coach Johnson relies on blitzes from the LBs or from the corners. While Thompson isn't Connor Shaw, he can make throws if given time. And, P Cooper and N Jones are very capable receivers who can also handle sweeps in space. "

Thompson had a career day and actually put him on pace to set USC single season records. He tossed up 402 yards and 5 TDs against a pass rush that is absolutely abysmal. At ZERO point in this game did Auburn look like an elite defense. Though the lack of pass rush is something we all know, the more frightening thing was the secondaries inability to turn and face the pass. Auburn was unable to get off the field on 3rd and ANYTHING. It felt like Thompson would sometimes throw to random parts of the field and hope his receivers would come down with it, and they did because the Auburn backs wouldn't turn to look at the ball. Amazingly, the 3 times Auburn's secondary LOOKED for the ball, they had interceptions. I don't say this lightly, go watch the film. Even at the opposite side of the field, we all saw Jones turn on the ball in the endzone and LOOKY THERE, I FOUND A BALL. Now, I do point out the Cooper and Jones are studs, and I said that last week. But you cannot defend a pass if you don't look for it. At least Jones started to learn late in the game. And, he continues to look like a star. At some point, we will have to quit saying he MIGHT be and actually say he is one. This coming week might be the chance, as he will undoubtedly be matched up on Treadwell. He will certainly get a chance in Tuscaloosa. But, first things first, right? 

Special Teams
Look. Everyone around me probably thought I was either a prophet, or wondered why I wasn't roaming the sidelines with Gus. I called the onside kick. I don't mean on the approach. I mean, as soon as they scored, I told everyone in section 15 that it was coming.  Other than that, an awesome Bray return turned sour when he fumbled the ball. But, to give him credit, I felt like his forward progress had long been stopped.  Other than the 3 punts and a ton of extra punts, there isn't anything to report. 

And that brings me to my rant on the officiating. I have seen bad calls. I have never seen a game called serially bad. It started in the first Auburn possession when the play clock ran and the official held the ball in front of Dismukes after a first down. Of the 88 yards that Davis gained, they are nearly 100% accredited to serial holders on the outside. On every outside pitch to Davis, the outside receiver drug the Auburn corner down by his jersey. And, in the last SCAR possession, they called Auburn on ticki-tack penalties to keep the drive, which seemed to stall TWICE inside of SCARs own 20. Yet, on the final 3 plays, they allowed the Cock linemen to BLATANTLY hold our D-line, giving Thompson time to throw. And yes, there were two #1s on the field in the last play, and how that didn't get called, we will never know. 

But, the worst call I saw was the 4th down toss into the endzone that was 10 yards uncatchable, yet a weak push by a defender was called pass interference. It was a critical call in the game that would have allowed Auburn to go up 2 scores and end the game. Instead, the next play was a short TD toss that evened up the score. 

But Auburn did win, which meant it was time to go back to the tailgate and party. Except that the atmosphere was a little subdued. I can't say I wasn't a little down. 

We did get to hang out with several players, though. Of note, Duke Williams dropped by and took a pic with my  wife.