South Carolina stole one from Louisiana Tech in Williams-Brice on Saturday night. The Bulldogs led for nearly the entire game–stopping USC from really showing any rhythm or establishing any sort of typical “WHALE-COME TOO THE S-E-C” type dominance.
After three quarters, the Cocks had not scored. The fans (those that hadn’t left in disgust) were booing. They’d booed the kicker twice already. If I had offered any of them money to say a nice thing about him, they would’ve laughed in my face. Tech had looked decent offensively. The running game wasn’t really going, but J’Mar was making the right throws at the right moments. Jake Bentley, on the other hand, had missed a couple of wide open guys and not really looked the part of SEC-quarterback-playing-CUSA-opponent.
Yet when J’Mar threw his interception on 2nd and goal with Tech leading 13-0, I had an all too familiar feeling in the pit of my stomach: How is Tech going to break my heart this time? Had we gone up 20-0 or even 16-0, even the most faithful Carolina fan would’ve headed to the exit. The game would’ve been over. But it wasn’t.
Fast forward a couple of drives. All of the sudden, Carolina had scored twice to make what once seemed to be an insurmountable 13-0 lead be a 14-13 deficit for the Dogs. Surely Tech was toast. They hadn’t done anything offensively since J’Mar’s errant toss (gotta live for another down there, man!) that would have led me to believe a huge drive was about to occur. Yet J’Mar, who looked extremely good in the game outside of That One Play, led the Dogs down the field and into field goal range with an absolute beauty of a pass to Teddy Veal.
Then, as per usual, Tech got a little conservative for my liking with the play calls. Obviously, with the ball in Barnes’s range within two minutes, you want to do a few things. First, and most importantly, DON’T TURNOVER THE FOOTBALL (flashback to the 2011 Mississippi State game, which I was also at). Second, make Carolina burn their timeouts. Third, run down the clock as far as humanly possible before scoring.
So look, man. I understand running on first and second downs. Make them burn their remaining timeouts. But when you’ve got the ball 3rd and 4 from the 12 (or somewhere in that neighborhood) with 1:30 or so left, why not try for the first down? In my mind, the risk of stopping the clock with an incomplete pass is worth the reward of getting the first down and kicking the game-winning 25 yard field goal with 00:00 on the board. But I’m not paid to make these decisions, and hindsight is 20/20 (although I didn’t like the play call at the time, too….).
As we saw, 55 seconds was just enough time for Bentley and Carolina to eek out a ridiculously luck-filled drive to win the game. Let’s talk about that drive for a second. It didn’t really register with me at the time from my seat in section 506. Carolina had a decent pass to game some yardage, then an incompletion (with a totally nonsensical and rightfully waved off targeting call), then an incompletion that very well could’ve been intercepted, and then Ferguson, Bradford, and Canty all had a chance to bring Bentley down for a sack on 3rd down. Of course, we all know that Bentley escaped and scampered for a huge gain. After that near miracle, Bentley calmly made a bad throw into triple coverage that Amik Robertson read the whole way. Of course, with us being Tech, and this being an SEC game that I was at, the receiver tipped the ball to himself and somehow double clutched it before it fell to the turf. And then, with seven seconds left, the booed kicker–the guy no one would’ve high fived on the way out of the stadium–made his first career field goal to win the game.
Holy poop, I am sad. That game took my heart and crushed it. As soon as USC started driving down the field after Barnes’s field goal, I knew something bad was about to happen. That game drained me emotionally and I’ve talked myself to death about it, but I do have a few thoughts.
First off, the offense continues to look better as time goes on. The J’Mar pick was not great, but his decision making should get better as time goes on. I’d still like to see the passing game develop more outside of screen plays though.
Second, the defense looked great the entire game outside of 2 big plays and one of those plays was a very lucky catch by a USC receiver in the 4th. Both Robertson and Roberson looked great and show a lot of potential down the road. Our pass rush looked much better this game than in the WKU game. The big plays we gave up at the end were unfortunate and I’m not sure whether to blame scheme, coaching, or God for those.
But such is life as a Tech fan.
Player of the Game:
Evan: J’Mar. He’s good, guys. If he can stop making the mental errors young quarterbacks make, he’s showing the talent to be an elite G5 quarterback this season.
Nathan: Jonathan Barnes. Even though the final South Carolina drive took away the meaning of the score, you can’t take anything away from how clutch of a kicker he is. It was the second straight game with a potentially game winning field goal.
Josh: I haven’t looked at the stats to see how good he was all game, but Aaron Roberson clinched it for me with his interception. He knew exactly where that ball was going to be thrown and got there. Honestly, my favorite moment of the game.
The go tech pls dont die Metric:
Evan: As I walked out of the stadium, I had a thousand yard stare and couldn’t stop shaking my head. One day I won’t leave an opposing stadium with that look.
Nathan: Tech only pushed the snooze button on dying last week and it finally caught up with them.
Josh: CARDIAC ARREST
gtpdd Hot takes
Evan: The team needs to run some damn loose ball drills. USC fumbled THREE TIMES in the third and fourth quarters and we recovered exactly ZERO of those. Get the ball, boys!
Nathan: We should put Jonathan Barnes in at QB so that we can be more clutch
Josh: Blake Baker is being bailed out by talent in the secondary this year more than anything. He may be able to coach them outside of games, but his play calling still leaves a lot to be desired (this is mostly me being upset at the big plays on the final drive).
Moment of the game:
Evan: During tailgate, some guy cock-a-doodle-doo’ed at Daniel and I in the parking lot. It was comical.
Nathan: The QB scramble on the last drive by USC. That’s the play that keeps replaying in my head.
Josh: Aaron Roberson’s interception.
Taek of the game:
For this week’s photoshop of the game, I decided to combine a wonderful set of images taken by Tom Morris at the game. Check it out at the top of the post!