It’s Monday morning and fans are still in shock.
The excited optimism for something better in 2019 came and went like a tornado, leaving behind a path of destruction and a fan base that demands change now.
With the a long season ahead of us, we will try to make sense of it all by breaking down what went right and what went horribly wrong in the 2019 season opener.
Tavien Feaster delivered
In his first game with the good guys, Feaster proved that he is what he was advertised to be.
A 13-carry day brought him 72 yards and an electric touchdown. His speed, athleticism, vision, and strength showed, as he stole the show early.
Had the offensive gameplan not abandoned him late, not only could it have changed the outcome of the game, but he almost certainly would have eclipsed the century mark.
Dowdle looked good in moments too, but in my opinion, Feaster did more than enough to earn the number one spot on the depth chart for next week’s game.
Kyle Markway looked like Hayden Hurst
One bright spot in the midst of an otherwise very forogettable day was TE Kyle Markway.
With little to no expectations for the position due to the losses of Kiel Pollard and Evan Hinson, Kyle Markway made himself known when he made a truly difficult grab for a first down, followed by an exciting touchdown that made him look like Gamecock great, Hayden Hurst.
If Markway continues to pass catch this way, the offensive situation begins to look more optimisitc.
Ernest Jones is a beast
The defense looked good early, but as the game went on some troubling weaknesses showed up.
One strength, however, was Ernest Jones.
Jones had himself a ballgame, racking up 4 solo tackles (8 assisted) and defending really well in pass coverage.
It seemed that no matter where the ball was, Jones was involved in making a play.
If he continues to develop from in run stopping, the Gamecocks could have an all-conference type of player in the making.
Special teams play put Gamecocks in position to win
A lot of facets in the game looks simply dreadful, but overall the special teams looked great and did what was necessary to give the team a chance to win.
From Joseph Charlton’s punt placement, to Bryan Edward’s punt return, to the early blocked field goal, all in all, the whole unit looked good.
Had the offense and defense did their part to capitalize on what the special unit gave them, then the season may look totally different this morning.
Jake Bentley has not turned the corner.
In fact, it appears that since his dynamic perforamce at Clemson, he has actually taken multiple steps backward.
After a promising offseason where he claimed to be more confident than ever, his first game Saturday showed that he has not found consistency, which led to a well below average day.
Fans do not doubt his potential. In flashes he has what it takes to be special.
However, after another disappointing outing, patience that the senior will take that next step has officially runout.
In fairness to Bentley, his offensive line looked overmatched and underprepared.
Pass protection (as well as run blocking) offered him little to no help, but even so, during some key plays he did have time and still missed his targets badly.
So badly, in fact, that a casual viewer probably would have assumed that Bentley was the true freshman and Howell was the 4th year senior, and that is problematic.
While not eveything that went wrong was his fault, overthrowing Smith in the end zone (with the game on the line) was an avoidable mistake that cost the game.
The interceptions from there felt like salt in the wounds, and then the final play… well, let’s just say that a senior quarterback HAS to be able to get a throw off in that situation.
Bentley has been given plenty of time to develop, but after what was displayed Saturday, many are thinking that it’s time to move on and invest in the future.
The good news with this team is that the defense has certainly improved from what we saw last year.
The bad news is that so far it doesn’t appear to be by much, and the biggest area of concern showed itself plainly for all the world to see on Saturday: stopping the run.
The Gamecocks (on all 3 levels) could not stop the run to save their lives.
UNC backs gashed the Gamecocks time after time, tallying up 246 yards on the ground and effectively drainign the will to win out of the team.
Muschamp in his Sunday teleconference mentioned that, [the defense] had 18 or so missed tackles for 100 yards after contact.”
He explains that it was due to poor tackling form, something that should no longer be an excuse in a “defensive-minded” coaches program.
Yet, it is what it is and we are where we are.
Which leads to the final point…
Whether it be poor tackling technique (that suggests that defense was unprepared), bad play calling, conservative decisions with the game on the line, or lack of adjustments, the evidence is as clear as ever, coaching lost this game.
Yes, the players have to make plays, and yes, that is what they are recruited for.
No one is arguing that. But at a certain point, these young men are just that, young men.
When coaching fails, it is difficult for young men to overcome it.
Muschamp and staff did not put the team in position to win, and they should be held accountable for that.
I could go on and on here, but I won’t.
Instead I’ll leave it at this: Muschamp’s job security comes down to the decisions he makes in the next two weeks.
He has already lost a large majority of support, but will he make adjustments now, or wait until it is too late?