Posted on: October 11, 2011 2:01 pm
Edited on: October 11, 2011 2:50 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
A failed "substance test" has brought the star-crossed Stephen Garcia era at South Carolina to its final, official end.
Gamecock athletic director Eric Hyman issued a statement Tuesday that Garcia has been dismissed fron the Carolina football program, effective immediately.
“Being a student-athlete at the University of South Carolina is a privilege, not a right,” said Hyman, “For Stephen to return to and remain with the football squad this fall, we agreed on several established guidelines. Unfortunately, he has not been able to abide by those guidelines and has therefore forfeited his position on the roster. We wish him the best of luck as he moves forward in life.”
CBSSports.com South Carolina RapidReporter Josh Kendall reported Tuesday that two sources confirmed that Garcia had failed a "random substance test." Per Kendall, Garcia was reportedly informed of the school's decision Tuesday morning.
“We are all saddened that this has occurred,” Steve Spurrier said in the school statement. “We all feel like we’ve given Stephen numerous opportunities to be a student-athlete here at South Carolina. Obviously, he has chosen not to follow the guidelines of his reinstatement contract. We wish him the best.”
The news comes on the heels of Garcia's benching for the Gamecocks' Week 6 win over Kentucky. Garcia was leading the FBS with nine interceptions thrown when Steve Spurrier elected to go with Connor Shaw as his teams starting quarterback. Garcia did not make an appearance against the Wildcats, with sophomore Andrew Clifford handling mop-up duties in the 54-3 blowout.
Garcia has had a long history of off-field problems and suspensions. The senior has reportedly been on his last disciplinary strike ever since a March incident at a team function resulted in his suspension from spring practice. Hyman and Spurrier both set up "guidelines" for Garcia's return, guidelines which Spurrier said he had been following with commitment over the summer, resulting in his reinstatement just before fall camp.
Garcia's career wraps up with 34 career starts, 7,597 passing yards, 47 passing touchdowns, and 41 interceptions. Though he'll likely be remembered for never quite living up to his vast dual-threat potential, Garcia will also go down as the quarterback who led the Gamecocks to their first-ever win over a No. 1 team (vs. Alabama in 2010, in a 17-for-20 performance that will stand as testament to what he could accomplish at maximum focus) and SEC East division title.
Posted on: October 10, 2011 3:40 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
This week's polls have been released. Here's how the SEC fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.
No movement for LSU this week despite -- or, in the case of the AP, because of -- the dominant win over Florida. And barring something unforeseen this week against Tennessee, that won't likely change next week, either; the Tigers continue to enjoy a relatively comfortable lead at No. 1 in the AP, but in the Coaches are still closer to being passed by No. 3 Alabama (10 points behind, 11 first-place votes to LSU's 15) than they are to passing Oklahoma (25 points clear, 32 first-place votes).
As we've written multiple times in this space, we're still of the belief that Alabama's overwhelming domination of a top-10 team like Arkansas and road victories top-25-caliber teams like Florida (pre-Brantley injury, anyway) and Penn State should have them a step ahead of Oklahoma--and in the mix for No. 1. But in a week where the Sooners and Bayou Bengals beat Texas and those same Gators by a combined 68 points, no one in Tuscaloosa can be surprised the Tide stayed where they were in last week's polls.
The Razorbacks defeated Auburn by 24 points the week after Auburn defeated South Carolina in South Carolina. The Gamecocks may be a different team with Connor Shaw at the helm rather than Stephen Garcia (may be; it was just Kentucky, after all), but for now, that's a comprehensive argument for Arkansas wearing the "third-best team in the SEC mantle." And maybe even the "best team with a loss" mantle; only Oregon is ranked higher.
15/13. South Carolina
Auburn's loss freed up the Gamecocks from the head-to-head loss ceiling; Shaw's performance likely reassued voters that they deserved the nod over similar one-loss teams like West Virginia or Nebraska. The result is that the Gamecocks are once again a consensus top-15 team. But should they be? Losing to Auburn at home isn't nearly the same as losing to LSU (in WVU's case) or Wisconsin (in Nebraska's). Until Shaw proves himself against more worthy competition, the Coaches' ranking of No. 13 strikes us as being on the high side.
The Tigers hang on in the AP despite the debacle in Fayetteville, with the Coaches substantially less forgiving, placing the Tigers fourth in the "Also Receiving Votes" category. The split decision feels about right for Gene Chizik's squad, with their resume boasting both strong selling points (the win at Carolina, both losses coming on the road at top-10 teams) and big drawbacks (the lopsided nature of the losses, the skin-of-the-teeth wins over Utah State and Mississippi State).
The Gators dropped out of both polls this week after getting drubbed by LSU. Though still at "No. 26" in each, Florida's fortunate to even be that close; their home win over Tennessee isn't as impressive now that Georgia beat the Vols just as convincingly in Knoxville, their other three wins are all against horrible teams, and the Gators couldn't stay within four touchdowns of either LSU or Alabama.
The result is that the SEC's much-lauded collection of eight ranked teams in the preseason has already been halved in the Coaches poll and nearly so in the AP. Fortunately, Georgia's return could be imminent if the Bulldogs can handle Vanderbilt this week.
Posted on: October 9, 2011 3:43 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
A handy recap of who (and what) really won and really lost in the SEC's Week 6.
WINNER: Les Miles.
For years, college football fans have come up with excuse after excuse for why Miles has been less than a terrifiic head football coach, despite his gaudy records and 2007 national title. He's just lucky. Anyone can recruit that kind of talent to LSU. His clock management is terrible. Never lost fewer than two games in a season. He can't get his offense fixed. Did we mention he's lucky? This offseason, one prominent blogger went so far as to place Miles No. 1 on a list of "the Worst Coaches in College Football."
But after today's dominating 41-11 win over Florida and the Tigers' 6-0 start to the 2011 season -- a start that includes wins over four different ranked teams -- even Miles's most ardent detractors have to admit the Mad Hatter has put together the kind of upper-upper-echelon team that can't be explained by recruiting or luck or happenstance alone. Yes, it helps to have Ryan Baker and Tyrann Mathieu and Michael Brockers around, but even superstars like those don't make the kind of terror-inducing defense LSU has today without the guidance of John Chavis, who Miles recruited to Baton Rouge personally. Yes, it's tough to not have a strong running game with Spencer Ware and a veteran line, but that running game wouldn't be nearly so effective if Jarrett Lee hadn't shaken off a career's worth of failures to become exactly the steady, accurate (and vs. the Gators, bomb-tossing) quarterback the offense needs--a development that can be directly traced to Miles's much-derided hire of Steve Kragthorpe as his team's new quarterbacks coach. The Tigers have been special teams killers for far too long under Miles to dismiss their contributions as mere "luck," as evidenced once again Saturday when punter Brad Wing noticed the lack of a Gator punt safety and took off for what should have been a 44-yard touchdown.
In short: to watch the Tigers' rise to 6-0 and their dismantling of the Gators and not see Miles's fingerprints all over them is an exercise in willful ignorance. Luck can explain some of his successes, and the natural advantages of being LSU does explain a little more. But these Tigers? They are only explained by having a coach at the very, very top of his field.
LOSERS: Auburn's wide receivers.
Tiger quarterback Barrett Trotter hasn't played well of late, and has the numbers to prove it--6 of 19 for 81 yards and a pick against Arkansas, to be specific. But he also hasn't gotten much help from his wideouts with leading receiver Emory Blake out ... if he's gotten any at all. Remove a 44-yard reception for Travante Stallworth on a second-half flea flicker completion, and Auburn's wideouts combined for all of three receptions for 21 yards. DeAngelo Benton had a particularly rough evening, dropping one late first-half pass that could have set up an Auburn field goal, getting called for a hold that would eventually force an Auburn punt, and letting a late Trotter pass whistle through his hands for the aformentioned interception.
WINNERS: Backup quarterbacks.
Jacoby Brissett aside, it was a good day to be a current (or recent) second-stringer in the SEC. Connor Shaw cemented himself as the new South Carolina starter and then some with his 311-yard, 4-touchdown, zero-pick performance vs. Kentucky. Mississippi State's Tyler Russell came off the bench to complete 11 of his 13 passes, three of them going for second-half touchdowns that turned what had been a 3-0 halftime deficit into a 21-3 win over UAB. Vanderbilt's Jordan Rodgers didn't have much of an impact statistically (11-of-18, 104 yards, 2 INTs), but led a couple of decent drives and looked as composed vs. the Alabama pass rush as you could hope.
And then there's Lee, who you'll remember was not only Jordan Jefferson's backup with just days remaining before the season, but many fans' favorite to drop to third-string behind JUCO transfer Zach Mettenberger. Against Florida Lee completed only 7 passes--but he also only attempted 10, and those 7 completions averaged a gain of 22 yards.
LOSER: Stephen Garcia.
The career of one of the SEC's most recognizable stars, magnetic talents, and frustrating enigmas appears poised to end not with a bang, but with a whimper. Though you can't ever say never with Steve Spurrier, Shaw's confident command performance against Kentucky suggests he's going to be the Gamecock quarterback for quite some time to come. There's going to be much more difficult opponents ahead for him than the hapless Wildcats, but does it matter? Spurrier's surprising patience with Garcia through his awkward start to this season now looks poised to be turned against him as Spurrier lets Shaw work through the same rough patches Garcia endured.
Which means that in the end, Garcia's senior season hasn't been undone by the off-field troubles that so many have expected to be his downfall. It's gone south because he simply hasn't produced on the field, because aside from one half against East Carolina, he's never looked as good in 2011 as Shaw looked Saturday. It's not how we expected things to come to an end for Garcia (if this is the end), but nothing about Garcia's time in Columbia has ever played out as expected, has it?
LOSERS: Kentucky fans.
The Wildcats kicked off to open their game against the Gamecocks, forced a fumble on the return, and recovered just outside the Carolina 20. Cue the shots in the stands of overjoyed Kentucky fans high-fiving each other and celebrating the best possible start.
60 minutes later -- and only 96 Wildcat yards, 6 Wildcat first downs, and 3 Wildcat points which came immediately following that fumble recovery later -- those same fans had to be some of the most miserable in the country. It's one thing to watch a poor football team; it's another to watch a team that seems so hopelessly outmatched on offense and doesn't seem to be showing any kind of week-to-week improvement. After failing to top 300 total yards against Louisville or Florida, the Wildcats have now failed to top 300 yards in their games against LSU and Carolina combined.
So about that kickoff: were those fans happy to have that one moment of joy? Or all the angrier for that joy being so completely misleading?
WINNER: Georgia's defense.
Before the game, we asked if the Bulldog secondary could live up its gaudy post-Boise State numbers against the likes of Tyler Bray and Da'Rick Rogers on the road at Tennessee. The answer: mostly. Bray and late-game injury replacement Matt Simms did throw for 290 yards at a perfectly respectable 7.3 yards-per-attempt clip, and without an interception.
But they never did throw a touchdown, either; in fact, the Volunteers were kept out of the end zone entirely until Simms snuck in from a yard out with only 2:45 to play in the game. Thanks to the Dawg defensive backs keeping the Vols in front of them, and the UGA front seven stuffing the pathetic Tennessee ground game to the tune of .4 yards per rush (yes, .4), Bray and Co. finished the game with all of 12 points on the scoreboard. The Bulldogs offense wasn't much to write home about -- Isaiah Crowell didn't even hit the 60-yard mark on the ground, the red zone offense sputtered, and like his Vol counterparts Aaron Murray threw neither an interception nor touchdown pass -- but after years of seeing their team score like a pinball machine only to lose after another lackluster defensive display, we expect Dawg fans will take it.
LOSER: Clarity in the SEC East.
South Carolina was the preseason favorite. They were the favorite after they beat Georgia. But then Garcia struggled and Florida beat Tennessee, and the Gators were the favorite. And then Carolina lost to Auburn and Florida lost to both Alabama, and lots of people considered Georgia as the new favorite. But now that Shaw looks to have healed the Gamecocks' Achilles heel ... are they the favorites? Or is Georgia, still, after beating Tennessee? Or is Florida just ripe to return once their schedule eases up? All we really know is that none of the other three teams is winning the division, and that the East winner is going to be a two-touchdown underdog to the West's come December. Past that? your guess is as good as ours.
WINNERS: Everyone who loves college football. Let's not go crazy by saying something like "LSU and Alabama isn't going to be the only game that matters in college football this season"; with Wisconsin, Stanford, Clemson, Boise State and of course Oklahoma all looking at potential undefeated seasons, it's too hasty to even lay claim to LSU and Alabama as the nation's best two teams.
That said: if you're a college football fan, and you've watched Alabama and LSU play this season, and you know how good they are, and you've considered how much fun it would be to watch them meet, undefeated, with a trip to Atlanta on the line on Nov. 5 ... then every week that passes with the two of them still unblemished is a good thing. This was one such week.
Tags: Aaron Murray, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Barrett Trotter, Boise State, Brad Wing, Clemson, Connor Shaw, Da'Rick Rogers, DeAngelo Benton, East Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Isaiah Crowell, Jacoby Brissett, Jarrett Lee, Jerry Hinnen, John Chavis, Jordan Jefferson, Jordan Rodgers, Kentucky, Les Miles, Louisville, LSU, Matt Simms, Michael Brockers, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Ryan Baker, SEC, South Carolina, Spencer Ware, Stanford, Stephen Garcia, Steve Kragthorpe, Steve Spurrier, Tennessee, Travante Stallworth, Tyler Bray, Tyler Russell, Tyrann Mathieu, UAB, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin, Zach Mettenberger
Posted on: October 8, 2011 4:25 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Barring injury, the Stephen Garcia era came to its all-but-official end as Connor Shaw shredded the Wildcat defense for 311 yards and 4 touchdowns without throwing an interception. That was more than enough help for the Gamecock defense, which held the utterly feeble Kentucky offense to all of 96 total yards and forced five turnovers. At one point in the fourth quarter, Kentucky quarterbacks had thrown as many interceptions -- four -- as completions.
WHY SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Shaw's confident, in-control performance had a lot to do with it. The sophomore looked little like the overwhelmed player that started the season opener against East Carolina, making sharp passes, correct reads, and even some hay on the ground on the zone read (42 rushing yards, even after accounting for several sacks). So effective was Shaw that the Carolina offense barely even needed Marcus Lattimore, who had the quietest 100-yard rushing day (4.6 yards per-carry, no touchdowns) it's possible to have.
But as big a story as the Gamecocks' offensive success was, even it might have been eclipsed by the endless whirlpool of horror that was the Kentucky offense. Carolina's defense is solid enough (and even had Melvin Ingram available after the SEC's leader in sacks overcame an ankle injury), but Joker Phillips can't have many excuses for this kind of wretched display: 4-of-26 passing for 17 yards, 2.9 yards averaged over 27 carries, as many turnovers -- six -- as first downs. Morgan Newton gave the Wildcats nothing through the air, forcing Phillips to turn to freshman Maxwell Smith in the second half ... only for Smith to throw interceptions on his first two passes.
With Shaw in command, the Gamecock offense once again looks like a unit capable of powering the team to an SEC East title. But even accounting for their competition, Kentucky's barely looks capable of taking the Wildcats to, say, the middle of the Sun Belt standings.
WHEN SOUTH CAROLINA WON: As soon as Shaw proved he wasn't going to follow in Garcia's scattershot, interception-prone footsteps, which he did on the Gamecocks' first possession: 7 plays, 80 yards, capped with a 20-yard touchdown strike to Alshon Jeffery. With Kentucky's offense, that was Game Already Over.
WHAT SOUTH CAROLINA WON: After weeks of listless performances and sleepwalks past overmatched competition -- not to mention the ugly 16-13 loss to Auburn --dispatching an SEC opponent in such ruthless fashion will be a huge jolt of confidence. With Florida looking totally overmatched at LSU, the Gamecocks have reestablished themselves as a favorite -- and maybe the favorite -- in the East.
WHAT KENTUCKY LOST: In the win/loss column, just another game they were supposed to lose. But after another horrific blowout, the Wildcats' confidence and morale looks to have been blown into a million tiny, tiny pieces. Kentucky looks far more like a future 0-8 SEC team than even a 2-6 one.
THAT WAS CRAZY: Up 33-3 early in the fourth quarter and driving, Steve Spurrier called for a Lattimore-to-Shaw-to-Ace Sanders flea flicker that gained 25 yards. A nice play, but why use it at that stage of this game? Spurrier's never been known for his mercy when it comes to blowouts, and that call won't do anything to change that reputation.
Posted on: October 6, 2011 3:33 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
In which we demand the SEC give us answers to its most pressing questions. Here those are:
Florida's running game: can you give your quarterback(s) any breathing room? Any team that can start Chris Rainey or Jeff Demps at tailback and then substitute the other in for the first is going to be a threat on the ground, regardless of who their team faces; when the tiniest sliver of a crease could equal an 80-yard touchdown before the coaches have their headsets correctly adjusted, the Gator ground game is where a defense's focus is going to start ... and probably finish.
That probably goes double for LSU this Saturday, since with John Brantley out and some combination of true freshman Jeff Driskel and other true freshman Jacoby Brissett taking over at quarterback, the Gators' passing game is the most glaring of question marks. But it doesn't matter how badly the Tigers stack the box, how fearsome LSU's defensive front is, how well John Chavis has his charges prepared--Florida must find a way to get Demps, Rainey, and possibly Trey Burton moving forward on the ground. Even with Brantley looking as sharp as he ever has in the first half, the Gators still couldn't rush the ball at all vs. Alabama; Rainey, Demps, and Mike Gillislee carried 17 times for 13 yards, and the end result was zero points over Florida's final 10 drives.
If Driskel and Brissett have any prayer of completing passes consistently against the carnival of athletic freaks that make up LSU's secondary -- in Baton Rouge, no less -- that secondary is going to have to be not just concerned but downright obsessed with the Florida running game. That won't happen if that running game doesn't pick up some good early gains, maybe break a 20-to-30-yarder somewhere, and keep the Gators out of anything but the occasional third-and-long. Otherwise, Chavis's Tigers will spend all afternoon teeing off on the newbies under center and generally choking the life out of Charlie Weis's attack. Weis failed miserably in his first attempt at finding a way to run the ball against an elite SEC defense; a second failure will equal a potentially even-more-miserable defeat.
Barrett Trotter: are you up to giving Auburn a passing attack again? The Tigers' 4-1 record and road upset of South Carolina has helped mask a major, major flaw in the Tiger offense, and a surprising one given Gus Malzahn's track record: Auburn's vertical passing game has all but vanished. In the five quarters since the start of the second half against Clemson, junior QB Trotter has completed just 52 percent of his passes, for only 5.9 yards an attempt, while throwing 4 (often ugly) interceptions to just 3 touchdowns. That's not to mention the eight sacks taken by Trotter the last two games or that neither FAU nor the Gamecocks are going to be mistaken for having world-class secondaries any time soon.
Judging by Arkansas's efforts to stop the run against Texas A&M (or lack thereof), Trotter should get plenty of help from Michael Dyer and the Auburn running game. But that alone won't be enough for the Tigers to keep pace with the Hogs, not given the way Bobby Petrino's quarterbacks have shredded the Auburn defense the past two seasons (702 combined yards, 7 touchdowns) and the kind of form Tyler Wilson and Jarius Wright are in right now. With the Tiger secondary as flammable as ever (provided your quarterback isn't Stephen Garcia), Arkansas is going to score a boatload of points.
Which is why the injuries to receivers to Trovon Reed and Emory Blake couldn't have come at a worse time for Auburn. Trotter already needed to take a substantial step forward to keep the Tigers within striking distance on the road; now he'll have to do it without two of his top three receivers. If there was ever a week for Malzahn to earn his substantial assistant's salary, this looks to be it.
Georgia secondary: are you for real? When Kellen Moore gouged the Bulldogs for 28-of-34 passing and 3 touchdowns Week 1, it looked like the Bulldog defensive backs had regressed back to their dark Wille Martinez-led days. But with safety Bacarri Rambo returning from suspension, the Dawgs have held their last four opponents to team QB ratings under 86 and rank 11th in the country in opponent's pass efficiency despite the Moore carpet-bombing.
Those past results are no guarantee of future performance, since facing Tyler Bray in Neyland Stadium represents a vast step up in competition from the likes of Garcia, Zack Stoudt, the slumping Chris Relf and whoever it was Coastal Carolina trotted out. But it's worth remembering that the Vols still have next-to-nothing going on the ground; even after totaling 199 yards against Buffalo, the Vols rank a horrid 109th in the country in yards per-carry. If the Dawg defensive backs can slow down Bray at all, the Vol offense could grind to a halt ... and barring another turnover-fest from Aaron Murray, Georgia should be able to walk out of Neyland with the victory.
So: can those Dawg DBs slow down Bray or not? The evidence to date is encouraging, but with the memory of Moore's night at the Georgia Dome still lingering, it's not compelling just yet.
Other SEC questions worth asking: How does AJ McCarron look against the Vanderbilt secondary? (Don't laugh; this is the best set of defensive backs McCarron has faced yet. A strong showing would further cement the belief that the Tide have no Achilles heels.) Can Marcus Lattimore keep pace in the Heisman race? (Sure, most of the attention on Carolina is focused on new quarterback starter Connor Shaw. But a second straight subpar outing against a Kentucky defense that kept LSU's ground game bottled up for a half would put the sophomore badly behind at the midseason mark.) Does Mississippi State have any fight left? (The Bulldogs have looked utterly listless and deflated ever since losing to LSU. Is there any indication that could change down the road vs. UAB?)
Tags: Aaron Murray, AJ McCarron, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Bacarri Rambo, Barrett Trotter, Bobby Petrino, Buffalo, Charlie Weis, Chris Rainey, Chris Relf, Clemson, Coastal Carolina, Connor Shaw, Emory Blake, FAU, Georgia, Gus Malzahn, Jacoby Brissett, Jarius Wright, Jeff Demps, Jeff Driskel, Jerry Hinnen, John Chavis, Kellen Moore, Kentucky, LSU, Marcua Lattimore, Michael Dyer, Mike Gillislee, Mississippi State, SEC, South Carolina, Stephen Garcia, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Trey Burton, Trovon Reed, Tyler Bray, Tyler Wilson, UAB, Vanderbilt, Willie Martinez, Zack Stoudt
Posted on: October 4, 2011 9:06 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
No one who watched South Carolina struggle to score just 13 points (at home) against an Auburn defense that had given up an average of 31 coming into last Saturday's matchup would think some kind of offensive shakeup wasn't coming. And this being Steve Spurrier, exactly how that shakeup would arrive wasn't hard to predict.
So no, it wasn't a surprise when Spurrier named backup Connor Shaw the Gamecocks' starter at quarterback for this week's home game against Kentucky.
"It wasn't that hard a call," Spurrier said. "At some point, we have to do something to shake up this offense. This is the first step. We’ll see how it goes."
That's despite Shaw looking less-than-assured in his only start of the season, in the Gamecocks' opener against East Carolina. The sophomore completed just 3-of-9 passes for 23 yards and failed to lead the team to points of any kind over three possesssions, leaving it to Stephen Garcia to lead the team back from a 17-0 deficit. For the season, Shaw is just 4-of-11 for 29 yards.
Spurrier admitted that he had lost some confidence in Shaw after the performance against ECU, but that he was ready to give him the duration of the Kentucky game to prove himself.
"That’s what we’ve got to do to see if we can get something going," Spurrier said. "He’s got to go do it on the game field. We all know that. Practice is just preparation."
If that seems like less than a ringing endorsement, it's likely because Spurrier preferred to have kept Garcia at the helm ... but was simply left with no choice given his senior's play. Garcia threw six interceptions over the last two games alone, giving him an FBS-high nine for the season -- one pick for every 13 passing attempts -- to only four touchdowns. Garcia ranks ninth in the SEC in passer rating, six points behind Chris Relf and only six ahead of Vanderbilt's erratic Larry Smith. According to Spurrier, Garcia "sort of anticipated" his benching after his performance against Auburn.
Spurrier will nonetheless have to make certain Garcia remains mentally ready to play the rest of the season, since there's no guarantee Shaw will improve on even Garcia's lackluster production. But Spurrier has no option other than to find out of if he can, before what was supposed to be a Gamecock dream season slips even further away.
Posted on: October 3, 2011 1:02 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Dramatic as it may have been, no one would call Auburn's 16-13 victory over South Carolina Saturday a classic. Both teams committed game-altering mistakes by the bushel, and on the game's final play it seemed that sloppiness had extended to the officiating crew. Via Mocksession.com, here's what the end of that play looked like:
Yes, that's Gamecock Bruce Ellington clearly down past the first-down marker with 2 seconds still to play. But by the time officials signaled for the clock to stop, those two seconds had elapsed, Auburn's players spilled onto the field, and the game was ruled over. Steve Spurrier was left confused and less-than-happy:
Though the SEC office has been willing in recent years to admit when its officials have made mistakes, in this case it has backed up the crew on the field. The Twitter feed of conference official Chuck Dunlap had this to say Saturday night:
To be fair to the official, between making the judgment that Ellington was down, the signal to the timekeeper for the clock to stop, and the clock actually being stopped, there's easily two seconds' worth of potential human error involved. We're not going to argue with Dunlap that "proper procedure" wasn't followed.
But we've also seen that procedure happen much more quickly than it was in this instance. We don't blame Spurrier or the Gamecocks at all for feeling like they should have been given the opportunity for one more play. They should have.
But that's also the risk any team runs when throwing over the middle with no timeouts and the clock down to its final seconds, and that one extra play would have had to have been a low-percentage Hail Mary if it was anything at all. Allowing for at least one second to run off between Ellington hitting the turf and the clock stopping, either a spike or sprinting the field goal team on for a 47-yarder don't seem like realistic options. And herding both teams off the field for a replay review to add that one second back on the clock -- giving Carolina a chance to properly set up for their field goal try, a chance they'd done nothing to actually earn -- wouldn't be remotely fair to Auburn.
The bottom line? The Gamecocks and their fans have a right to complain. But they shouldn't confuse that right with the belief that the officials had more to do with the outcome than Stephen Garcia's decision to check down to Ellington to begin with.
Posted on: September 30, 2011 4:20 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Running down everything you need to know from the current news in the SEC, courtesy of our CBSSports.com RapidReporters (and others).
SOUTH CAROLINA. It doesn't seem possible that Marcus Lattimore could take on even more of a burden for the Gamecock offense, but that's how things look as his team prepares for Saturday's visit from Auburn. Lattimore's top two backups are both doubtful for the game with injuries; Kenny Miles is struggling with a sprained wrist, third-stringer Eric Baker might miss the game as well, and freshman Shon Carson tore his ACL in mid-September. Freshman Brandon Wilds could be the only scholarship running back available for Steve Spurrier other than Lattimore, but even if Baker is healthy, the junior has just five carries combined the previous three seasons.
Lattimore already leads the nation in rushing attempts with a whopping 26.75 per game. But given the problems Carolina must deal with when either anyone other then Lattimore rushes the ball or Stephen Garcia drops back to pass, that workload doesn't seem likely at all to decrease this week.
In other Gamecock news, true freshman receiver Damiere Byrd will make his long-awaited debut this week after all. His four-game NCAA suspension has been served, but in midweek Spurrier said he hadn't been "cleared" just yet. Now he has.
AUBURN. If the Gamecocks start to feel sorry for themselves, though, all they'll have to do is look to the opposite sideline this week. After already losing receiver Trovon Reed to a shoulder injury for this week and possibly longer, the Tigers also confirmed this week that defensive end Dee Ford will miss the remainder of the season with a herniated disk. Though technically a backup, Ford was the only junior in the entire Tiger defensive line's two-deep; his spot in the rotation will be filled by two players with a combined 23 career snaps.
It's those kinds of defensive issues that have forced Gene Chizik and Gus Malzahn to slow down Malzahn's preferred up-tempo style during his Auburn tenure; the Tigers have averaged only one more play per-game under Malzahn than they did in the 12 seasons before his arrival.
OLE MISS. Things in Oxford are ugly off the field, with the Ole Miss chancellor himself writing open letters in response to anonymous "threats" and the Rebel community seemingly divided over the status of athletic director Pete Boone and coach Houston Nutt. But they might be even uglier on it right now, which is why Randall Mackey seems set to become the Rebels' third starter under center in five games as the Rebels travel to take on Fresno State.
And speaking of ugly, more than a few wags on Twitter had something to say about Nutt's decision to wear a flat-brimmed blue baseball cap during his team's loss to Georgia. He explained himself in straightforward fashion this week: he wanted to protect his face from the sun, and he couldn't wear both his preferred straw hat and a headset at the same time. Works for us.
ARKANSAS. Even after losing Tenarius Wright for 4-to-6 weeks, there is some good news for the Hogs on the injury front. Senior corner Isaac Madison is expected to play against Texas A&M after leaving the Alabama game with an injury, and running back Broderick Green has made startling progress from the ACL tear suffered during spring practice--so much progress that Green is already practicing and is now expected before the season's end, possibly as soon as this week.
On the downside, defensive coordinator Willy Robinson is less-than-thrilled with the performance of senior safety Tramain Thomas at the moment. "I'm not going to sit down there and allow what was going on during the course of the game to continue, so I made a switch there," Robinson said of pulling Thomas against Alabama. "This week he knows he's under fire, and he'd better give us better effort."
ELSEWHERE: Nick Saban said five-star running back recruit Dee Hart has made substantial progress since preseason ACL surgery, but remains highly likely to redshirt ... Vanderbilt starting linebacker Tristan Strong will miss the rest of the 2011 season after tearing an ACL against South Carolina. He was third on the team in tackles ...
Georgia linebacker Christian Robinson is expecting to play "15-20 plays" in his return from injury. His partner in rehab? None other than Barbara Dooley, who Robinson promised he'd wear Derek Dooley-style orange pants if his Dawgs beat Derek's Vols later this season ... After initially asking to leave the team, Bulldog backup running back Ken Malcome changed his mind and rejoined the squad on Thursday ...
Tennessee freshman running back and returner Devrin Young is set to make his season debut after missing the Volunteers' first three games with a broken collarbone ... Fans at the Vols' game against Buffalo will be able to wave pink shakers in exhcnage for a donation to breast cancer research ... Mississippi State isn't unhappy with defensive tackles Fletcher Cox and Josh Boyd, but would like to see more production from them all the same ... Why, yes, Kentucky offensive coordinator Randy Sanders is "frustrated" with his team's offensive struggles. We doubt you're surprised.
Tags: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Barbara Dooley, Brandon Wilds, Broderick Green, Buffalo, Christian Robinson, Damiere Byrd, Dee Ford, Dee Hart, Derek Dooley, Devrin Young, Eric Baker, Fletcher Cox, Fresno State, Gene Chizik, Georgia, Gus Malzahn, Houston Nutt, Isaac Madison, Jerry Hinnen, Josh Boyd, Ken Malcome, Kenny Miles, Kentucky, Marcus Lattimore, Mississippi State, NCAA, Nick Saban, Ole Miss, Pete Boone, Randall Mackey, Randy Sanders, RapidReport Roundup, SEC, Shon Carson, South Carolina, Stephen Garcia, Steve Spurrier, Tenarius Wright, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Tramain Thomas, Tristan Strong, Trovon Reed, Vanderbilt, Willy Robinson