Sunday, November 29, 2009

107th Meeting Of Clemson - USC A 34-17 Charm

The 38th victory for USC against Clemson on Saturday was a charm for more reasons than one.  With the victory margin 65-37-4 in favor of Clemson, any victory would seem sweet, but this game had a lot of emotions and season long trash talking among friends, neighbors and radio listening junkies.  But this year has been the challenge of rather this is even a rivalry any more.  If South Carolina is in the wrong conference or even capable of playing competitively in the ACC.  Clemson was on a six game winning streak, South Carolina was on a four game losing streak.  Dabo Swinney represented the new wave of young coaches having successful seasons and careers, while Steve Spurrier, once considered the Guru of offensive play calling and synonymous with winning and championships, was being questioned for his capability to produce a championship caliber team or at least get South Carolina past their arch rivals.  Not to mention the Tigers went into this game ranked 18th, with the Cocks having fallen from the graces of national rankings. [watch game or highlights]

Well it turned out that the Ole Ball Coach, used his experience, enhanced with a two preparation period, and established a game plan and a relaxed but prepared team focus that allowed the Gamecocks to basically dominate the Tigers in all aspects of the game, following the second chance opening kick, that saw C.J. Spiller set a NCAA record for career kick-off touchdowns, with his 88 yard return for touchdown.  After that play South Carolina went on to deliver its' own blows, more frequently and more powerful.

South Carolina overcame early penalties and miscues, to dominate the game.  Some will say this was no domination, but Clemson is on its' way to the ACC Championship game, sporting an offense scoring over 30 points a ballgame in the last six weeks.  But South Carolina held Spiller to 18 yards on 9 carries, Jacoby Ford to 49 yards on 5 catches.  The Tigers could only generate 260 yards on the day, with 48 yards total on the ground.  USC held the ball for over 36 minutes while Clemson was able to play with the ball for less than 24 minutes.  While Tiger QB Kyle Parker managed 22-42 passing for 212 yards most of the yards were gained on a pass frequent, late offensive, drive for Swinney's ball club and often other drives were held to movement only in the middle of the field.  Even though prepared for the Wildcat formation, or "Wild Roost" if you're looking for the South Carolina branding, Clemson could not stop the second possession offensive wrinkle when Stephon Gilmore led the Cocks on a run oriented "Wild Roost" scheme.  The package, that all have been looking for all season, included a nice 39-yard down field post strike to freshman sensation, Alshon Jeffrey, which set up a Brian Maddox touchdown a couple plays later and the Gamecocks seemed extremely poised to control the remainder of the game which they did.  Missing out on an opportunity late in the first half to place more points on the board, after a Clemson's forced bad punt of 14 yards was touched but not recovered by USC's Antonio Allen on the Clemson 29 yard line.  Clemson retained possession but could not move the chains but dodged another score by the host team.  USC won the first half 17-7 and the second half 17-10, to claim complete dominance of the rival game, and reestablish the in-state rivalry by giving Gamecock fans "Bragging Rites" (bragging rights) for one year.

Spurrier's play calling was great, Steven Garcia played well, but Kenny Miles was a star carrying the ball 17 times for 114 yards.  Eric Norwood, who had a fumble recovery, provided tons of pressure, along with defensive stars Clifton Geathers and DeVonte Holloman.  Many players stepped up to become a part of this most memorable game, now in its' 100th consecutive meeting.  Guys like Tori Gurley and Weslye Saunders made significant contributions, along with the intangibles not seen in the stats from the offensive line.  This team victory amassed 388 total yards (223 rushing/165 passing), 6-16 in third down conversions (1-1 on 4th) and only 4 penalties. [videos]

Horn's Plan, Replace By Committee, A Team Concept

All week, Head Coach Darrin Horn told anyone asking that you don't just replace a player as valuable and versatile as Dominique Archie, who injured his right knee in the only USC (4-1) loss, in this early season  last Sunday to Miami in the finals of the Charleston Classic.  He required the team to respond by stepping up and each player contributing to the level of his best at this point in the season.  The first sense of confidence in knowing your team and specifically knowing your players, became evident in the game against the Jacksonville Dolphins which found the 6'7" Archie, replaced by 6'2" Brandis Raley-Ross, who finished with 18, on 60% shooting.  The starting lineup was a very good adjustment, the rotation and minutes distribution was just as tailored as the custom threads worn by the young basketball engineer.  If you haven't noticed under the shadow of Steve Spurrier and the Gridiron Division, is the developing of a very competitive basketball program by Athletic Director Eric Hyman's visionary hire that is defying all who chose to question, criticize or complain.  This writer falls in that category initially, but gained early appreciation for the autocratic Head Coach.

Horn made firm size, speed and teaching match ups that allowed him to place continuous and extended pressure on the feisty Dolphins of northern Florida.  The Gamecocks received a very balanced performance throughout the ballgame allowing the young shooting freshman, Stephen Spinella, to acquire more competitive minutes to assist in his early development.  This new minutes distribution allowed Sam Muldrow to assert himself with outside to inside movement; Raley-Ross exploited his inside and outside value in the same game, while Mike Holmes, Lakeem Jackson and Austin Steed pounded the glass, challenged shots, came up with loose balls and finished inside.  Ramon Galloway filled his roll, solidly relieving Devan Downey, taking and making good shots, while protecting the ball.  Galloway's utilization allowed Downey the late game energy to take over just inside the 6 minute mark and score 17 or his game high 34 points and establish the scoring space to hold off a well prepared and competitive unit coached by Cliff Warren.  At times Downey appeared unstoppable and the basket must have appeared larger and larger with each possession to the 5'9" superstar.

Horn formed his replacement committee with eight players playing 11 minutes or more, and two others playing 7 minutes.  The second half use of Galloway allowed Downey rest minutes on and off the court.  This was a win through strategic coaching and player aggressiveness.  These are the team victories coaches talk about.

Game Positives; four players in double figures scoring, 57.4% shooting percentage, 50% from 3-point range, 6 blocks, 9 steals and 21 defensive turnovers, to go with the 97-93 win.

Game Negatives; allowed 4 players to score in double figures, allowed 50% shooting, 53.8% from 3, allowed 11 offensive rebounds, including being out rebounded 30-35, committed 17 turnovers and only 5 total assists.

This is a hard working, scrappy, energetic and talented team, but there are some areas that cannot be replaced by committee.  What was accomplished took 4 player contributions and a superstar finish.  If this attitude and philosophy holds up, the return of Archie could reward volumes with players having realized their contribution capabilities against quality opponents.  Next up Western Kentucky, the former employer of Horn's leadership services.