Deacons, Gamecocks go ugly early
Posted August 29
The first play from the line of scrimmage in the Dave Clawson era at Wake Forest occurred but yet did not occur Thursday at Louisiana-Monroe.
It was a delay of game penalty from the Deacons’ 15-yard-line, and only the second omen of doom in the opener for the new coach.
The first blunder came when Wake won the coin flip, elected to receive, only to get a measly 14-yard return by freshman Tyler Henderson. That set the stage for freshman quarterback John Wolford’s miscommunication with the sidelines and the ensuing 5-yard delay penalty.
Wake eventually absorbed a 17-10 loss to its Sun Belt Conference host and the offense hardly improved as the night unfolded.
The Deacs wound up with five first downs and 94 yards total offense. As first impressions go, it was among the most dreadful in ACC football history. Which is saying something.
ULM quarterback Pete Thomas, the transfer from N.C. State by way of Colorado State, hardly wowed anyone in his debut with the Warhawks but didn’t throw an interception while completing 23 of 41 passes for 189 yards.
Thomas was hindered by an injury to Rashon Ceaser, the team’s top receiver and a Biletnikoff Award candidate. But overall, Thomas took care of the ball better than he did for the Wolfpack last season in a 28-13 loss at Wake, where he threw two interceptions to offset 257 yards passing and a touchdown strike to Quinton Payton.
In preseason, Clawson and his players foresaw early success against a meager non-ACC schedule that includes Gardner-Webb next, Utah State and Army in addition to Louisiana-Monroe.
So much for that sort of optimism. Unless the offense improves quickly, 0-12 is a genuine possibility.
For Pirates, grin or grimace?
Were ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill and offensive guru Lincoln Riley smiling or sobbing as they watched TV coverage of South Carolina’s defensive disaster in a 52-28 loss to Texas A&M Thursday in the Gamecocks’ Williams-Brice Stadium?
After opening Saturday in Greenville against N.C. Central, the Pirates will go Columbia next weekend for the first of three potentially nationally significant non-AAC games.
The offensive system Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital use is a virtual duplicate of ECU’s. All four coaches – McNeill, Riley, Sumlin and Spavital – are no longer Conference USA cohorts and stalwarts. But their offensive strategies haven’t changed a bit from the days Sumlin was at Houston and Spavital was on his staff after having previously worked at Tulsa, another CUSA team.
Against the Gamecocks’ highly touted but generally inexperienced defense, new Aggie quarterback Kenny Hill was dazzling – 44-of-60 for 511 yards passing and three touchdowns. Johnny Manziel himself couldn’t have done more.
Meanwhile, Aggie running backs repeatedly darted into South Carolina’s weary secondary for double-digit yardage gains.
Steve Spurrier was left puzzled, irritated and probably worse for the Pirates, embarrassed.
"I think our players are better than what they showed, but I don't know," Spurrier told reporters. "We have no pass rush, coverage was so-so and (the Aggies) knew what they were doing."
The ball coach also got a taste of his verbal medicine when Spavital said, "I thought the kids went out there and had some fun. And they're a fun group of kids to watch."
It sure as heck was no fun from where Spurrier watched, and he knows similar breakdowns are at least a possibility against ECU’s Shane Carden and Justin Hardy.
It may turn out that Thursday was a disgusting Gamecocks reality check that winds up landing on the Pirates’ tab.