There’s almost a cottage industry playing armchair psychologist, assigning emotions, and motivations to athletes.
Folks judge if they were extra up for a game or feeling overconfident or unfocused. If often has the effect of whitewashing over when those things actually happen, often in conjunction with athletes and coaches being relatively private about the inner dynamics of the team.
But sometimes, an athlete will come out and say the team’s focus might not have fully been there. South Carolina safety D.J. Smith said that’s what he felt in his team’s loss to Kentucky.
“Me, myself, I feel like we got a little bigheaded,” Smith said. “Winning them first two games, sold out crowd, feeding into it a little bit.”
Smith took responsibility for his play, noting he had more coverage busts than he’d had in a game in a year and a half. USC’s tackling was off, and on offense, procedure penalties helped snuff out a pair of good scoring chances.
Smith pointed to one play where a defensive back had help inside, but didn’t play the reliever to take advantage of that, getting beat outside.
“On some of the plays, we just beat ourselves,” Smith said. “The coach, he put it in the gameplan and we had a bunch of walkthroughs with those same exact plays. So I feel like, on a lot of those plays, it was just us.”
Wide receiver Bryan Edwards also mentioned focus and some mental aspects of the game as needing to be cleaned up.
Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp objected somewhat to the characterization as an issue with focus.
“That frustrates me when I hear that, because that’s not always the case,” Muschamp said. “It’s an easy cop-out. Saying, ‘Oh they lost the game. Obviously, they didn’t play very well, or obviously they weren’t very focused.’ We were focused the first play of the game. We seemed to be very focused, defensively, the second play of the game.”
Those plays were a 68-yard touchdown pass on a run-pass option and an instinctive Skai Moore interception.
“We need to coach better and we need to play better,” Muschamp said. “We haven’t had an issue with offsides throughout training camp or throughout the first two ball games on the road. We had an issue with it four times the other night. Whether it’s dialing in, focusing, or whatever you want to call it; at the end of the day we need to execute better.”
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