South Carolina overcame a very rocky start last night – two turnovers in their first three offensive plays – to take a 10-0 lead over Vanderbilt. After the field goal that gave us points 8, 9 and 10, we barely missed an opportunity to get a stranglehold on the game as the Vandy kick returner fumbled the ensuing kickoff. Alas, a Commodore fell on it, but not to worry. On the next play Jordan Rodgers was dumped for a two yard loss, and for the first time during the game I allowed myself to actually sit back on my couch and relax a little. Things were looking good.
On the next play, Rodgers hit Jordan Matthews for a 78-yard touchdown. The dogfight was on.
This, my friends, is Carolina football.
We all like to think Carolina football is a 34-13 thrashing of CTU, or a 30-13 New Year’s Day bowl romp over Nebraska, but that’s just not the case. Carolina football is much better represented in wins like 24-21 win over Navy, 14-12 over Mississippi State, 14-3 over Tennessee, or 17-12 over Florida.
Ugly, grind ‘em out wins. But wins nonetheless.
Don’t take that the wrong way, because it’s a good thing. I grew up around Carolina football when we would lose those games. So close, but just not good enough, mixed in with an occasional blowout loss.
Now, more often than not we are just good enough, mixed in with an occasional blowout win.
So curb all the bitching and moaning for just a brief moment and let’s take stock of where we are. A close, sloppy 17-13 win over Vandy on the road is not necessarily predictive of what we’re going to do against Georgia or LSU or Florida or Arkansas or CTU.
It’s a long season. Enjoy the ride. We’re 1-0, which is a lot better than 0-1.
With that said, here are some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from last night’s 17-13 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores:
Game balls. Connor Shaw was a warrior last night, and without his return to the game I’m not sure we could’ve moved the ball past the 50. I was certain based on the pain he looked like he was in that he had a broken collarbone, separated shoulder, or something that would keep him out for the rest of the game, if not for multiple games. His stats won’t get him on any Heisman ballots any time soon, but he refused to let us lose, and that’s the kind of guy you want as your quarterback.
Honorable mention to Marcus Lattimore. He looked like he might still be a step slow, but Marcus at 80% is better than 95% of the running backs in the country. Welcome back 21.
And honorable mention to Lorenzo Ward. His defensive backfield looked a little shaky at times, and his blitz call on 4th and 7 on Vandy’s last offensive play was questionable, but overall this squad looks solid. Vandy seemed like they were perpetually on our 40-yard line in the second half, and to only give up 3 points in the last 30 minutes was quite an accomplishment.
A tale of two lines. While not exactly running free in the backfield all night, our defensive line lived up to billing. I saw a lot of guys in the rotation, and as expected 7 and 98 were in on a ton of plays. Unexpectedly, Chaz Sutton appeared to have a pretty good game as well, which was very good to see.
The o-line on the other hand was a little disappointing. Maybe having a 35 lb. weight advantage over the Vandy d-line wasn’t such a good thing. We ran the ball fine, but Vandy’s combination of blitzes and straight four-man rushes left very little time for Shaw to look downfield.
I believe we’ll see some extra conditioning drills for these guys in the next couple of weeks.
Paging Mr. Adams and Mr. Roland, please report to the offense. I saw Jerrell Adams on the field once (and I looked for him a lot) and did not see Shaq Roland at all. After all the preseason hype surrounding these two guys, particularly Adams, I expected to see them on the field a little more. Maybe Spurrier will bust out Roland at some point a la Alshon Jeffery against Kentucky three years ago.
Paging any receiver not wearing #1, please report to the offense. Ace Sanders had a few balls thrown his way but only had two catches. Dameire Byrd had one catch. No other receiver had a catch, and I can only recall D.L. Moore being thrown to. Granted, Shaw didn’t have a lot of time to throw, but we’ll have to do a lot better than 67 yards passing to beat the big boys.
Paging Brenden Nosovich to 2nd string QB. For all the talk of Dylan Thompson’s improvement during the offseason, last night he simply looked lost or scared or both. For the HBC to pull him in favor of Seth Strickland so quickly tells you he saw the same thing.
Nosovich, based on his high school career, is a similar player to Shaw. Maybe it’s time to get him a limited play package ready and move him up the pecking order. Nosovich can’t be much worse than what we saw last night.
On a side note, a little surprised we didn’t see Bruce take a single snap at Wildcat last night.
Paging a kicker, any kicker. We made a field goal and two extra points, yay. But kickoffs and punts were shaky. Gots to get a lot better fellas.
Plays of the game. I have four: 1) Shaq Wilson interception, a real momentum killer for Vandy. 2) the Justice Cunningham catch – you know the one, the only one. That was SportsCenter top 10 worthy and put us in position to score the go ahead TD. 3) Dameire Byrd running down the Vandy kick returner after we took the lead. Huge play, and glad to see a WR make a contribution. 4) the play where Connor Shaw came back into the game.
ESPN Coverage. I have to say, I was OK with the coverage of the game last night. Rece Davis is top-notch, at least as good as Chris Fowler and 75% less smug. I know a lot of people have issues with Short Tie Palmer, but he doesn’t bother me that bad. The big surprise was David Pollack. I listened to him on Atlanta radio for a couple of years and he was borderline dumb jock abysmal + he always seemed to hate USC. He was quite insightful last night. I think I’ll give him another chance.
Good win fellas. Go Cocks, beat ECU!