A Retrospective on Southern Miss

I keep telling myself to keep it in perspective.  It’s only week one.  It was only Southern Miss. 

But don’t it feel good? 

There was a 50-gallon drum full of reasons to wring our hands leading up to the game – Agentgate, Whitneygate, who was going to be eligible, who wasn’t; Southern Miss was a more formidable opponent than N.C. State; Andre Brown was 7-feet tall and ran a sub-4 40; Austin Davis was the second coming of Brett Favre; our defense wasn’t ready for the fast-paced USM offense; Larry Fedora was SOS Lite, etc. etc.

T-bone gave us fair warning – do not fear a C-USA team only returning four starters on offense and that gave up 42 points against Middle Tennessee in a bowl game more pathetic than that bowl-that-shall-no-longer-be-named.  But we did not listen.  And after the first three and out, our fingernails were bit to the quick and leprous sores were forming on our hands. 

But then something odd happened.  The University of South Carolina started to look crisp in a season opener. 

Steve Spurrier mixed it up with the playcalling, not giving a crap that he may be “showing his hand.”  Stephen Garcia was all at once sharp, daring, fearless, and best of all, a leader.  Stephon Gilmore flashed his freakish talent on both sides of the ball.  Alshon Jeffery looked like a varsity player getting reps against the JV’s.  Marcus Lattimore, while he didn’t put up spectacular numbers, energized the other players and the crowd.  Ace Sanders looked like he belonged on the Bonneville Salt Flats.  Connor Shaw was as advertised. 

Sure, there were a few rough spots, mainly on defense.  A busted assignment led to USM’s first score.  The D wasn’t as havoc-wreaking as we would’ve liked, and they gave up a lot of yards in the final quarter.  There wasn’t a great push from the front four, and some of the back-ups made us thankful for the first-teamers. 

But come on, aren’t we nitpicking at that point?  We apparently survived a pre-game nuking at the hands of the NCAA, and then went on to soundly beat a team that most experts expected to give us a game well into the second half.  That’s a heckuva lot better start than we’re used to, I can tell you that.

At least for one week, we were who we are supposed to be – a contender for the SEC East crown pounding a good but overmatched mid-major.  So I’d call the feeling right now cautious giddiness.

Lose next week to Georgia, and we’re back to being good ol’ South Carolina.

Win next week against Georgia, and a universe of possibilities opens up.