Here are some quick, barely researched, not fully formed thoughts from yesterday’s 31-10 mauling of Missouri:
The look. I think people around the country are starting to see it after yesterday’s win – South Carolina has that look. The look of a contender.
Do we have a few issues? Sure we do. We turned the ball over too many times yesterday. While they played better against Mizzou, we need more consistency out of the offensive line. We haven’t had to make a pressure kick yet. The secondary is still a question mark. I’m still not sure we have a go-to receiver. We made some bizarre play calls on third- and fourth-and-goal early in the game yesterday that cost us points.
But when you have all that going on, and you still beat a dangerous Missouri team the way we did yesterday, people start to notice. Our defense is fast and stifling, led by a defensive line with as much talent as we’ve ever had here at one time. Our offense can beat you in a variety of ways, and yesterday it seemed we could do anything at any time against a Tiger defense that was getting a lot of praise going into the game. We have a clear leader on offense, and a grind-it-out tailback who can eat up yards and clock. Ace Sanders showed he is a first class punt returner yesterday, as well as a guy you can count on to make a big play on offense when needed.
We definitely have the look. The month of October will determine if we can translate that into a championship.
Complete. Connor Shaw got off to a shaky start this year, even before his injury against Vandy. He looked a little tentative, his accuracy was off, and he didn’t seem to have the zip on his passes like last year. When Dylan Thompson stepped in and played well against East Carolina and UAB, a minor quarterback controversy started brewing.
Shaw put all that to rest yesterday with one of the best days a Carolina quarterback has ever had – 20 of 21 passing for 249 yards and two touchdowns, and an additional 41 yards rushing. A spectacular 80-yard touchdown run was called back because of a clipping penalty (one that Steve Spurrier disputes) or the day would’ve been off the charts statistically. He’s under control, going through his progressions, not forcing anything, and hitting the deck before he takes any more big shots.
Having Thompson waiting in the wings is a nice security blanket, but make no mistake – this team belongs to Connor Shaw.
Flying Ace. Ace Sanders’ second quarter 49-yard punt return was one of the prettiest we’ve ever seen in Williams-Brice. I’m not sure he’ll ever turn into the go-to receiver I mentioned above – you know, an 8 catches for 150 yards kind of guy. But he showed he can make the kind of plays that change the tenor of a game as a returner and a receiver.
Bruuuuuuuuuce. Just as Gary and Verne were letting the world know we had the worst kickoff return average in the country (because we hadn’t actually returned a kickoff), Bruce Ellington ripped off a 50-yard return that helped seal a game ball for new special teams coach Joe Robinson. Ellington is a guy who could use a few more touches on the offensive side of the ball as well, and I think you’re going to start seeing that next week.
D-fence. What can you say about Lorenzo Ward’s defense so far this year. We lost three starters to the NFL – Ingram, Robertson and Gilmore – and our defensive architect Ellis Johnson to Southern Miss. The consensus was the defense would still be good, but with the loss of those stars and a different defensive philosophy being implemented by Ward, there’s no way it could be as good as last year. Well, the D is currently ranked number five in the country in scoring defense, number eight in rushing defense, and is in the top 20 overall. And while the competition ramps up considerably over the next few weeks, we haven’t exactly been playing the sisters of the poor in racking up these numbers.
Game balls. Spurrier gave game balls yesterday to A.J. Cann, Shaw, Sanders, Chaz Sutton, Devin Taylor, Joe Robinson, Lorenzo Ward, and to the man who gave the HBC his first coaching job – Pepper Rogers.
No Swag, No problem. One of the primary story lines in yesterday’s game was D.J. Swearinger serving a one-game suspension for his hit on a UAB wide receiver. T.J. Gurley filled in admirably and Swearinger was hardly missed. We’ll all welcome the Jungle Boi back against Kentucky next week.
Fast Break? When asked this week about how Missouri’s “fast break” offense compared to ECU’s, Ward responded that while they were both spread offenses, Missouri would move “much faster”. I don’t doubt that the Tigers WANTED to move faster than they did yesterday, but for the most part our defense kept them moving more at a four corners pace. (Look it up youngsters – Dean Smith, North Carolina)
Gary and Verne. I have professed my affection for Verne Lundquist in this space before, that even though he’s getting older and may not be as sharp as he used to be, he’s THE voice of the SEC on Saturday afternoons.
Gary Danielson, however, is just annoying.
After the Gamecocks failed on fourth and goal early in the second quarter, Danielson stated that “Missouri fans are going, ‘wait a minute, this is the SEC, I thought this was supposed to be grown man football.'” My thought was, while the play calls were curious in that situation, we had already used “grown man football” to move the ball up and down the field on the Tigers and put ourselves in that position. We then proceeded to play “grown man football” for the final three quarters.
Opposite prophesy. If you listened to our podcast last week, you heard my prediction that the final score would be 35-14 Missouri. You also heard my prognostication was due to the fact that typically whatever I predict, well, the opposite tends to happen. While I didn’t nail the opposite score (a slight miss), I did get the point differential right.
So tune in to next week’s podcast when I predict a 45-7 loss to Kentucky.
Go Cocks, beat Kentucky!