Some late, quick, barely researched, not fully formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 33-23 victory over East Carolina University:
Defensive. We started last week’s Snaps with the defense after they gave up record yardage and 52 points. So we’ll start with them this week too since they didn’t.
The ECU game started much where the Texas A&M game left off, with a confused looking bunch of guys chasing a fast-paced offense with what looked like little hope of slowing them down, much less stopping them. But after three Pirate drives (two of them being more than 80 yards) netted them 13 points, the Gamecocks settled down and held them to ten points the rest of the way. I’m not a smart enough football guy to tell you what changed scheme-wise, but I can tell you I saw a bunch of younger guys growing up under the lights. I saw a confidence and emotion that was completely absent last week.
We still have a talent deficiency at defensive end that we are simply not going to be able to overcome this year, and our linebacker group hasn’t been as good as we expected them to be so far. We are going to have to resort to some creative blitzes to get pressure on quarterbacks, and hope our young secondary continues to improve. Last night wasn’t great, but it was a step in the right direction.
Our Gurley. While we’re talking about defense, it’s good to see TJ Gurley back to his pre-injury self. As a true freshman he was impressing and getting valuable playing time before a devastating knee injury against Florida. It’s taken him a while to get back, but he’s starting to look like he could be a leader in our defensive resurgence.
The Rocket. Offensively, we saw how important it is for Mike Davis to stay healthy and in the lineup. I tweeted during the game that he was running like he was pissed off, which apparently he was because of the doubters that surfaced after last week’s game. I don’t care what his motivation is, whether it’s real or imagined slights, as long as he stays in the game and gives us the effort we saw last night.
Brandon Wilds was again adequate as Davis’ backup. Wilds is never going to be the home run threat Davis is, but he’ll get you 5-6 yards if the play is blocked correctly, and is a good, dependable option coming off the bench. After those two, we still don’t know what we have in one guy (Williams) and know all too well what we have in the other (Carson).
Just pray MD28 stays healthy.
Killin’ Dylan. The vitriol continues to pour in about the play of Dylan Thompson, despite the fact he is currently third in both passing yardage and total yardage in the SEC. Now, I do know enough about football to know that yardage is only part of the story. And I realize Dylan has some problems with accuracy and decision-making (maybe) that he’s going to need to correct if we are going to have any chance to make some noise in the East this year. The frustration of the eight quarters we’ve played so far have only exacerbated Thompson’s mistakes and has made him a convenient target for criticism.
But, I don’t see play so bad that he should be benched. Far from it. I see a guy who has been in this system for five years and has played in some huge games over that time, and played well more often than not. He’s struggled at times over the first two games, no doubt. But he has also made some good throws to boot. He also has the respect of the head coach and the respect of his teammates to lead this offense week in and week out. That’s good enough for me. I can use my bitching energy much more effectively in other areas.
A Very Special Teams. For once, not only did our special teams not hurt us, they actually made a significant contribution*. Big Gerald Dixon Jr. had our first FG block since (insert researched answer) which led to points for us before halftime. Besides that, we had very few UGH moments on special teams last night.
*Elliott Fry is not considered part of special teams for the purpose of this discussion. Dude is solid.
Shon. Permanent UGH.
Why is he still returning kicks. One of the most baffling decisions of the Spurrier era.
Shaq Back. Shaq Roland over his first two years has been a medium range to deep ball threat and not much else. But last night we saw the type of ball skills he showed off while winning Mr. Football at Lexington High School. On his wide receiver screens he showed speed and shake that I wasn’t sure he had. I’d love to see him get more opportunities in open space, and I’m sure that’s coming.
King Tuttchdown. Pharoh has a bad attitude. No no, not that kind of bad attitude. You know, the good kind of bad attitude, the kind you want on a football field. I love the way he fights for every yard and looks like he’s mad he didn’t score after every play. We need more bad attitudes like that.
Power O. The last drive of the game for USC was 18 plays and 83 yards that ended in the game-clinching field goal. After four passes to start the drive, the Gamecocks ran what appeared to be the same play nine times in a row, demoralizing the Pirates along the way. It was a great performance by our much-heralded offensive line, and was fun to watch. Now, will we be able to do that when we get back to SEC play?
The HBC. Steve Spurrier had a very interesting comment after the game on Saturday: “(Our fans) are starting to realize what kind of team we are.” Sounds like to me he’s lowering expectations. Let’s hope it’s just a motivational ploy. But given Spurrier’s brutal honesty, I just don’t know.
The bad news. When I look at our schedule, it’s a lot easier for me to find losses than wins. Auburn at Auburn was generally considered a loss heading into 2014, but now swing games like Georgia, Florida and Clemson feel like losses. Missouri at home is no pushover. Kentucky on the road and Tennessee at home look tougher today than they did two weeks ago. Is it possible we actually go from SEC East favorites to missing out on a bowl game?
The good news. Two weeks does not a season make. We have a chance to make everything right with a win over Georgia on Saturday. Our guys will be ready, will be emotional, and will give Georgia our best shot. I’m confident of it. A win and all our goals are back on the table. Even with a loss, while an SEC title is out of the question, a good performance could give us the confidence boost we need to have a very good season and finish with a fourth straight season of double-digit wins.
No matter how it goes, we’ll be back, week after week. We hope you’ll continue to join us.