Some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s thrilling 38-35 victory over Georgia:
180. As in degrees. As in how much the perception of this Gamecock squad changed over sixty minutes against the Bulldogs.
You remember August 28, right? Texas A&M passed over, through and around us in the most unexpected and embarrassing loss of the Spurrier era at South Carolina. A modest home win over East Carolina in week two didn’t help much. There were so many questions about this team and where it was headed after having such lofty preseason expectations. Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of questions, especially on the defensive side of the ball. But the trajectory of this season has changed. We are back in control of our own destiny in the SEC East, and a team left for dead two weeks ago has new life and new purpose and a freshly dusted off set of goals to attain.
Team Thompson. Any further questions about who the leader of the USC offense is? Thompson’s 21-30, 270 yard, 3 TD performance may have been the best of his career. He was in complete control, looking confident and throwing that way for most of the night. He recognized defenses, checked in and out of plays, and threw to the right receiver on all but one notable play. On his lone interception he admitted he thought he had lost the game. But his teammates picked him up on defense, and the football gods intervened on a chip shot field goal.
It’s time to stop comparing Dylan Thompson to Connor Shaw, and it never was time to call for Thompson to be benched. He is carving his own niche as the quarterback at USC. If he and his teammates keep playing like they did last night, that niche might include a trip back to Atlanta in December.
this that state. To borrow a phrase from UGA’s rivalry with Georgia Tech, we ran that state last night. After the first series of the second half, and as the rains began to fall more steadily, Steve Spurrier relied on his veteran offensive line to lean on the Bulldogs for the rest of the game. The result was an impressive rushing performance led by Brandon Wilds that chewed up clock and eventually put the game away. We have long dreamed of having that big, veteran offensive line that wears teams down and moves the ball on the ground even when our opponent knows it’s coming. The last two weeks the group of Robinson, Cann, Knott, Waldrop and Shell have been those guys. And it is glorious.
Running Wilds. Mea culpa on my part – I said on last week’s podcast that Brandon Wilds was no more than a good, average back-up SEC running back, and we needed Mike Davis to stay healthy if we were going to have a successful run game. Wilds proved me wrong last night. When we needed him most he ran his best, racking up 93 yards on 14 carries, including an impressive 24-yard touchdown run that gave us our final points, and the winning margin. I still very much want Mike Davis to stay healthy, but I feel great about our back-up situation if he does not.
Mea Culpa Part II. I try not to criticize players much, but I’ve been on Shon Carson’s case a lot because of his failures as a kick returner. While I still think we have better options we could put back there, his 42-yard return after UGA cut the lead to 31-28 in the fourth quarter was a huge momentum changer in the ball game. It was good to see that kind of contribution out of him, and I hope he can build on it.
Bend, occasionally break. OK, so the defense still gave up 408 yards of offense last night and the periodic backbreaking third-down conversion, but overall I’m impressed by how much we’ve improved since week one. Keep in mind we’ve faced three very high-powered offenses in the first three weeks of the season, so there was never any real chance we’d have a highly ranked defense at this point. But what I liked seeing last night was the return of some attitude on that side of the ball. I’m not a huge fan of barking (pardon the pun) at the other team, especially at guy like Todd Gurley who can make you pay for it on any given play. But the Gamecock defenders showed they were not intimidated and were not going to back down from the Heisman candidate. Also, the young guys are playing with a lot more confidence and are moving around like they actually know what they’re doing. That bodes well for the rest of the season.
More Skai. Skai Moore was all over the field last night, and showed why he is an All-SEC candidate.
Que Surratt Surratt. You folks who were at the game probably didn’t get a chance to see it, but after Georgia’s initial two play touchdown drive, JT Surratt went off on the sidelines. He went to each defensive player and got in their faces to voice his displeasure with what happened. The CBS crew said he even had to be restrained and calmed down. I love, love, love that from the senior. Methinks he is our emotional leader on defense.
The HBC. Spurrier called a fantastic game last night. He seems to save his best for Georgia and Clemson, and that’s fine by me. That’s now 4 out of 5 against UGA, and evened his record at USC against the Bulldogs to 5-5. Many also noted we are now 9-1 in our last ten against UGA and Clemson. Not bad coach, not bad at all.
The Zebras. The SEC officiating crew had a less than stellar night. Some examples:
- The personal foul penalty on Jordan Diggs that extended a UGA drive that resulted in three points. It seemed obvious that Todd Gurley deserved at least an offsetting personal foul penalty with his headbutt and shove of our player(s).
- The “cut blocks” late in the game. First, Busta Anderson was flagged for a cut block that looked perfectly legal according to everyone who saw it. Does anyone know what was wrong with that play? Next, on the Thompson interception, Shaq Roland was flagged for a cut block during the return. First, how can a defender (which Roland became once the ball was intercepted) be penalized for an illegal block? Second, the replay showed Roland simply slipped under a Georgia player trying to make the tackle.
- The spot. It all worked out in the end, but I thought Thompson got a terrible spot on the final QB sneak. Georgia fans, and oddly, Clemson fans, feel like they have a gripe about the measurement, but truth is it never should’ve been that close.
On the flip side, the holding call on the Gurley touchdown run was a little questionable. We’ll just call it even and keep the victory, ok?
That’s it folks, enjoy your day and another great win over Georgia! Go Cocks!