Some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 37-12 victory over South Alabama on Saturday:
Yawn. On Saturday South Carolina played like a team that had just come off a remarkable, emotionally draining overtime win at Florida. They also played like a team that might have been peeking ahead to a huge rivalry game next weekend.
In a year of uneven performances by the Gamecocks, this one might have been the most excusable. On top of what happened last week and what’s coming this week, you had Senior Day, which is always an emotional time for those Gamecocks playing their final game at home.
For those of you thinking there’s no excuse for turning the ball over five times, you are probably correct. Lack of concentration at that level is troubling, especially heading into the Clemson game. But I submit to you that the game prior to the rivalry game with the Tigers should not necessarily be an indication of how we will play against them. After all, we played pretty poorly in 2011 (The Citadel, 41-20) and 2012 (Wofford, 24-7) and still handily dispatched of the Upstaters.
On the flip side, while I think we are capable of putting together a good game next weekend, there is enough evidence on both sides to suggest we could crap the bed and see an end to our historic streak.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, forget about yesterday. And forget about the previous ten weeks. When the Gamecocks and Tigers get together this year, truly just about anything can happen.
Progress. South Alabama gained 133 yards on their first two drives of the game, and it looked like the same old same old from the Gamecock defense. But Lorenzo’s crew held the Jaguars to only 156 yards the rest of the way, and kept their second consecutive opponent under 300 yards. They also forced five turnovers, including two interceptions apiece for Skai Moore and Brison Williams.
I know, I know, those two games were against two of the worst offenses we’ve faced this year, but it’s progress. We still have no pass rush, and our young corners still look way too lost way too often. But our adjustments at linebacker have paid off and we still have Williams patrolling the secondary to take some heat off the youngsters.
The hope is next week we can continue to force turnovers, and make just enough stops to give our offense a chance.
Team Thompson. Yesterday Dylan Thompson became only the fourth quarterback in school history to pass for more than 3000 yards in a season, joining Todd Ellis, Steve Taneyhill and Stephen Garcia. Currently he is sitting at 3031 yards, good for fourth all-time. With two games left and only trailing Ellis’ all-time record by 176 yards, he should easily set the new record.
Thompson is also currently tenth in career passing yardage at USC, and should be able to pass Bobby Fuller and Phil Petty to move into eighth by the end of the year. Two more touchdown passes will get him to fifth all-time in Gamecock history.
All of this might seem rather unremarkable to you since our quarterbacking history is rather thin. But keep in mind Dylan Thompson is a first-year starter, and has played significant snaps in only twenty games in his career. Included in that is one nine attempt game. In contrast, the guys who hold most of the passing records for South Carolina played in at least double the number of games – Ellis played in 43, Taneyhill played in 42 and Garcia played in 40.
I think most of you have come to appreciate Dylan Thompson for what he has accomplished, but there are still detractors our there. All I can say is, he is appreciated very much by this blog, and we’re going to miss him greatly.
Phay-roh. After the game yesterday Steve Spurrier called Pharoh Cooper “one of the best players in the country”. I’m hoping beyond hope Connor Mitch grabs the starting QB job by the throat next spring, but if he doesn’t it’s good to know we have Cooper as a back-up plan. Although I’d much rather see him at wide receiver.
Disappearing acts. It wasn’t a surprise to not see Shaq Roland on the field after his performance last week. Honestly I believe his days in a Gamecock uniform may be numbered, which is unfortunate given his immense talent.
Another guy whose days are numbered is Mike Davis. While we’ve known for a while he was probably going to bolt for the NFL after this season, we didn’t think he was going to check out before our season was over. He didn’t start yesterday, and then fumbled on two of his three touches when he did get in the game. We didn’t see him in the second half, and then he reportedly didn’t stick around for the alma mater after the game. It will be interesting to see what his role is next week and in the bowl game.
Wilds Thing. On the flip side, Brandon Wilds hinted that he was “not ready” for the NFL and would return to the Gamecocks next year. We’ve heard this before (see: Ace Sanders), so at this point you have to take it with a grain of salt. But I really think he could help his stock by returning next year and having a big season.
A Wilds/David Williams combo could be a lot of fun.
Seniors. A hearty thank you to all the guys who walked yesterday. Thank you for your contributions to one of the most successful runs in Gamecock football history.
Hate Week. Well, it’s here again. I must admit I’m not very confident heading into next Saturday, but then again I never really am. Clemson probably has the better team for the first time since 2008, but not so much better that the Gamecocks can’t win their sixth straight.
Clemson’s defense is very, very good. Maybe the best we’ve played all year. “But Buck!” you say, “They haven’t played any good offenses!” This is very true, but that doesn’t mean we’ll march up and down the field all day. They have NFL talent sprinkled throughout their defense, and Spurrier will have to call a great game to keep them off balance. If we can get to 28 points I like our chances, but that won’t be easy.
As far as Deshaun Watson goes, I’ll tell you exactly what is going to happen. He’ll be questionable all week. He won’t start. The Clemson offense will sputter. We’ll get 1000 shots of Watson on the sideline, and another 1000 “when will Dabo Swinney go to Watson” comments by the announcers. Watson will come off the bench after 2-3 series and the Memorial Stadium crowd will go bananas.
After that I have no idea. It all depends on how healthy he is and how our defense responds. Just be prepared for that to be the dominant storyline all week.
Don’t hate. Have fun this week. Engage in some good-natured banter, but don’t take things too seriously. It is important to all of us, but it is still a football game.
Go Cocks, BEAT THE TIGERS!