Some not so quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 20-15 win over East Carolina:
Fast starters. Last week we lamented the fact that South Carolina had extremely slow starts in the first two games of the season. Against East Carolina we had quite the opposite, scoring 17 points in the first seven minutes of the game. It was fun to watch, but if you were like me you knew this game wasn’t going to be that easy.
Not only was it not easy, the Gamecocks only crossed midfield two more times the entire game (not counting the possession following the late ECU onside kick) and generated three points on an Elliott Fry field goal. There was questionable play calling along the way by Kurt Roper, some more terrible offensive line play, and the inexperience and inconsistency of freshman QB Brandon McIlwain contributed to many a stalled drive. Fortunately this is a very young team, as you’ll see below, and there are flashes of talent. Hopefully reps and consistency will eventually get this offense where it needs to be.
Bent but not broken. We’ve never seen a Gamecock defense make as much luck for themselves as they did with their backs against the wall on Saturday. ECU shredded the USC defense all game, consistently moving the ball with ease into the red zone. But a combination of bad decisions by the Pirates and great plays by the Gamecocks helped keep ECU out of the end zone until late.
First, in the second quarter, the Gamecocks stuffed East Carolina on second down from the one yard line, then Jamarcus King came up with a clutch interception on third down. Next, in the third quarter Chris Lammons intercepted Phillip Nelson at the one yard line to end another threat. The third time the Pirates were knocking on the door, Antoine Wilder jarred the ball loose from ECU running back Anthony Scott and DJ Smith recovered the ball in the end zone.
Throw in a blocked 25-yard field goal by Ulric Jones and that was FOUR trips inside the USC ten yard line that resulted in zero points for the Pirates. That’s a minimum of 12 points and a maximum of 28 points that East Carolina missed out on, both totals that could have won them the game.
But it didn’t, and while that’s all well and good for one Saturday this fall, we cannot afford to let other teams sprint up and down the field on us. The odds are against them making the same mistakes.
McIl-WIN. The main fan fodder of the fall was not if Brandon McIlwain would take over as the Gamecocks’ full-time quarterback, but when. Will Muschamp gave B-Mac the opportunity on Saturday, and at least for the first three series he didn’t disappoint. The rest of the game the offense sputtered mightily, and as stated above it was a combination of factors that contributed.
My biggest fear going in was that McIlwain would not go through his progressions on pass plays and pull the ball down and run too much. Turns out he didn’t bail out too early at all that I can remember, and there were times I wish he would have. More curious was the fact that he didn’t have more designed runs called. I’m not sure if that can be attributed to play calls that forced him to hand off, or that he made bad reads on the option, or something else. (I do feel like he’s better on the edge than in the pocket, we’ll see if Roper sees the same thing.)
Basically I guess what I’m saying now is there is a sweet spot in between my fear of him running too much and my fear of him not running enough. I’m not sure what that is, but I think I’ll know it when I see it. How’s that for hard-hitting analysis?
Lies, damned lies and statistics. These numbers in favor of East Carolina are staggering:
First downs: 34-13
Total yards: 519-212
Time of possession: 38:25-21:35
That tells me they dragged us all over the field. But one statistic was their undoing – four turnovers to the Gamecocks’ zero.
Records are made to be broken…against USC. East Carolina wide receiver Zay Jones continued a tradition of players having spectacular games against the Gamecocks, catching 22 passes (TWENTY-TWO) in the game Saturday, one shy of tying an NCAA record. It was obviously an ECU record, though, and if you’re a college football player who has South Carolina on your schedule you might be in for a very special day.
Kurt-ains. Kurt Roper called a pretty weird game on Saturday, starting our strong but then never getting his offense into any type of rhythm after that. He did put the game away late, however, on 4th and 1 with a speed option to David Williams, his best call to date at USC.
Back running. Speaking of David Williams, it was good to see him back in the lineup running hard on Saturday, picking up 67 yards on seven carries. I’m once again hopeful his troubles (whatever they are) are behind him and he can become our main man at tailback.
Youth movement. Rob Profitt (@BreakinDownFilm) had a great tweet about the contribution of South Carolina’s freshmen on Saturday:
Corner kicks. Yes, we gave up a lot of yards passing on Saturday, but I’ve been encouraged by the play of cornerbacks Chris Lammons and Jamarcus King so far this season. Hopefully we can play more of the press coverage we’ve been hearing so much more about as they get more experience.
Officially terrible. The officiating wasn’t horrible from start to finish in my opinion, but the AAC crew assigned to our game had three of the worst calls/no calls I’ve seen recently. They completely missed a false start on the ECU defense late, they missed an obvious pass interference against Darius English on ECU’s 2-point attempt, and then they had this gem of a pass interference call: