A win’s a win. South Carolina took a right cross to the jaw at the opening bell yesterday, giving up a 75-yard touchdown on the first offensive play of the game to East Carolina. Then they took jabs and body blows for rest of the first half with penalties, missed assignments, turnovers and generally bad play at the game of football that led to a 14-0 deficit with about a minute left in the first half. With ECU poised to add to the lead, Damani Staley took advantage of a fortuitous bounce off a botched screen play and raced 63 yards to cut the lead to 14-7 and change the complexion of the game. The second half was no thing of beauty, but a stout defense, some key plays from Josh Vann and Juju McDowell, and a clutch kick from Parker White helped the Gamecocks escape Greenville with a 20-17 victory and a 2-0 record.
This was an ugly win, something we’ve become used to as Gamecock fans no matter the coach or roster. The good news is Shane Beamer managed the game beautifully down the stretch to make White’s kick about as anticlimactic as a game-winning kick can be. Beamer is the first USC coach in four decades to go 2-0 in his first two games as head coach. The schedule gets exponentially harder next week with a trip to Athens, but after games against a really bad team and a moderately competent team, the message is…so far, so good?
They have the Big Mac, we have the Big Mic. I watched JuJu McDowell last December in the Georgia AAAAAA state championship game roll up almost 300 yards of total offense, and I thought “wow, he’s a good ball player but it will be a while before he sees the field at South Carolina.” It was a reasonable thought considering we were bringing back the SEC’s leading rusher in Kevin Harris, our highest rated running back recruit ever in MarShawn Lloyd, and a very capable backup in Zaquandre White.
But with the game on the line yesterday it was McDowell who was in the game, and he produced. On the final drive, he ripped off runs of 8, 15, 5 and 16 yards to put White well within his range to hit the game winner. Throw in a 63-yard kickoff return on the previous drive when the Gamecocks tied the game, and it looks like we have quite a freshman ballplayer on our hands.
Unmarked Vann. Last week I lamented our lack of a big play receiver on the team. Yesterday Josh Vann finally looked like he might live up to the considerable hype he had coming out of high school, hauling in five passes for 116 yards and almost a touchdown. But beyond the stats, I’m a big believer in body language on the football field, and for the first time Vann looked like he WANTED to be the man.
Is our defense…good? Well, who knows, but after two games the defense appears to be better than it has been in recent years. The defensive line is salty, and the cobbled together back seven are flying to the football and for the most part not giving up explosive plays. Clayton White isn’t afraid to blitz, which I LOVE, and has called a really good first two games.
Blind leading the blind. Yesterday’s officiating crew called about the worst game I can remember an SEC crew calling, and that’s saying a lot. The most egregious (non) call is when they failed to overturn a Dakereon Joyner fumble when his entire lower leg was on the gound before the ball was pulled out. There was an blatant false start on the ECU left tackle in the third quarter that wasn’t called, but in our favor Z White was moving towards the line of scrimmage on Zeb Noland’s touchdown throw to Dakareon Joyner. Those are the ones that stick out off the top of my head, but I know there were many, many more.
And for the record, the Vann fumble at the goal line and the Vann TD that were called back were both the right call. One Twitter follower disagreed on the TD saying he was “transferring” the ball, but when you look at it over and over, he was still gathering the ball, not transferring it. Anyway, we won, so don’t matter.
Zeb. Zeb’s numbers turned out OK – 13/24, 214, 1 TD, 1 INT – but man he looked lost at times in the first half. He settled in the second half and made some very nice throws. I think he gets the start at UGA next week, but I’m certain we’ll finally get our first look at Luke Doty at some point.
Where there’s a Will. People are still strangely obsessed with Will Muschamp. Last week after the win over Eastern Illinois, we saw tweets of “a Muschamp team would never put away a team like that.” And after the win yesterday, “Muschamp never won games like that”. First of all, as bad as Boom was, neither of those statments are true. We actually had some moments of positivity under Muschamp, even though they may be overshadowed by his face plants.
Second of all, let…it…go. This is Shane Beamer’s program now, let’s judge him based on his merits and not those of the bumbling defensive guru who preceeded him.