Hope springs eternal. South Carolina had an offseason of hope unlike any other in the last few years. It was an offseason fueled by seven wins following a two-win season, a third-tier bowl victory, surprising recruting successes, and – something that is still a little surreal – a five-star QB at the helm. But as Georgia State’s Darren Grainger sprinted into the end zone early in the second half of our season opener for a 14-12 lead, an old familiar feeling started to creep in.
Don’t lie, you felt it. The memory of so many sluggish games at Williams-Brice against teams we should dispatch with relative ease. Sometimes we rally to pull it off, sometimes we don’t, but it’s almost always like passing a kidney stone. Slow and painful.
Fortunately, our five-star QB drove us right down the field to re-take the lead. We blocked a punt for a TD. Then did it again. And the party was on, complete with a world class light show. No, it wasn’t pretty, but after the first couple of minutes of the second half, football was fun again, and the promise of the Shane Beamer era was still in tact and still on schedule.
We’re in for some bumps in the road this season, you can count on it. We lost four of our six games last year by 20 or more points. We didn’t beat Kentucky or Missouri, which is imperative for us to take the next step. Our wins over Florida and Auburn were fun, but both of those programs were disasters by the end of the season.
People have short memories when things start going well. That’s the hope in all of us, that THIS TIME we’ve really turned it around. And maybe we have, we have eleven more games to find out.
There’s a ton of room for improvement, but to be able to breathe easy in the fourth quarter last night was a good start. One that we’ve too often not had the luxury of enjoying.
Rattle and Hum. There was no question heading into the season the greatest infusion of talent we had was Spencer Rattler at quarterback. Last year’s quarterback room was an island of misfit toys, and having a guy like Rattler could be worth two or more wins this season.
He did not disappoint last night. When a guy is special at the postion you can just tell – pocket presence, arm strength, accuracy. He has it all, but is also not above making mistakes, and he made a few. Most people will point to the interception where he could have run for a first down or hit Juju McDowell right in front of him and instead chose to throw the ball downfield for an interception. But the interception that glanced off of Ahmareon Brown’s hands was simply a bad throw. Brown was wide open and the throw should’ve been easy, but it sailed on him. Rattler also threw into triple coverage late in the game and was lucky to not have that picked off.
You know what, I’ll just shut up. Spencer Rattler is the most talented quarterback we’ve ever had and nitpicking his first ever game in a Gamecock uniform is stupid. Let’s sit back and enjoy.
The third phase. Holy cow Pete Lembo. Two blocked punts for TD, two 50-yard field goals, a fake field goal to give us a first and goal. It might’ve been the greatest special teams night in Gamecock history and Lembo should get a bonus.
Kicks Jeter. Mitch Jeter is a kick god. For a college kicker to come out in front of 75,000 fans and hit the first two field goals of his career is one thing, but to make both from 50+ yards is amazing and SEC Special Teams Player of the Week material. I question how many times this has been done in college football history, if ever.
Scatterfield. Marcus Satterfield took more heat than anyone in the Gamecock progam last year. Our offense was anemic until the final game. So much so that many thought he would be relieved of his duties at the end of the season. He survived, and was given votes of confidence by both Shane Beamer and the incoming Rattler. Satterfield himself seems to have a lot of confidence in his scheme and doesn’t care much for what fans and outsiders think. I like that.
What I don’t like is the offense didn’t look much better last night than it did most of last year. Last year’s excuse was the QB position. Last night it was our porous OL. These are seemingly legit reasons for an offense to not perform well, but at some point the offensive coordinator has to be the responsible party for a lack of yards and points.
Offensive. Our offensive line was atrocious, there’s really no way to sugar coat it. For a veteran group to get abused by a G5 school like that is not a good sign. I actually felt sorry for Lynch and the other backs last night. There were missed assignments and white jerseys in the backfield all night. Georgia State did a nice job of bringing pressure for different angles and positions, but for them to be that disruptive for four quarters is inexcusable.
Showtime. What a tremendous job by our athletic department with the new light show, music, highlight packages, etc. I wasn’t there but it looked like a great upgrade to the gameday experience.
Ex-Cocks. Last night marked the return of former Gamecock coach Shawn Elliott and former player Jamyest Williams, two dudes I’m very fond of. Elliott has done a really nice job at Georgia State after a stint as interim head coach at South Carolina. Who knows how close he came to becoming our head coach, but at minimum he was in the mix and in retrospect couldn’t have done a worse job than Will Muschamp.
Williams was one of the most talented high school players I ever saw. He was absolutely electric with the ball in his hands, but never got a chance under Muschamp, instead spending all his time at defensive back while at USC. It’s good to see him thriving at running back for GSU.
It’s good to be back. Go Cocks.