Texorcism. In 2014 Texas A&M came into Williams-Brice Stadium for one of the most anticipated season openers in South Carolina history. The Gamecocks were coming off four straight outstanding seasons and had finished 2013 ranked 6th in the country, our highest finish ever. On top of that, the Aggies and Gamecocks were tapped to be the first game ever on the new SEC Network.
If you’re a Gamecock fan at all, you know what happened on that fateful night. TAMU rolled USC 52-28, signalling the end of the salad days fo Gamecock football. Since then our permanent West opponent (which has always been a weird thing) has been a major thorn in our side, winning every subsequent match-up and outscoring us by almost three touchdowns on average. Much like our win over Kentucky perhaps signalled a turning point in that rivalry, to really feel confident that our program is on the right track we needed to exorcise the Texas A&M demon.
Our guys responded with a blistering start to build a 17-0 lead over the first five minutes, and did just enough to hold on for a 30-24 victory, our first ever over the Aggies.
Honestly, Texas A&M is quite the dumpster fire right now. The story nationally is much less about our ascension and much more about how College Station is paying box office superstar money to a guy who started the season in the top 10 and is now floundering at 3-4 on the year.
But I don’t think we care much what the national folks are saying now do we? Getting a win over the Aggies took a huge monkey off our backs, and proved we could compete with a roster of elite athletes, no matter how dysfunctional they are.
Competitive fire. If you read this column regularly, you know my biggest complaint of the Beamer era so far has been our lack of competitiveness against very good to great teams. The last two games against Kentucky and Texas A&M have helped allay those concerns somewhat. While neither team is near the “great” category, they both carried long winning streaks against us into this season and have typically beat us through physicality and/or sheer talent. Our wins in those games this year both felt like we were more “SEC” in the trenches and with our physicality. Neither game was close to perfect, but our toughness under fire has been impressive.
X factor. Xavier Legette set the tone with a 100-yard return for touchdown on the opening kickoff. Later in the game, he de-cleated Texas A&M start Devon Achane on the kickoff coverage team. Legette has been a bit of an enigma over his three years at South Carolina, contributing big plays on occasion but never becoming a consistent threat at wide receiver. It was a great to see a major contribution out of him last night.
Fresh for everyone. Punter Kai Kroeger had a huge night last night, averaging 49 yards on six punts. HIs biggest contribution came in the second half when he had back-to-back booming 55-yard punts that helped keep the Gamecocks out of trouble in a close game. Sometimes punters are weapons, and it’s safe to say Kroeger was one last night.
Lloyd Lloyd all null and void. MarShawn Lloyd continued to establish himself as one of the best running backs in the SEC with a 92 yard, two touchdown performance against a stout A&M front. I made the suggestion that perhaps Lloyd is our best running back since Marcus Lattimore, which brought out the Mike Davis fan club in full force. Fair enough people, check back with me when Lloyd’s career at USC is done and we’ll compare notes.
Rattlerfield. The two most discussed and maligned members of the Gamecock offense – OC Marcus Satterfield and QB Spencer Rattler – had uneven nights that didn’t leave anyone feeling like our offense is about to take off.
Satterfield once again had an evening that consisted of about 75% brain farts and 25% really good play calling. There are moments of borderline brilliance (like, one drive per game), but many times he just feels like he’s trying to be clever and show everyone the genius that is The Satt. I really think he has some great ideas and schemes, but once he gets in the game it feels like the plan is disjointed at best.
As for Rattler, he continues to show his raw talent, arm strength, and scrambling ability. But as the SEC Network crew pointed out last night, he tends to hold onto the ball too long and leaves the pocket sooner than is necessary. He’s been hurt by drops as well, including one in the end zone by Jalen Brooks last night. But right now he’s more of a game manager, and if we’re going to do big things, we need a game changer.
White Lightning. Clayton White continues to get the most out of our defense. TAMU picked up 177 of their 389 yards on two drives last night, with 83 of those coming on their final drive. While the Aggie offense isn’t setting the world on fire, they have a lot of individual talent and the Gamecock defenders prevented any explosive, back-breaking plays.
Rock concert. I haven’t had the pleasure of being in Williams-Brice for a game this season, but judging by what I’ve seen on TV and social media the athletic department has done an incredible job with the game day experience. Sideline reported Cole Cubelic of the SEC Network last night said it was the best enviroment they’ve been in all year.