Life in the Favorites Lane

Posted: September 15, 2011 in Football, NCAA, Sports
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I could sit here and commit to doing multiple posts about the Gamecocks, but we know that’s not going to happen. I do plan to periodically post about the pulse of the team on a semi regular basis. Of course, since I’ve already done one all South Carolina post, this could fulfill my requirement.

Say what you will, but this will probably be the play of the season.

Before we begin, I should let you let me have it. You may recall that I had the Gamecocks pegged to lose their first game against East Carolina. For what it’s worth, that was a bold call. And admit it: You were scared shitless when the lead for East Carolina grew to 17. You were also terrified when the Pirates were up 24-14. Yours truly was ready to write the epithet for this game after seeing four turnovers in the first half (And, I was justly called out for doing so).

But, of course, ECU decided to get cute and commit their own mistakes, and South Carolina did what good teams do—take advantage of opportunities. Sure, giving up 37 points is not ideal, but considering that it took ECU 56 pass attempts to get 260 yards, you have to feel good about the, uh, efficiency. Anyway, I should own up to being dead wrong. That win says a lot about resiliency of the Gamecocks. And let’s be honest, that’s not a word you could use for this team before. So, I will gladly eat crow here, and realize that maybe this team will be awesome after all.

Anyway, I’ve “watched” most of the first two games of the season, and there have been a few things that have stuck out to me the most. I want to say that I have a finite number of topics to throw out, but I’m a man who’s not about limits. Anyway, here’s what I’ve noticed thus far.

1. Marcus Lattimore is somehow underrated.
If you were to ask someone who is the best player in college football right now, many of them will mention Andrew Luck. (I’m not saying that they’re wrong, but let’s be honest—if you’re tall, white, and play quarterback with at least a lick of common sense, you’ll be loved in college football. More on that later, maybe) I watched one of the ESPN analysts talk about his incredible balance. I thought, “Man, this is one play. Surely that was an irrelevant fact, right?” Well, the game against Georgia showed off his balance and then some. He also has an insane ability to always fall forward. He is supremely a running back. There’s not a lot of flash to his game, but let’s be honest, the flashy guys don’t last very long anyway (Unless you’re Barry Sanders). It’s almost like you look away for a second, and then…boom, Marcus has 150 yards rushing. It’s truly a special thing.

2. Stephen Garcia won’t get it done playing like this.
Well, maybe he will? I mean, did you think that the Gamecocks would have 5198 defensive and special teams touchdowns? (It’s possible that the actual number could be slightly exaggerated.) Anyway, take a look at his stats. If you start weeping, that’s okay. He’s not completing half of his passes, which is waaaaaayyyy down from what he did last year. Also, if you looked at some of those passes, they were way off. Not even close. That’s…not good. The decent QBs are completing at least 65 percent of their passes (Okay, maybe 62). Also, the interceptions won’t cut it later in the season (Of course, they still could—at this point, what’s the hardest game…at Arkansas?). Sure, he made two great throws (one for a TD to Alshon Jeffrey, another a key conversion to Ace Sanders). But, at some point, opponents will key against the run. Will Mr. Garcia be bologna or filet (courtesy ESPN First Take)? Unfortunately, the jury is still out.

3. The coaching staff BELIEVES in this team
Sure, Steve Spurrier seems to like his “Aw, shucks, we’ll see what happens out there.” strategy for the media (which really drives yours truly up the wall, but this post isn’t ALL about me). But think about it. He purposely held out Stephen Garcia, probably knowing that it was Stephen who gave the team the best chance to win. Of course, I’m sure he didn’t think that:
1. Connor Shaw would be so ridiculously flat
2. That Garcia would bring so much energy to the team and the crowd. I mean, the players practiced too. So, shouldn’t they have shown a little more confidence with Connor Shaw leading the offense?

But that pales in comparison to the move pulled off in the second quarter of the Georgia game. Facing a fourth down, the punt team came out. Well, I’m pretty sure that Melvin Ingram is not always the upback. (Don’t worry, I’m looking out for you. A quick explanation on the upman for those of you that were wondering.) I mentioned this on Twitter when it happened, but usually, “trick” plays (I have a problem with calling them trick plays because NOBODY’S BEING TRICKED. All the stuff is still happening on the field!) are usually a last gasp sort of thing. Teams pull them out when they think there’s no chance. (Pull them out—DRINK!) But having your 275 lb defensive tackle as the upman, who takes the snap and runs for a touchdown? That’s an Eff You, folks. The coaching staff made this call because they knew they were going to win this game. No other way to put it. That’s a trust and level of confidence that I just haven’t seen before. (Sure, it helps when you have great players) If the coaches believe in the players, then the players will believe in themselves. And if the players believe in themselves, well…I think you get the point.

4. The defense…uh, um…
Sure, a win is a win. But when you’ve given up 79 points in two games…that’s not very good!!! I think the Seattle Mariners have scored a total of 79 runs all year, and they’ve played over 140 games! Anyway, it’s hard to deny that there are playmakers on the defensive side for this team (Melvin Ingram, Jadeveon Clowney, sometimes Stephon Gilmore, et al). And there have been big plays made. But…Aaron Murray had a pretty good day minus the turnovers, (Jerry Jones could not be reached for comment) and Isiah Crowell ran wild. While you want to believe that things will pipe down for the defense, it’s going to be hard to expect 21 points off of special teams and turnovers each game. And, with Navy coming to welcome the team home Saturday, this would be a good time to get things in order (last I checked, Navy was pretty good at running the football). And let’s be honest for a minute: Has there been any time where you could remember a stretch of consistently good defensive play by South Carolina? It sure would be a good time to start.

5. This is not a “me first” team.
I am a self-proclaimed “old school/old guard” guy when it comes to sports (Of course, the fact that I have to stretch twice a day just to avoid knee pain probably just makes me OLD). One thing that annoys me to no end is when players get all boastful after making a tackle/first down/mildly significant play. (I also hate standing at home plate to watch your home run and the designated hitter—but hey, that’s just me) Anyway, that’s not what you see with these guys. Hell, Marcus Lattimore is so gracious that I think his demeanor would be illegal in at lest 15 countries. Even after coming in and pretty much saving the day, Stephen Garcia was munching down on the humble pie after the game. Melvin Ingram seemingly shrugged off the fact that he made three sensational plays (the fake punt, picking up the fumble recovery, and recovering the onside kick by Georgia). I’m not saying that you should never celebrate. But this team as a whole seems focused. That’s a BIG deal.

So, what do these five things mean? Should we all start booking our trips to New Orleans? Are the shortcomings just a recipe for disaster (that road trip to Starkville, Knoxville and Fayetville is not only going to be a Redneckpalooza, but those will be tough games)? It’s too early to tell. But with what this team has done so far, but you have to like what you see if you’re a Gamecock fan. Let’s just hope that this isn’t all thrown out of the window this Saturday. (No, that wasn’t a jinx)

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