I'll return to part 2 of the Gamecock Tailgate Fashion Guide later in the season, but for now, you're welcome. I trust everyone followed my advice about wearing deodorant for Thursday's opener against UNC in Charlotte? Well, those few of you who decided to go, anyway. The stadium was not even close to sold out, but it was an exciting, if horribly played, game that made Gamecocks sweat to final whistle. The 17-13 win for the Gamecocks was ugly, and it left the Ol' Ball Coach bragging about his walk-on punter.
New Defensive Coordinator Jon Hoke's bend-but-don't-break defense got twisted into a pretzel in Week 1 but never broke thanks to middle linebacker Skai Moore's two interceptions in the endzone. Afterwards, Spurrier credited Moore with winning the game single-handedly. Tarheel quarterback Marquis Williams threw nine picks all of last season, but he was intercepted three times by the gambling Gamecocks defense. Still, the Gamecocks were rocked for 440 yards of offense, including 138 yards by the Tar Heels' Elijah Hood on only 12 carries. That's an incredible 11.5 yards per carry. Georgia and LSU will not make the mistake of trying to throw into the endzone. They will literally run up the score.
Be afraid, Gamecock fans. Be very afraid. Georgia's Nick Chubb and LSU's Leonard Fournette are going to feast on the Gamecock front seven. The Gamecocks SEC opponents combined to outscore their respective opponents 295-124 in the first week of the season. That's without including the LSU game which was cancelled due to weather. Spurrier, more than any coach in the SEC, knows what running up a score means for the beauty contest. I'm afraid of what will happen when this defense ultimately breaks.
Unfortunately, if the Gamecock defense was bad, the offense was even worse. It's clear that Spurrier was not trolling anybody about his quarterback situation. Connor Mitch got the start, but Spurrier was forced to run Pharoh Cooper out of the wildcat to get him touches. Mitch was an inefficient 9 of 22 for 121 yards and a TD, but he got no help from his young wide receivers. Cooper caught the TD but finished the game with three catches for 45 yards and added 20 yards on four carries. He needs more than seven touches.
The Gamecocks gained most of their yards on the ground. They ran the ball 47 times for 254 yards and rushing accounted for 68 percent of their first downs. Running back David Williams got 10 carries but managed only 42 yards while fellow runner Brandon Wilds got 14 carries for 51 yards and led the team with four catches for 44 yards. But it was little Shon Carson who had the biggest impact at running back. He exploded for a 48 yard go-ahead touchdown in the 4th quarter and finished with 75 yards on four carries. At 5' 8" he's unlikely to be used as a bell cow ,but a speedy change-of-pace back will help South Carolina sustain drives and stay healthy this season.
Next up is Kentucky, a team which always seems to give South Carolina fits. Last year, the Wildcats came back from a 38-24 fourth quarter deficit to beat the Gamecocks 45-38 in the last three minutes of the game. In case you were hoping they've changed, they needed a last minute touchdown to beat Louisiana-Lafayette 40-33 last week. It doesn't appear that South Carolina has the horses to compete in another Kentucky derby this year.
If the Gamecocks have any hope of winning Saturday night, they must have a playmaker emerge opposite Cooper. If it's not the diminutive Carson again, that playmaker could be 6'6" senior tight end Jerell Adams, who had two catches last Thursday. Adams is as big as a barn door running down the seam and dragging across the middle and could be a security blanket for the erratic Mitch. I wouldn't be surprised to see Pharoh Cooper throw a pass his way this week either. This is the kind of game that could hinge on a trick play. The Gamecocks should be prepared for anything.