The Gamecocks are not making things easy for their fans this year. The game against the University of Central Florida was supposed to be an easy win. After all, UCF had the worst offense in the nation. How could they be leading at halftime? It was almost as if USC wide receiver Pharoh Cooper wanted to increase the level of difficulty in that first half. He spotted the Knights the ball on the one yard line when he muffed a punt in the first quarter and then let a touchdown pass go right through his hands later in the half. And then fans started tweeting foolish things to @Kingtutt_chdown....
I imagine those who tweet at college football players to harass them for their performance are either degenerate gamblers or the type of inbred nutcases who call "The Paul Finebaum Show." But I don't know that to be a fact. Cooper, of course, came back in the second half with two spectacular plays, one a run and the other a reception, for a pair of touchdowns and the Cocks won the game 31-14. It's the type of performance that bonds a player and team and Cooper's twitter response after the game was honest but unnecessary ("LOL to all these negative tweets about me. Ima always come through for my team baby! Believe dat!" "I'm just human...we all make mistakes.) You can tell this kid just loves the game.
On the other side of the ball, if I only tell you that his name is "Boosie," are you picturing a menacing edge rusher? Of course you are because Boosie Whitlow is an absolutely fantastic name for a quarterback-destroying monster. Previously a third down specialist in the pass rush package, the 240 lb. true freshman got the start on Saturday at defensive end and produced four total tackles, a sack and a safety against UCF. He's the first Gamecock defensive player to put points on the board the season.
A lot is being made of the new arrangement of deck chairs at the linebacker position. TJ Holloman and Skai Moore combined for 15 total tackles, two interceptions, and three pass breakups against UCF. Frankly, they should have looked good; they were playing the worst offense in the country. Senior safety TJ Gurley contributed 10 tackles, but the lack of interceptions from this secondary is concerning.
Speaking of interceptions, the Gamecocks travel to Columbia, Mo. to play Mizzou and senior quarterback Maty Mauk this Saturday. I will freely admit that I hate this team. They do not belong in the SEC. How many SEC teams do we need with a tiger for a mascot? Honestly, we've already got Auburn and LSU. Everything about these hard-scrabble plains folk annoys me, not the least of which is the fact that they are the two-time reigning SEC East Champs. They don't seem to understand that their place is at the bottom of the division with Kentucky and Vanderbilt. In the last two years the Cocks-Tigers games have been decided by a grand total of four points. The series is split at 1-1 with each team winning on the road.
Despite being ranked for the first 3 weeks of the season, Mizzou lost to Kentucky last week. Those pesky Wildcats revealed Missouri to be a mess on offense. Literally all of their offensive skill players have twisted ankles and they have trouble moving the football. Mauk, the team's second leading rusher, is only completing slightly more than 50 percent of his passes and has six touchdowns to four interceptions.
The Missouri defense is currently ranked 7th in the nation in total defense, but it's only ranked 25th, one behind Georgia, against the run. That suits us fine. Quarterback Lorenzo Nunez did well in his first start against a middling UCF defense, and he should get more comfortable in his second start. It's the first start on the road for this kid, but it doesn't seem like he gets rattled. He was cool in Athens, and I don't see a crowd of screaming farmers bothering him. His ability to run should keep the pass rushers on their heels. We'll get a ton of yards on quarterback draw plays.
Nunez is still a freshman, and he's bound to make some mistakes, as even Pharoh Cooper still does; however, Cooper has now established the precedent for overcoming them with his performance last weekend. And if they can protect the football and overcome their mistakes, South Carolina has a chance to win this game.