ODS, WHY HAST THOU BETRAYED US!? Such was thought running through all our minds on Saturday night as Connor's final, futile throw was tipped and picked, thus salting away the win for LSU. Obviously I'll be contacting EA Sports for a full refund, but first, we take a closer look at the LSU game:
ODS GOT IT RIGHT: LSU did, in fact, score 23 points.
ODS GOT IT WRONG: USC did not, in fact, score 31 points.
RIGHT: A tepid day on the ground for Marcus on both fronts. Latty had 49 yards in ODS, 35 IRL. Also, one touchdown in each game.
WRONG: Would that Connor Shaw could have thrown 4 TDs. Alas.
RIGHT: ODS called the Texas Tech upset over WVU.
WRONG: Hey, Longhorns fans, at least you beat OU in ODS!
While it's unfortunate that ODS finally whiffed, keep in mind that it did correctly predict LSU's score, and only missed ours by 10 points. I don't think it's inconceivable that we could have scored another TD and field goal last week if a few chips fell our way. All this is to say, I'd call last week's simulation every bit as, if not more accurate than, say, week 1. Sure, ODS predicted we'd beat Vandy, but it was far from the 100+ point affair cooked up by the simulation. At least it was in the neighborhood last week.
But let's soldier on to our week 8 matchup where the DigiGamecocks take on an undefeated Florida Gator squad. Even though our ODS record no longer coincides with reality, the implications of this game remain intact: win, and get the inside track on the SEC East title.
It's a rainy day in Gainesville, inviting a bit of poignancy to the Swamp monicker our own coach gave to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The DigiGamecocks (#2 in the DigiNation, by the way) win the toss and elect to kick.
1ST QUARTER or PASS-SEIZER AUGUSTE
In what would seem to be a Spurrier homage, UF goes for the jugular on the game's first play: a big bomb off play-action, but it backfires—picked by Akeem Auguste! It's his team-leading 6th INT of the season, and the Cocks win serve. Alas, the Cocks won't take advantage, and will go 3 and out and punt.
Studio update: Miami over FSU has gone final! Is DigiClemmy back in the running for the ACC Coastal?
Not a whole lot of offense so far. UF punts, then we punt, they punt, we punt. Florida's winning this tug of war, though, and they'll start near the 50. Driskel will throw on first, and it's Akeem Auguste with his 2nd pick of the quarter! 1st down, DigiCocks, and Shaw connects with Lattimore for an 11 yard gain. Shaw will scramble on 2nd, picking up 15 before sliding to safety. Jump to 3rd and 10. Shaw drops back and finds Ace Sanders on the corner route. Ace manages to get a foot down before tumbling out of bounds. It's a gain of 22, making it 1st and 10 on the 13. Shaw forces a pass high into traffic, but DL Moore uses his length to pull down the TD! It's his team-leading 9th TD of the year. 7-0, Gamecocks.
The kickoff is taken out of the endzone, and KR Solomon Patton weaves around some key blocks and streaks down the sideline! Brison Williams makes a TD-saving tackle (a la Damiere Byrd IRL) at the USC 25. Florida will start with brilliant field position. They'll capitalize, needing five plays to score on a Mack Brown run. That one's on the kick coverage, and it's 7-7.
The DigiCocks start on the 25 with 2 minutes left in the quarter. An utterly ridiculous play occurs, wherein Shaw is sacked and fumbles, and the ball somehow falls into the hands of guard Ronald Patrick—who allowed the sack—and he then runs, ultimately gaining yard. The Cocks pick up a first down, but on the ensuing 2nd down, Shaw is hit on a scramble and fumbles it—UF recovers. It will not be reviewed, even though it looked like Shaw may have been down.
The ball is at the UF 48. Empty backfield. Driskel hits Frankie Hammond Jr. on a slant and go route, and poor tackling will allow him to take this one home. It's 14-7, Gators with :44 left.
Drive starts at the 25. Draw play to Lattimore goes nowhere, loss of 1. DigiLatty has a bad habit of executing a full-on juke when no one is around him, thus allowing the D to converge. Shaw scrambles, and again takes a head on hit, and again fumbles. Good lord. AJ Cann falls on it, however, and the quarter will end.
2nd QUARTER, or, LEAD CH-CH-CH-CH-CH-CH-CHANGES
It's 3rd and 5 on the UF 30. Empty backfield. Shaw hits Shaq Roland and it's JUST enough for the first. Zone read, and Shaw keeps it—he breaks loose! He goes 33 yards before he's dragged down by his ankles. The Cocks are on the UF 27, but don't get any further. Adam Yates is on to attempt the field goal from 44 yards out, and it's good! He continues his sub-50 perfection. It's 14-10, Gators.
Florida will try to respond. On 3rd and 9, Devin Taylor picks up his NCAA best 16.5th sack! UF will punt, and Sanders returns it to their own 48. South Carolina goes to the run game to string together a few 1st downs. 2nd and 10, Shaw will pass—but sees nothing, and scrambles! Gain of 13. He's got 70 yards, but 3 fumbles. The next play, Latty makes a brilliant spin move and picks up 13 of his own. It's now 1st and goal at the 7. Shaw will try the corner fade, but nearly throws it to Tallahassee. Jump to 3rd and goal from the 9. Shaw drops back—plenty of time, and he finds DL Moore in the far corner of the end zone! But wait—it's being reviewed. The play stands as called, and DL Moore will have his 2nd TD of the game. It's 17-14, Carolina.
The coverage has improved, and they'll drop Patton at the 20. But two plays later, it's Driskel to Hammond on a go route—and the result is a 76 yard touchdown bomb. The Cocks secondary allows yet another big play. 21-17, Gators lead.
Meanwhile in the upstate, Clemson trails VT with 2 minutes remaining in the half.
Carolina does nothing in response, and will punt it back to the Gators, who will look to extend their lead. Play action on 1st, and the pass is to Jordan Reed. He catches in and breaks a tackle, then another! He's finally wrapped up, and he fumbles! Victor Hampton falls on it—but they'll review the play and deem the runner was down. Florida will have it at the SC 42. On 1st and 10, Auguste nearly reels in his 3rd pick of the day. On 2nd, Driskel waits too long in the pocket and gets walloped on the blind side by Jadeveon Clowney. On 3rd and 14, it's Devin Taylor who makes the hit and forces a fumble! But a Florida OL falls on it. It's 4th and 23 and, what's this—Florida will try the fake punt. But South Carolina sniffed it out, and the punter's pass his knocked down. DigiCock ball on the UF 45.
After a quick first down, a couple of short gains bring up 3rd and 3 at the 33. So many 3s. Florida blitzes but the OL does a good job of maintaining the pocket, and Shaw will run for the 1st. Ball on the 20 yard line, USC shows a 5 wide formation. And Shaw will run again—this time, he cuts through the D and gets to paydirt! PAT is good, and it's 24 to 21, Cocks. It's the 4th lead change of the game.
With only 1:13 left in the half, the Cocks force a quick 3-and-out, stopping the clock after each play. So Florida punts it back, and on the first play of the ensuing drive, from their own 40, Shaw hits DigiShaq Roland for a 60 yard touchdown strike! It's now 31-21, USC.
Determined to stop the bleeding, UF will kneel it out, and the half ends.
C. Shaw: 11-17, 143 Yds, 3 TD, 12 rush, 118 yards, 1 TD, 3 fumbles
M. Lattimore: 19 attempts, 42 yards, 2 rec, 11 yards
D Moore: 4 rec, 37 yards, 2 TD
D Taylor: 4 tackls, 3 TFL, 3 sack, 1 FF
A Auguste: 1 tackle, 2 INT
3rd QUARTER, or, CONNOR GARCIA
Carolina gets it out of the half. On 2nd down, Shaw launches one deep to Ace Sanders, who makes the catch and blazes into the endzone. It's now 38-21, USC. 21 unanswered for the DigiCocks.
Florida is hapless at the moment, punting it away after another 3-and-out. USC manages to cross the 50, but ultimately will punt. Hull's kick skips into the endzone, resulting in just a 25 yard net.
Florida finally finds a groove, relying on short dumpoffs and Driskel scrambles to move the chains into USC territory. On 3rd and 4, and Driskel scrambles. Shaq Wilson meets the big QB, dropping him for no gain. Florida will trot Caleb Sturgis out—but Phillip Dukes encroaches, and the result is a 1st down. Sparks explode out of DigiSpurrier's ears. Jump to 3rd and 2, and it's Shaq Wilson who again makes yet the big tackle on 3rd down. So Sturgis is on again, and this time he'll get it up and through. It's 38-24, Cocks.
Lattimore gains 10 on the ensuing first down, but it'll come back on the holding call. Shaw drops back and nearly slips on the wet turf, and has to scramble. He only gains 1. It's 3rd and long now. Shaw will try to find Ace deep, but his lucky streak ends—it's picked by Marcus Roberson. He'll return it to the 48.
Florida makes nothing of the pick, losing yards on the drive before punting. First down and the Cocks go 5 wide. Shaw doesn't wait long before trying to scramble, and is summarily sacked (shades of the real LSU game...) Jump to 3rd and 15. Shaw drops back. He launches one, and again, it's intercepted, this time at the UF 40. Eh, effectively a punt. Shaw's fumbled thrice and thrown 2 picks.
The Gators look to capitalize on this pick, knowing a touchdown will make it a one-score game. Again, they're relying on short yardage plays to pick up first downs. On fourth an inches, the offense is on. It's a zone read give to Brown* and he'll gain 3 and it's a fresh set of downs for the Gators. They follow it up with an 11-yard run. Driskel then scrambles for 10 more. UF is on the USC 23. Consecutive handoffs to Brown are good for 4 and 1, respectively. It's 3rd and 5, and that's how the quarter will end.
*As a reminder, starting Florida RB M. Gillislee is out for the Digital Season with a BROKEN FEMUR
4th Quarter, or, CLOCK MISMANAGEMENT
The Cocks are up 14 but Florida's knocking on the door. Driskel will drop back, but it's a designed QB draw, and it works. He gains 16 and UF is on the 2 yard line. No gain on 1st. Driskel drops back on 2nd, and he'll find Hammond for his 3rd TD of the afternoon. It's now 38-31, USC. A one-score game in the 4th quarter after Florida has scored 10 unanswered.
The Cocks look to stop the bleeding, and no better way to do that than for Shaw to stop throwing it, having been picked the last 2 drives. But Lattimore's had another tough day—50 yards on 22 rushes. On 3rd and 5, Shaw scrambles for a gains 13. Play action on first down and the secondary bites, allowing Ace Sanders to separate! He'll gain 25 on the reception. The ball is at the UF 30. After a few negative plays, it's 3rd and 14. Shaw drops back, and has plenty of time. He eventually finds Shaq Roland over the middle! It's a gain of 28, and it's 1st and goal on the 4. I-formation, and it's a fullback give to Gilchrist. Touchdown, QUA! His first score of his career puts the Cocks up 45-31.
UF will start from their own 23. On first down, it's the three scariest words for any QB to hear (ask Aaron Murray): CLOWNEY GOES UNBLOCKED. But Driskel is able to slightly move his arm forward prior to being clocked, resulting in a dribbler of an. Jump to 3rd and 8. Driskel with time, and he finds his favorite target Hammond for the first. 6:30 remains. Driskel drops back and tries to hit a man on the corner route, but Shaq Wilson leaps up and breaks the pass up, continuing an impressive afternoon. Jump to 3rd and 9, where UF tries tthe HB draw, but it only gains 3. In need of points and running out of time, UF go for it on 4th and 9 at midfield. But breaking loose is Phillip Dukes, whose penalty earlier led to a UF touchdown, and he pulls Driskel down for a sack and a turnover on downs.
Back in the Palmetto State, it's official: Virginia Tech has knocked off #8 Clemson, 34-14. So much for the FSU loss mattering.
1st and 10 on the UF 45. Shaw zips one to Smith, but it's dropped. 2nd and 10, and Lattimore gains 11 for the the 1st down. Shaw drops back on 1st, and has to throw it away. Why aren't we running it, DigiSpurrier? Again, a pass on 2nd and it's nearly picked. Now it's 3rd and 10. Shaw has an unblocked DE raging towards him, but, the lucky bastard, he sees Cunningham and hits him for 11. So it's 1st down, and, AGAIN, DigiSpurrier call for a pass. The result is a sack for a loss of 11. ANOTHER pass attempt, and this time it's intercepted. With over 4:00 remaining, DigiSpurrier has given Florida a window.
DigiMuschamp decides to offset Spurrier's overagressiveness with some ill-timed conservatism, opting to run the ball ad nauseam. After a first down, the defense tightens up and brings up a 4th down and 7. Florida will go for it. Driskel drops back, then scrambles. He's hit about 3 yards short of the 1st down marker, but manages to lunge forward for the 1st. Driskel then scrambles for 13 more. After an incompletion on 1st and a sack on 2nd, it's 3rd and 13. Driskel drops back and he tries to hit Hammond on the post—but its Akeem Auguste leaping in front of the pass for his THIRD PICK of the night!
USC manages to drain most of the clock on the ensuing drive. Florida gets it back with half a minute remaining, but they'll run it into the pile in an act of concession.
Final Score: 45-31, Gamecocks.
(Just a quick reminder for any of you doubting Thomases out there, I am absolutely 100% simulating these games without any interference.)
C. Shaw: 16-30, 292 YDS, 4 TD, 3 INT, 17 rushes, 132 YDS, 7.7 Avg, 1 TD, Player of the Game
M. Lattimore: 32 rushes, 83 yds, 2 rec, 11 yards
A. Sanders: 4 rec, 136 yds, 1 TD
A. Auguste: 7 tackles, 3 INT, 2 PBU
S. Wilson: 12 tackles, 7 solo, 3 TFL
INJURIES: None. SC Has been fortunate to escape the injury bug all season long.
WEEKLY AWARDS: None. Apparently 3 interceptions isn't enough to get Akeem Auguste Defensive POTW honors.
DigiSEC WRAP UP:
All South Carolina needs to do is win one of the next two and it's a lock for the SEC Championship Game. If only it was the case IRL! A two game slide would open the door for Florida or...Missouri. Ha.
Out west, it's still Bama's division to lose, but again, DigiAuburn has its eyes on the prize, having only lost one conference game.
AROUND THE DigiNCAA
SCORES OF NOTE:
Alabama 37 - Tennessee 3: Sounds about right.
Kansas State 31 - West Virginia 10: KSU, on its 3rd string QB, stays undefeated
Miami 24 - Florida State 19: FSU drops its first game of the season.
Pittsburgh 34 - Buffalo 21: The mighty Pitt Panthers are 7-0, #9 in the country.
INJURIES OF NOTE: A reminder that UT QB T. Bray is out for the season. UT will also come to Columbia with out RG Z. Fulton.
CONCLUSION, Week 8
Connor Shaw posts a schizophrenic line, his big numbers sullied by some truly putrid turnover figures. But it was enough to get the job done—especially when you factor in Akeem's three drive-killing picks. Marcus Lattimore's digital season is not unlike his real one, posting effective but not staggering numbers. But, it's all enough to keep the DigiCocks undefeated after stealing one in the Swamp. Next week it's back home, where they'll take on DigiTennesse for the SEC East crown.