Our Digital Season Week 3: South Carolina v. UAB

We're running a full simulation of the 2012 college football season on EA Sports NCAA College Football 2013. How will our digital season compare to the real thing? Follow along all season and find out!

Usclogo_mediumUablogo_medium

We're coming off a big win over East Carolina in both the actual season and Our Digital Season. A tip of that hat to NCAA '13, as their simulation was in the neighborhood this time, predicting a 59-21 win. Each team scored exactly 11 fewer points in real life. Let's see how it stacked up against reality:
ODS GOT IT RIGHT: The margin of victory. 59-21 in ODS, 48-10 in real life. Yes, the ODS predicted we'd win by exactly 38 points. Wow. After two weeks, the ODS margin of victory is only one more than our actual margin.

ODS GOT IT WRONG: DigiUSC and DigiECU were tied at the half. Not so IRL: we had a comfortable halftime lead of 21-0.

RIGHT: DeAngelo Smith and DL Moore hauled in touchdown passes. In fact, the game accurately predicted that DL Moore would have two TDs.

WRONG: Missouri didn't knock off Georgia, nor did TAMU beat Florida. Blast!

RIGHT: This one's pretty cool: in both universes, the Cocks picked off the Pirates four times. In real life, DJ Swearinger, Brison Williams, Shaq Wilson, and Jimmy Legree all had picks. In ODS? Swearinger, Williams, Wilson and Devonte Holloman. Like Legree, Holloman's was an easy pick six on the edge. This and the margin of victory are the first truly eerie parallels of ODS, I'd venture to say.

WRONG: ODS called for some big numbers that didn't pan out: Latty was comparably quiet IRL. The video game also had us racking up seven sacks, which was highly unlikely against actual ECU's quickfire passing attack.

RIGHT: I subtitled the fourth quarter "THAT WAS FUN LET'S TRY TO BEAT TRAFFIC." Yeah, that's pretty much what happened.

WRONG: While the starting QB's stat line in both games wasn't drastically different (18-30, 250, 4 TD in ODS; 21-37, 330, 3 TD IRL), DigiShaw played against ECU, and DigiDylan stayed on the sidelines. (Reminder: injuries in Our Digital Season and our actual season will exist independently.)
Of course, the most important statistic remains accurate: both the DigiCocks and their flesh'n'blood counterparts enter week 3 as a part of the elite fraternity of the undefeated.

Game 3: UAB at South Carolina

Now it's week three, and the University of Alabama-Birmingham, coming off a bye, travels to Columbia. But the DigiBlazers will play without one of their most potent weapons, junior QB Jonathan Perry, out for at least another week with a sprained elbow. Despite the DigiBlazers' week one win over Troy*, pulling the upset against a dominant SEC squad on the road seems almost impossible. On our side of the ball, Digital Connor Shaw is healthy and coming off a big game. He'll get the start.

UAB wins the toss, will elect to kick.

*The actual Blazers lost to Troy, and are 0-1.

FIRST QUARTER or CABBAGE-PATCHING DRAGONS

Not a good opening drive for the Cocks, who start deep in their own territory and punt from deeper after almost turning it over in the red zone on a fumble. UAB will start the drive from their own 47. After a loss on first, Blazer backup QB Joe Bento scrambles for all 15. (Get used to variations of that sentence.) Also, the horrifying image of UAB's dragon mascot doing the cabbage patch: nightmare fuel. After that, the drive stalls, and UAB will go for a 55 yard field goal. The kick is up, and lands smack in the center of the painted O in GAMECOCKS. No good.

The DigiCocks offense has yet to settle in, and it's another punt after a three and out. But UAB reciprocates, and Carolina will start its next drive at the UAB 30—now the 25, after Brendan Shell false starts. Cut to 3rd and long. Shaw drops back and hits DeAngelo Smith over the middle, who breaks a tackle and gets across the first down line. Meanwhile, Alabama has taken a 12-7 lead on Arkansas (who handled digiULM last week, trollgaze) in the week's marquee SEC matchup. 2nd and 13 and Shaw again goes to Smith on the post for 29 yards. But they'll get no further, thanks to a nothing run and back-to-back Shaq Roland drops. Adam Yates is on for the 46 yard attempt. Yates, who has been something of a nice surprise for the DigiCocks this season, nails it. 3-0, USC.

UAB will start on their own 23. Bento drops back, then decides to scramble, but somehow doesn't see Devin Taylor. Taylor breaks off his blocker and smears Bento for a sack. (You should also get used to this phrase.) The Blazers will punt from the end zone, and Sanders brings it up to the UAB 42 with 1:30 remaining in the quarter. Latty rumbles for 6, then 8, then 5. Cut to 3rd and 8 on the UAB 31. Five wide, and Shaw has a man—it's DigiRoland on a corner route! He atones for his two drops, snagging it at the 2 yard line and is bumped out of bounds. A no-gain run, and the first quarter ends with USC knocking on the door.

2ND QUARTER or MEET JOE BENTO

Shaw hits Lattimore in the flat 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage, and he's knocked out for a loss. Delay to Lattimore—he has room, but is dragged down at the 4, bringing up 4th down. Yates is on, and he makes it 6-0, Carolina.

UAB swiftly does nothing and punts it. Ace Sanders returns a mediocre punt to the 50. The pass is over the middle to Ace Sanders is good for 7. Shaw again goes to Sanders who manages to get his feet down in bounds and make a 20 yard gain. Then it's Lattimore on the draw, and he goes for 15. The Cocks are in business. Studio update: Arkansas has taken the lead on Bama, 14-12 in the 3rd. Good game in Little Rock (or Fayetteville? Who knows.) It's 1st and goal back in digital Columbia (Slogan: Digitally Hot!), and the give is to Lattimore, who runs it in! Believe it or not, it's the junior's first touchdown of the season. It's now 13-0, Gamecocks with 7:31 left in the half.

UAB gets it back, but is looking helpless on offense. They'll go three and out and punt. The Cocks D hasn't allowed a first down since the defense's opening drive.

The handoff is to Lattimore, who is tripped after a gain of 10. He's up to 57 yards on the day. Back in Arkansas, Bama has reclaimed the lead, 19-14 late in the third. After some forward progress, it's 3rd and 8 on the 10 yard line. Shaw drops back, and there's DigiRoland in the back of the end zone, who makes an Alshonian grab for his first career score. It's now 20-0, Gamecocks.

That's when Joe Bento decides teammates are overrated. He takes off running and streaks for the first down, and UAB has finally moved the chains. Bento runs again, but gets popped by Damario Jeffery before he can gain much of anything. Bento again, getting 6 yards before Vic Hampton upends him. This time, it's Shaq Wilson who crushes a scrambling Bento, and it's 4th down. UAB will punt, but the Cocks get nothing and punt it back. Again, Bento scrambles, gaining 6. This time he actually makes a pass, caught over the middle for a first. UAB will stop the clock with 1:00 remaining in the half. Bento goes down the sideline to WR Patrick Hearn, who is five yards from Gamecock defender. He makes the catch and takes it in for the score. It's now 20-7 USC, with under a minute left.

The Gamecocks have all three timeouts, so it's plausible they'll try and score. Shaw checks down to Lattimore for a 7 yard gain. Then Shaw goes all Joe Bento and scrambles for about 14. The next play, DigiConnor drops back and airs a mighty arc down the sideline, and Ace Sanders pulls it in. With DBs nipping at his heels, Ace turns on the afterburners and scores! It's a 54 yard touchdown pass and a quick response. 27-7, USC.

With :30 left, BENTO WILL NOT GO GENTLY INTO THAT GOODNIGHT. But perhaps playing the meat in a Clowney/Taylor sandwich may change his mind. Then Kelcy Quarrels ends the quarter with a sack of his own. It's 27-7 after two quarters.

1st HALF STATS:

Shaw: 11-14, 175 yards, 2 TD
Lattimore: 17 rushes for 60 yards, 1 TD, 3 rec for 15 yards
A. Sanders: 3 rec, 78 yards, 1 TD
K. Quarles: 3 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 Sacks

3RD QUARTER or MORE SACKS THAN A FIRE ISLAND NUDE BEACH

It'll be a long field for the Blazers, who took the kickoff out of the endzone and only made it to the 15. Bento still believes he's Michael Vick and scrambles, which allows Byron Jerideau to get in on the sack party. Then it's Taylor on the next play. And then Holloman. The last 5 defensive plays for the Gamecocks have been sacks. The DigiBlazers sure are missing their starting QB right about now, and they'll punt from the back of the endzone. Sanders takes the short punt all the way up to the 25.

Meanwhile, Alabama leads Arkansas by 12 with just under a quarter remaining.

DigiShaw hits Latty in the flat AGAIN, and it results in a loss. Why is that one still in the playbook? Still, the Cocks push forward, and find themselves at the UAB 1 yard line. So Shaw drops back, for some reason, and is sacked. And what's worse, he's hurt. So real-life hero Dylan Thompson jogs in. The first thing he does is what DigiShaw should have done, and that's hand it off to Marcus Lattimore. It's a touchdown, and South Carolina goes up 34-7.

Meanwhile, Bento will not learn. He takes his SIXTH. STRAIGHT. SACK, this time from Kelcy Quarles. Shall we make it seven? Shaq Wilson steps up and makes the big hit. This is like Stockholm syndrome or something. "Sack me again, please!" Joe Bento seems to be saying. Mind you, most of these sacks are resultant of Bento scrambling on called pass plays approximately .00048 seconds after the snap. Anyway, he finally breaks the streak with an incompletion. UAB will punt again, and Sanders gets to the UAB 45. Thompson—not Shaw, whose injury may be something of concern—hits Moore for a gain of 24. Never mind—DigiShaw is back in, and the first thing he does is fire a laser to Ace Sanders. Touchdown, Gamecocks and it's 41-7 with 5:16 remaining in the third.

The UAB offense is back on the field. Bento runs for 5. Then for 15. I guess he's going to keep doing it til it works. It's a screen pass to Franklin, and UAB actually looks like a functioning offense for the first time this game.

Oh wait, Bento gets sacked. Devin Taylor just set the new school record for sacks in a game with 4. I feel like he might add to that. Byron Jerideau could gun for that record too, racking up another one. UAB will punt on 4th and 15. The DigiCocks will start from their own 35. On 3rd and inches, it's a direct snap to Ellington, who hands it to a sweeping Damiere Byrd. He streaks down the sideline for a 35 yard gain! Meanwhile, Alabama has finished the job, winning 26-14. Jump to 4th and 1 on the 12, and it the offense who takes the field. Lattimore picks up the first, but there's a flag—It's holding on Brendan Shell, so it'll be 4th and 11. DigiSpurrier kicks the dirt, sends out FG unit. Adam Yates booms a 39-yarder through the uprights and it's now 44-7, USC.

UAB has it, and Devin Taylor picks up another sack. Ho-hum. Bento goes over the middle on 2nd and it's good for 11. On 3rd and 5, Bento streaks for 20 and it's first and 10. UAB is toying with the idea of moving into Gamecock territory, but Devin Taylor levels him yet again. That's 6 sacks now. Bento gains 4 on his 9,000th scramble of the night, and that will bring the 3rd quarter to an end.

So far this young digital season, the Cocks have outscored their opponents 51-14 in Q3.

FOURTH QUARTER or SPOILER ALERT WE LOSE (THE FOURTH QUARTER)


Bento overthrows his man, and UAB will punt yet again. The Cocks reciprocate. UAB will start from its own 28. Bento runs for 13, and his now up to 50 yards. Not bad, considering that's been offset by about 800 sacks. Another 14 yard scramble for Bento and it's 1st and 10 on the Gamecock 36. Another scramble, but this time, DJ Swearinger makes him pay. An absolutely bruising hit is finally enough to knock Bento out of the game, and now redshirt freshman Austin Brown is in. He apparently studies at the Joe Bento School of Quarterbacking, scrambling for 8 on his first play. He then finds Jackie Williams over the middle for a touchdown. A good drive by the Blazers, and the lead is cut to 44-14.

The Cocks get nothing on the ensuing drive, and punt it back. UAB gets a few first downs, but punt it away after stalling at midfield. However, Ace Sanders fumbles on the return, and UAB recovers it deep in South Carolina territory. A reinserted Bento makes 'em pay on the first play, again finding Williams for a quick touchdown. It's now 44-21, Carolina. DigiSpurrier will be none-too-happy with his team's late-game slouchery.

UAB goes for the onside kick, but it's recovered by DD Smith. The Cocks proceed to play sensible late-game football, milking the remaining three minutes off the clock in unexciting fashion.

The DigiCocks defeat the DigiBlazers, 44-21.


FINAL STATS:

Shaw: 16-21, 224 yds., 3 TD, 14 rushes, 42 yards
Lattimore: 23 rushes, 115 yards, 2 TD
Sanders: 4 receptions, 109 yds, 2 TD
Taylor: 11 tackles, 6 TFL, 6 sacks (school record), Player of the Game
Defense: 16 TFL, 13 sacks

INJURIES: None.

WEEKLY HONORS: Devin Taylor wins SEC Defensive Player of the Week.

NEXT WEEK'S OPPONENT: The Gamecocks welcome new SEC member Missouri to town for the inaugural Battle of Columbia.

AROUND THE DigiNCAA

SCORES OF NOTE:
Alabama 26 - Arkansas 12
Florida 30 - Tennessee 24
Pittsburgh 23 - Virginia Tech 20 (OT)
Georgia 20 - FAU 3: The Dawgs struggle offensively at home.

INJURIES OF NOTE: Clemson LT S. Anthony is out for the season with a broken tibia. Missouri RE B. Madison and HB M. Murphy will miss game against South Carolina.

Conclusion, Week 3

A solid if not dominant game against an overmatched opponent. The offense is still making some weird choices (so many swallowed up flat-passes and options) but those sorts of things are offset by a number of big plays. The defense had an enormous game, tallying a ludicrous 13 sacks (a number inflated by Joe Bento's poor decision-making skills.) The Cocks were outscored 14-0 in trash time, causing the game look a little less lopsided than it was. No matter, as the Gamecocks move to 3-0 in Our Digital Season. But a murderers row awaits. "One week at a time," will be the cliche of choice for the remainder of the season. The Cocks move up one slot to #7, thanks to former #5 Arkansas' loss. Additionally, the Gamecocks received a lone, mysterious #1 vote in the coaches poll. WHO COULD IT BE? (It's DigiSpurrier.)

See you next week as DigiMizzou (which is fun to say) takes on South Carolina.

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