Our Digital Season Week 4: South Carolina v. Missouri

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!

It's week 4 of Our Digital Season, and the DigiCocks have enjoyed a pair of stress-free wins, rolling non-BCS opponents ECU and UAB. As always, let's see how much last week's "Actual" and "Digital" Venn Diagram circles overlapped:

ODS GOT IT RIGHT: Ace Sanders was a difference-maker. In both games he caught 4 passes and found the endzone. He was certainly more productive in ODS, netting 109 yards and a couple of touchdowns.

ODS GOT IT WRONG: Shaw's night. Mind you, in ODS his scapula is smooth and crackless. But in real life, Connor couldn't get through the full game and looked shaky when he was in.

RIGHT: The sack party. I think it's fair to say that, IRL, 6 sacks is a pretty successful day of QB huntin'. It wasn't quite the hyperbolic performance the DigiCocks put up (13 sacks,) but it's probably proportionally accurate, given the way that NCAA 2013 tends to pump up sack numbers.

WRONG: While it is fair to say DJ Swearinger got Turnt, his Digital Turnt Levels didn't quite reach that of real life. And, miraculously, Our Digital Season actually displayed a better grasp on reality than the real NCAA, in that DJ is not suspended for the DigiMizzou game.

RIGHT: Shaq Roland scored his first career touchdown. The plays weren't all that different, either.

WRONG: Alas, the point differential, which up to this point had been eerily accurate. ODS had us winning by 23, when the margin in real life was a cool 43. The total margin of victory differential is now +21 in favor of reality.

RIGHT: ODS not only predicted Florida would beat Tennessee, but also that Pitt would take down Virginia Tech. Mind you, ODS thinks Pitt is a top 15 team, so there's that.

WRONG: Never saw hyde nor hair of blazer back-up QB Joe Bento, did we? Bummer.
Anyhow, while a win over UAB is nice, our princess is most certainly in another castle, so we continue on to the next level. SEC play has arrived (er, re-arrived) and the Missouri Tigers are ready to go.

Usclogo_mediumMizzoulogo_medium

In Our Digital Season, Mizzou is 1-0 in the SEC, having upset Georgia week 2. It's clear the DigiTigers intend to compete for the division in their maiden campaign. They're up to #19 in the nation, thanks in large part to exceptional quarterback play, a balanced rushing attack, and the mysterious chaos of EA's algorithmic swirl. However, lead rusher Marcus Murphy is out for the game, as well as starting end Brad Madison. Will these absences leave exploitable gaps for the healthy and hungry South Carolina DigiGamecocks? Need I remind you, there's no quarterback issue in ODS: DigiShaw is ready to go.

It's pouring rain in Columbia SC, but the fans are out en masse. Mizzou wins the toss, and will kickoff.

FIRST QUARTER or LET'S GET READY TO FUMBLE

The DigiCocks go 3 and out on the opening drive, and Hull will punt. Returned to the 39. Mizzou starts in the 5 wide and quickly complete a 10 yard pass. And they're operating in the hurry-up. Pass gains of 5 and then 18 have the defense on its heels. The ball's now on the USC 26, where Franklin scrambles for 12, making it first down inside the 15. Five wide again, and James Franklin hits his man posting in: touchdown. A masterful drive, quick and effective, and USC has no answer. It's 7-0, Missouri.

1st and 10. Shaw drops and throws quick, but puts it 3 yards ahead of DL Moore. 2nd and 10, again, an atrocious pass by Shaw and it's 3rd and 13. Draw goes to Lattimore, good for 4 but it's a punting situation again. Two 3-and-outs for Carolina. Mizzou will start from its own 44.

After consecutive losses to start the drive, Franklin looks to set up the halfback screen on 3rd and long. Both defensive tackles gun for Franklin, and Kelcy Quarles crushes him—and the ball pops out! Byron Jerideau doesn't even let it hit the ground, not unlike DJ Swearinger's real-life fumble recovery last week! Jerideau rumbles and stumbles 25 yards into the end zone, earning a highly-coveted "fat guy touchdown." A stroke of great fortune for Carolina, and it's tied 7-7.

The defense is heating up, and they force a 3 and out on the ensuing drive. Tigers will punt. Carolina's offense has been brutal thus far, but Shaw starts to show signs of life, completing consecutive passes for first downs. He then scrambles for 10 yards. It's 1st and 10 on the Mizzou 43. Play action to Lattimore, who then curls and takes the pass, good for 13. Shaw keeps it on the zone read and goes for 15 more. The Cocks will stall out in the redzone, so Adam Yates comes on and nails the 31 yarder. A well-oiled drive but only three points to show for it, and it's 10-7, Gamecocks.

Studio update: #9 Clemson is up 3 on #5 FSU in the 3rd. More on this as it develops.

After the moral victory of holding the attacking DigiCocks to a field goal, Mizzou looks to regain some momentum. The opportunity presents itself when, on their own 25, DigiWammy roles the dice and gets burned. With six blitzing, Mizzou WR L'Damian Washington is uncovered. Franklin hits him streaking down the line. He'll go 75 yards untouched, and it's 14-10, Missouri.

The Cocks will start on their own 22 yard line. Jump to 3rd and 7, and Shaw zips one to DD Smith for about 15. First down. The next pass is to Smith again, but he takes a big lick and fumbles the ball. Mizzou falls on it. Tiger ball on the USC 45.

On 1st and 10, Franklin spends too long in the pocket and it's Devin Taylor with another sack. After a minimal gain, it's 3rd and 15. Mizzou hurries it up. Franklin hits a man short of the first, leaving a 4th and 4. But it's 4 down territory, and Mizzou's offense is back out. Again Wammy calls a big blitz, but this time it pays off. Damario Jeffery makes the big sack, and Carolina will have it back on their own 47. That will end the first quarter, with the score 14-10.

2ND QUARTER or GRIDIRON PINGPONG

Carolina makes nothing of the defensive win, punting again. Mizzou will fair catch the punt at their own 26. Huge run by Franklin on first down, good for 25 yards. On 2nd and 10, DJ Swearinger blitzes and tackles the HB for a loss of 4. Meanwhile, FSU has taken the lead on Clemson, 24-17, in the 3rd. Five wide and Franklin has all day. He hits a man over the middle for the first down. The same play nets 11 more yards. Mizzou's on the Carolina 25. Another 5 wide set. Pass good for 4. Passes over the middle are killing the Gamecock defense. Franklin caps the drive by finding freshman phenom Dorial Green Beckham on a corner route, and the Cocks are fast unraveling. It's now 21-10 in favor of MU. Still plenty of time left, but Missouri is clearly looking like the better team.

After a touchback, a screen to Lattimore is good enough for a first. On 2nd and 2, and the pass goes to Ace Sanders over the middle. Ace takes 3 steps, is leveled, and coughs up the rock. Mizzou falls on it. Another turnover. The rain is making a difference today, having caused 3 fumbles between the two teams.

Mizzou gains little on 1st and 2nd. On 3rd down, Franklin looks for DigiDGB on the edge, but Akeem Auguste, healthy and spry as a Chinese gymnast, leaps up and snags it. He'll go to the house, untouched. It's now 21-17, Missouri. Both of Carolina's touchdowns have been produced by the defense.

Kickoff returned by Mizzou to the 28, but they'll get nothing out of it. A couple of Chaz Sutton sacks (!) make it fourth and long. Sanders returns the punt to the USC 49. Latty goes for consecutive 5 yard gains. Is DigiSpurrier taking the ball away from his receivers, who can't seem to hang on to it? Zone read, Shaw keeps it and goes for 6. Handoff to Latty, good for 5, and it's 3rd and inches. Then DIGIQUA goes for three yards and a first down. Ball on the Mizzou 27. Shaw hits DL Moore on the slant and he picks up about 8 more yards after the catch. It's 1st and 10 at the 12 yard line. Back-to-back gives to Lattimore, and he takes the second in for a touchdown. The PAT makes it 24-21, Gamecocks. An 8 play, 51 yard drive, it's the best Carolina has looked on offense.

We're down under 2 minutes. Franklin's pass is complete for 8, and Mizzou stops the clock. Another pass over the middle, this time to TJ Moe. It's 1st and 10 on the USC 45. Franklin goes to DGB over the middle for 20, further exploiting that weakness in the Cocks' defensive attack. It's 2nd and 3 now, and Kelcy Quarles makes a big sack, bringing up 3rd and 8. Franklin has all day, and hits DGB once again. He's pulled down at the 2. Mizzou tries to go around with an option, but this defense is too fast for that. Loss of 5. Then Akeem Auguste makes consecutive sacks. What the hell. Mizzou is forced to settle for a field goal, and they'll tie it. The score is 24-24 at the half.

OR IS IT!

With :03 left, Carolina will run it into the pile. But DIGIQUA care's not. He makes two key blocks, opening a yawning gap for Lattimore. He blazes downfield for an unlikely 75 yard touchdown run! On the sideline, Mizzou HC DigiPinkel (which is impossible to say without breaking into a girlish giggle) is apoplectic. It's 31-24 Gamecocks. What a turnaround.

1st HALF STATS:

Shaw: 13-15, 103 yads, 6 rushes, 23 yards.
Lattimore: 15 rushes, 113 yards, 2 TDs, 2 receptions, 21 yards
D. Smith: 3 rec, 31 yards
D. Holloman: 11 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack
A. Auguste: 3 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 int., 62 int. yards, 1 TD
Defense: 9 sacks. Yes, 9. In one half.

3RD QUARTER or THE QUARTER THAT TIME FORGOT

I'll be brief about this: no scoring occurred in this quarter. I had the blow-by-blow ready for you, but it was kind of boring. Basically, here's what happened: a bunch of punts by both teams, a bunch of sacks by us, an unfortunate goal line fumble by Bruce Ellington, a bail-out in the form of a Brison Williams pick, and a missed 50+ yard field goal by Adam Yates.

Oh yeah, and Connor Shaw got knocked out of the game with a concussion. Minor detail.

This marks the first scoreless quarter of the DigiCocks' season. Going to the 4th quarter, it's Missouri ball, 3rd and 10, deep in their own territory. It's still 31-24, Gamecocks. Also, Florida State has officially toppled Clemson, a decisive victory in the ACC Coastal or Atlantic. (I can never quite remember.)

4TH QUARTER, or, DO NOT GOLIGHTLY INTO THAT RETURN

On 3rd and 10, Mizzou tries to set up a screen, but the behemoth Kelcy Quarles is there to lay out Franklin yet again. Sanders returns the punt to the 46.

His Digital Holiness Dylan Thompson hits DL Moore for a gain of 9. It's 2nd and 1 and the DigiCocks go 5 wide. Thompson is flattened, and they'll give back all the yards they gained on 1st. Then it gets worse when on 3rd and 9, Thompson tries to throw into coverage and has his pass intercepted. The fans are restless.

Franklin gets plastered on first by Devin Taylor. (By the way, he just set the school sack record. In week 4. I'm trying to keep this realistic but I don't know what to tell you.) A holding penalty will make it 2nd and 27. They pick up 9 on a draw play, bringing up 3rd and 18. Wammy again calls for a big blitz, and again, gets burned. Franklin hits DGB on a go route and he'll gain a cool 50 yards. 1st and 10 on the USC 33. Mizzou gets nothing going on either 1st or 2nd, and it's 3rd and 15. Franklin checks down and the result is a loss. Missouri will try a long field goal of its own, and it falls short. USC takes over.

The Cocks do nothing, and the stalemate continues. It's back to Missouri, and we'll jump to 3rd and 11. The pass is to a wide-open Washington—but he slips on the wet turf trying to make a cut! The pass skips across the field, and it's 4th and long. Ace takes a fair catch on the 35. 5:09 remains. But USC's offense continues to struggle. Another punt is upcoming.

The kick is up, taken by TJ Moe at the 15. He'll try for a return, but is met at the 25 by Sharrod Golightly. DigiGolightly, by the way, rivals "Digipinkel" and "DigiMizzou" as the game's most satisfying "digi" portmanteau. Oh yeah, there's stuff happening: the hit causes Moe to fumble and Quin Smith falls on it. The Gamecocks have it on the Missouri 26, and that could be a dagger for team from Columbia-West.

Lattimore gets it, fighting for 8 yards. Dylan Thompson drops back to pass, and barely escapes the sack, scrambling for the first. On the next play, he hits DL Moore on the slant, who goes unchecked into the end zone. It's the first score of any kind in the second half, and the PAT makes it a 38-24 Gamecock lead with 3:36 remaining.

Mizzou downs the kickoff. There's Jadeveon Clowney, with his first sack of the game! Good to see you, Doo Doo. Franklin to DGB over the middle is complete, and the chains will move. Incomplete on 1st and 10. Again on 2nd and 10. But on 3rd and 10, Franklin fires an 11 yard strike to Moe, and it's a first down. Throw another sack for Taylor on the heap; that makes it 2nd and 12. A short pass to Washington, and now it's 3rd and 8. Mizzou can't afford a fruitless drive. And to the chagrin of thousands of digitally rendered fans, Franklin delivers, hitting Jimmie Hunt for a 50 yard touchdown strike. Another breakdown in the secondary, and it's 38-31, Gamecocks. Two minutes remain, and Missouri has all three timeouts.

Even so, Mizzou will go for the onside kick. DeAngelo Smith recovers it. Curious decision by DigiPinkel, and it could spell the end for his Tigers. But, the Mizzou D steps up, stuffing Carolina on 3 plays and stopping the clock each time. It's now 4th and 13, and the Cocks will have to punt. Hull's punt bounces through the endzone.

Mizzou will have 1:36 to travel 80 yards.

First down. Franklin airs one down the sideline, but it falls incomplete. Good coverage there by a healthy and glowing Akeem Auguste. Franklin completes next pass complete on a drag, and it goes for 12 yards and a first down. The offense gathers quickly and Franklin stops the clock with a spike. 2nd and 10, at the Mizzou 35. The pass over the middle is to Washington, good for 9. It's 3rd and 1. Franklin barks signals, but is interrupted by the shrill cacophony of whistles.

A lineman moved, and they'll back up 5 yards. Enormous mistake at this juncture.

It's now 3rd and 6. Franklin drops back and has time, but Quarles breaks free and charges. Franklin knows the hit is coming, but is able to set and launch a pass downfield. Washington elevates, but the pass is barely overthrown. And what's more, Devonte Holloman leaps in and gets his hands around the ball! Interception, and so ends DigiMizzou's last chance. With :58 seconds remaining, the Cocks will kneel it out.

Final score, 38-31, DigiCocks.

FINAL STATS:

Shaw: 19-21, 145 yds, 10 rushes, 33 yards
Lattimore: 25 rushes, 157 yds, 2 TD
D. Moore: 3 rec., 37 yds, 1 TD
K Quarles: 6 tackles, 4 TFL, 4 sacks, 1 FF
Defense: 17 sacks (video game numbers y'all!), 3 INT, 2 fumbles recovered

INJURIES: Connor Shaw's concussion will not keep him out of the UK game, but the coaches will keep a close eye on him. It's the ol' "Wait 'n see", ya know?

WEEKLY HONORS: Kelcy Quarles wins SEC and National Defensive Player of the Week.

AROUND THE DigiNCAA

SCORES OF NOTE:
Kansas State 38 - Oklahoma 17: KSU remains undefeated despite the loss of their star QB
Florida State 31 - Clemson 24
Michigan 33 - Notre Dame 21
Georgia 41 - Vandy 15: A disappointing Vandy squad falls to 1-3 in ODS.

INJURIES OF NOTE: Kansas State's backup QB T. Bender is out for 8 weeks. Remember, starting QB C. Klein is out for the season. Tennessee QB T. Bray breaks collarbone, is out for the season. Huge.

Conclusion, Week 4

Plenty of drama in the inaugural SEC matchup against Missouri, but Carolina moves to 4-0 in Our Digital Season. It took a great many circumstances for the game to fall Carolina's way. Impressive display of perseverance mimics last week's actual game against UAB: Shaw goes down, and Dylan Thompson steps in to lead his team to victory. Mizzou played better in most phases of the game, really. More offense, more first downs, better third down conversion rates. They only had 1 more turnover. But two defensive TDs for USC means they didn't need gaudy offensive numbers to stay in this one. It's the second SEC game DigiCarolina's played, and the second that's had its fair share of drama. Interesting that Akeem had a big day, what with all the whisperings that he may see the field this weekend. We'll need that out of him, what with Swearinger on the sidelines. DigiDJ, by the way, was relatively quiet in this game.

Next week, the Cocks head to Lexington to face a DigiKentucky team with a surprising 3-1 record, although coming off a 30-10 pasting at the hands of Florida. Until then: stay turnt, my friends.

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