Our Digital Season Week 2: South Carolina v. East Carolina

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!

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We're back for week two of Our Digital Season. After CORRECTLY PREDICTING THE OUTCOME OF WEEK ONE'S GAME, the digital season rolls on. But first, what good is any endeavor without a little self-review? Let's take a look at some of the hits and misses from last week's digital game, as it related to Thursday's win over Vanderbilt:
ODS WAS RIGHT: Jordan Rodgers connected with Jordan Matthews for a long touchdown pass.

ODS WAS WRONG: Connor Shaw did not connect with DeAngelo Smith for a long touchdown pass. Or any pass. At all. Yeah, the Dee Dee Smith stuff was way off.

RIGHT: It was a close game (ODS: 3 pt. spread, OAS: 4 pt. spread) that resulted in a come from behind win for Carolina.

WRONG: Nobody scored 50 points. Not alone, not combined.

RIGHT: Shaw took some uncomfortably big hits. (Bigger problem in the real game, obviously.)

WRONG: While DigiLatty struggled, flesh'n'blood Latty rushed for 100+ and a couple of TDs on his way to SEC POTW honors.

RIGHT: South Carolina went up early and blew the lead, only to reclaim it and hold off the scrappy 'Dores.

WRONG: Pretty much everything else. Even some of the "Rights" above are stretches.
But hey, we're 1-0 on both planes of existence, which is enough of a reason to see this feature out for a while longer. Anyway, as with our actual team, the DigiCocks mustn't rest on their laurels. A long season stretches before us.

Game 2: East Carolina at South Carlina

After the bombastic debut in Nashville, DigiCarolina comes home and welcomes East Carolina (1-0 in ODS) to Columbia. Just a bit of housekeeping: I knocked the quarter-length down to 10:00. (As a reminder, when a contest is live simulated, the game neglects to shave off an adequate amount of seconds between plays, which makes for an inordinate amount of field time. So 10 minutes it is.) As we wait anxiously to learn if Connor Shaw will play this Saturday, at least take solace in knowing DigiShaw was healthy and eager to lead his team in battle in front of the rowdy throngs of Brice-goers.

Off we go!

FIRST QUARTER, or, HOW THIN CAN WE STRETCH ADAM YATES

The ECU Pirates win the toss and defer. Damiere Byrd returns the opening kickoff to the 25. And that's when Reece Davis cuts in with a studio update that shakes the foundation of this young digital football season: Missouri has defeated Georgia, 34-13. The result is an electric atmosphere at the DigiBrice. Somewhere Chris Low is saying, "That's bad news for East Carolina." The Cocks' opening drive is a mish-mash of short passes, Shaw keepers and one impressive Lattimore run for 14 yards. It stalls out a the ECU 30, and Carolina will go for a long field goal. The kick is up and it's good from 47! Yates is 5-5 on the season. 3-0, Gamecocks.

The defense ignites quickly, with both Shaq Wilson and Devin Taylor notching tackles for loss—Taylor's a bruising sack. ECU will punt, and Ace Sanders brings it past the 50 into Gamecocks territory. 6:13 remains in the first. The read option is humming, allowing Shaw and Lattimore to jerk the defense around with every play. The Cocks are inside the redzone, and the DigiSpurrier calls in three consecutive passes. All incomplete, and it's 4th down. Yates from 33, and it's good. 6-0 Cocks.

First and 10 at the 26, and ECU quarterback Rio Johnson looks to make a statement early, launching one down the sideline. And lo and behold, it's picked off! By Akeem Auguste. Heh. (Remember, I ignored preseason injuries for all teams.) It's 1st and 10 for USC. DigiLatty gets the ball and is met in the backfield, but sheds the tackler and takes it for almost 10. He wasn't breaking those tackles last week, if you recall. On 3rd and inches, the Cocks elect to pass—it fools the D, but Shaw overthrows a streaking Ace Sanders by 5 yards. It would have been a surefire touchdown. The offense will go for it on 4th and short on the ECU 46!

Disaster strikes. Shaw tries to hit a man in the flat and it's picked, and it's returned for a touchdown. Deflated Gamecock fans can only wonder why their big back didn't get the ball on 3rd or 4th and inches. 7-6, ECU.

The Cocks get it back at the 27. Shaw's doing well on sub-10 yard passes, keeping the chains moving. Still, the Cocks have yet to find the promised land. They're back in ECU territory. Handoff to Latty, who makes the sort of 5-yard run through traffic we're accustomed to seeing. Play action on the ensuing first down, and the secondary bites! But once again, Shaw overthrows a wide open receiver. A few poor plays, and it's 4th and 15 on the ECU 43. And the Cocks are...going for a field goal? WTF. The algorithms demand it, evidently, and as expected, DigiYates can't quite get enough leg into the 58 yarder. ECU takes over.

First play from scrimmage is a RB screen and it's good for 7. Johnson gets good protection on 2nd down, but Devin Taylor breaks through the defenses and steamrolls the hapless QB for his 2nd sack of the quarter.

End of the first quarter and it's 7-6, ECU.


2ND QUARTER, or, WASN'T THIS SUPPOSED TO BE A TUNE-UP GAME

3rd and 10, and it's another sack for Taylor, who needs a 2nd effort to track down the elusive Johnson. So far, the defense has looked brilliant. ECU will punt it away on 4th and 19. First down for USC, and it's a handoff to Lattimore, good for 11 yards. He's already up 52 yards on 9 rushes, a marked improvement on last weeks tepid numbers. The Cocks push forward into ECU territory before stalling out at the 35. Yates will step up for his 4th field goal attempt of the day, a troubling trend even with a trustworthy kicker. His attempt is no good, wide right. A slow pan over the student section shows the dejected visages of a nervous, somewhat creepily rendered fanbase.

ECU starts from their own 35. Johnson launches a bomb, and this time Reese Wiggins has separated from his defenders. The pass is complete, and Wiggins trots in to the endzone. 14-6, Pirates.

The teams play punter ping-pong for a four drives. The Cocks have it, and on 2nd and 9, it's a pass play out of the I-Formation. Shaw hits a wide open DeAngelo Smith on the post pattern. He grabs it, and bursts upfield, splitting the safeties. Paydirt. Down two, Carolina will go for the conversion.

Shaw drops back and, for the second time in two games, scrambles in for a two point conversion. It's now a tie game, 14-14.

We're under 2 minutes left. The remainder of the half is rather futile for both sides—an ECU 3 and out is followed by another Shaw pick. A short drive leading to a missed ECU field goal will eat up the remaining minutes. Sloppy football, and we go into the locker rooms tied at 14.

1st HALF STATS:

Shaw: 12-22, 131 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT, 12 rushes, 33 yds
Lattimore: 16 rushes, 74 Yds, 1 rec, 9 yds
Smith: 5 rec, 67 yds, 1 TD
Taylor: 3 tackles, 3 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 breakup

The Gamecocks have been far more effective on offense than the Pirates—14 first downs against ECU's 3—but have been unable to convert on 3rd down with any consistency. ECU has negative 40 rush yards factoring sacks, by the way. DigiWammy's aggressiveness seems to be paying dividends, although it has allowed big plays in each of the first two contests..

THIRD QUARTER, or, THE MASSACRE OF RIO JOHNSON


ECU will get the ball to start the half, and gather some momentum as Carolina gives up consecutive 3rd down conversions. On 2nd and 10 near the 50 yard line, Chaz Elder comes on the blitz (DigiWhammy's aggressiveness on display once again) and takes down the halfback for a loss. On 3rd and 13, Rio Johnson arcs a bomb down the near sideline. DJ Swearinger springs up and snags his 2nd pick of the season. A punt might actually have yielded better field position, but the Gamecocks will take the momentum boost.

The drive starts on the USC 12 yard line. Lattimore takes the handoff for 11, and there's room to breathe. Again to Lattimore, and he gets 9 more. Read option and Shaw holds on to it, picking up seven yards. Perhaps we're seeing a halftime adjustment—passing less, relying more on the read option. Shaw picks up 28 on the next play, the longest run from scrimmage for the Cocks this season. The ball is on the ECU 17 yard line. The handoff goes to Kenny Miles. Up the gut for 7 yards.

The ensuing play is a thing of beauty: out of the Wildcock formation, the snap goes to Ellington, who hands it to a sweeping Damiere Byrd. Byrd speeds across the width of the field and cuts in, met at the four yard line by a Pirate DB. But his momentumis enough to get him in for the touchdown! It is a play made possible by Byrd's speed. Several Pirates were blitzing, any of whom might have caught a slower player in the backfield. It's a 9 play, 78 yard drive. 21-14, Gamecocks.

Kickoff is downed for a touchback, and DigiBrice is alive. First play from scrimmage, and it's a pass to the flat. Devin Taylor continues his display, strafing across the trenches and meeting the receiver behind scrimmage for a thunderous tackle and a 3 yard loss. 2nd and 13, WR sweep, and YET AGAIN, Devin Taylor is there to make a huge tackle. DigiDon't Say Nothin' is playing his way into a higher tax bracket today, folks. On 3rd and long, Johnson squares up to launch one, but Jadeveon Clowney blindsides him, causing the pass to trickle out of his limp hand. Punt. On the first play from scrimmage, the HBC gives Shaw the green light to go deep. It's a good decision, as the pass is caught in stride by DL Moore, who trots into the endzone. All of a sudden it's 28-14, USC. The DigiCocks are playing up to the potential that a complex series of algorithms dictated.

By now, ECU QB Rio Johnson is considering taking up badminton or chess, but unfortunately he's still ECU's quarterback at the present, and trots back out to lead the offense again. After nothing on 1st, Kelcy Quarles levels Johnson as he throws it, and the pass falls incomplete. On third down, Brison Williams gets the CB blitz call, but is a bit too ambitious and flies past the elusive QB. Johnson is rattled, however, and lobs one into coverage. Much like we saw in the actual Vandy game, Shaq Wilson pulls down an acrobatic pick! The Cocks have it back at the ECU 42. The Pirates' upset hopes are on life support.

Lattimore gets the first two touches for a total of 15 yards. He's up to 116 on the day, and averaging 5.2 a carry. It's 1st and 10 at the ECU 26. Nothing doing on 1st, but on 2nd and 10, DigiSpurrier calls the option. Shaw sees daylight, elects to keep it, and slices forward...and no one will touch him! Shaw takes it 27 yards for the touchdown, and it's 35-14 Gamecocks! Shaw now has 95 yards rushing (over 100 without sacks factored.)

Holding is called on the kickoff, and things keep getting worse for the Pirates, who will start on their own 11. After a few first downs, Johnson scrambles and puts the ball on the turf—a Pirate lineman falls on it, and it's 3rd and 3. Taylor charges, and Johnson has to get rid of it—and this time, it's Brison Williams who is there for the pick. This is becoming a showcase for this USC defense.

The offense takes over at the ECU 32. The Cocks get it down to the two yard line, but a holding call and a big loss make it 3rd and goal from the 20. Shaw takes the snap, and steps into his throw, finding DL Moore in the back of the end zone, in a play that recalls Alshon Jeffery's TD catch against Clemson. It's now 42-14, Gamecocks. This team is a well-oiled machine here in the 2nd half.

DigiRuffin McNeil forces a softly sobbing Rio Johnson back out on the field. On the first play, Clowney and Damario Jeffery sandwich Johnson for yet another sack and a loss of 8. Two plays later, Kelcy Quarles spears Johnson into the turf for the defense's 6th sack of the game. ECU will let the 3rd quarter run out before kicking from its own endzone.

4TH QUARTER, or, THAT WAS FUN LET'S TRY TO BEAT TRAFFIC

USC starts in excellent field position but can't get terribly far. Adam Yates booms a 48 yard field goal. It's now 45-14, USC.

ECU returns the kickoff 36 yards. Two beefy graduate assistants drag a barely-conscious Rio Johnson back out on the field and prop him up in the huddle. The drive stalls out after an admirable push, and it's 4th and 2 on the Gamecock 43. But ECU's going for it—why not? They give it to the fullback, but Damario Jeffery lunges forth and drags him down short of the first! Turnover on downs. Another blow to ECU.

Meanwhile, LSU clings to a 7 point lead on Washington at the end of the half. Might be a game in Baton Rouge, folks!

Back in Columbia, we're under 8 minutes left and the Gamecocks are way out in front. Some fans are a little unsure as to why Lattimore's still in, but boy do they love watching him work. He takes consecutive handoffs for a first down. Another give to Latty and he takes it for 16! He's now up to 162 yards and, miraculously, is still averaging 5.2 a carry. On the next play, Lattimore loses a yard, and the stadium falls silent as he's slow to get up, hopping off the field on one foot. If the star back is injured, DigiSpurrier would forever be labeled a fool for having him in this late in a blowout. The game resumes. After a few short gains, Shaw drops back and hits—who else—DeAngelo Smith across the middle for a touchdown. It's 52-14 now, but the score seems immaterial. What's the word on Latty?

The kick-off is downed in the endzone, and ECU's first team offense will once again take the field. Very little drama compared to week 1, huh? Let's see what else is happening around the DigiNCAA: I see TAMU is up on Florida in the 3rd, 16-7. Vandy's losing to Northwestern—an 0-2 start isn't want DigiFranklin needs. Clemson beats Ball State, but only by a score of 27-17. Back in Columbia, ECU is driving. They've got it on the Carolina 22. It's 3rd and 2, and Shaq Wilson stays home on the read option, mashing Johnson in the backfield. ECU will go for it on 4th. Johnson drops back, but Phllip Dukes and Chaz Sutton will combine for the sack. Rio Johnson crawls off the field and Carolina gets it back. If you're keeping score at home, that's consecutive 4th down conversion failures for ECU.

The good news: Lattimore's back out on the field. The bad news: Lattimore's back out on the field. Thankfully, it's a quick three and out and that may be the last we see of the offense. We're just over a minute when the ball leaves Tyler Hull's foot. Meanwhile, it's tied at 21 in Baton Rouge, which the average viewer already knows because the average viewer isn't watching a blowout of a mid-major when there are competitive games in progress.

Poor Rio Johnson. He comes out, takes another punishing hit as he throws, and Devonte Holloman snags the wounded duck and brings it to the house. It's now 59-14, Gamecocks. But in an act of post-traumatic stress-fueled derring do, Rio comes right back out and throws a 75 touchdown strike. Good for you, Rio. It's 59-21, Cocks.

ECU goes for the onside kick, and DeAngelo Smith scoops it. That's all, folks.

The Gamecocks go buckwald on ECU, 59-21.


FINAL STATS:

Shaw: 18-30, 250 yds, 4 TD, 2 INT, 18 rushes, 102 yds, 1 TD, Player of the Game
Lattimore: 34 rushes, 175 yards, 5.1 average, 1 reception, 9 yards
Smith: 7 receptions, 83 yards, 2 TD
Moore: 4 receptions, 98 yards, 2 TD
Taylor: 5 tackles, 5 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 breakup
Defense: 15 TFL, 7 sacks, 5 INT

INJURIES: None, no thanks to DigiSpurrier.

WEEKLY HONORS: None.

NEXT WEEK'S OPPONENT: UAB, unranked, missing starting quarterback. 1-0 after beating Troy week 1. Could it be a third consecutive 50+ point game?

AROUND THE DigiNCAA

SCORES OF NOTE:

Missouri 34 - Georgia 14: The upset makes the week 5 meeting all the more important for the Gamecocks.
Clemson 27 - Ball State 17
TAMU 16 - Florida 6
LSU 42 - Washington 28: What was once a close game fast became a decisive win for the Bayou Bengals.
Fresno State 31 - Oregon 21: An enormous upset in Eugene. Oregon scored all of its points in the 4th quarter.

INJURIES OF NOTE:

Georgia FS B. Rambo out 8 weeks with a strained back. Ohio State QB B. Miller out for 8 weeks with dislocated elbow.

Conclusion, Week 2

After going to the locker rooms tied, DigiCarolina relies more on the run in the second half and the result is domination. It helped that Lattimore looked like his usual self, and fans hope week one's troubling show was nothing more than an anomaly. Shaw got less panicky as the game went on, chose his scrambles better, slid more, and the result was over 100 yards rushing and 250 yards passing. The defense was brilliant throughout. From an administrative side, shortening the quarters seemed to introduce some statistical realism (remember, we scored 56 last year, so 59 isn't too hard to believe.) And, most importantly, it was an injury-free game for Carolina despite the close call. The Cocks get one more week of OOC action before experiencing division play for the first time again.

Until next week, may reality's ECU game offer a similarly lopsided result.
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