Our Digital Season: Week 8 — South Carolina v. Tennessee

Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

It's the DigiCocks vs. the DigiVols. Buckle up, because this one got weird.

Sometimes, it's important we remember how stupid this feature is.

Take last week, for instance. The digital simulation portrayed an infuriating offensive metldown that allowed Arkansas to overcome a 17 point halftime deficit and defeat the DigiCocks in the final minute or so. DigiConnor Shaw was taking sacks by the pantload, for most of which he was squarely to blame. DHBC called for a senseless field goal attempt that gave the DigiHogs a short march for their go-ahead touchdown. And DigiBrandon Allen had, like, a bunch of pass yards.

Thankfully, things didn't quite play out that way.

CURIOUS OVERLAPS:

First Half Heroics: ODS correctly predicted a 24-7 South Carolina lead at the half.

Byrd Is the Word: DigiDamiere, which is fun to say aloud, snagged a touchdown pass.

Victor Victorious: Victor Hampton reeled in an interception IRL and in ODS.

NOTABLE CONTRASTS:

Shon Nuff Didn't: Shon Carson did fine IRL, but he didn't get a touchdown like he did in ODS.

Shaw Nuff Didn't: Connor Shaw didn't throw 400 interceptions.

Crisis Averted: Thankfully, IRL Carolina put up 28 points in the second half instead of zero.

Of course, this means another blemish on the ODS resume, and the second in three weeks. The IRL Cocks (5-1) are officially outpacing ODS' predictions (4-2). But, considering those two failed predictions were both IRL wins, we can all be thankful.

This week, we simulate the Tennessee tilt. USC depth charts weren't available, so I sat Ronald Patrick based on Spurrier labeling him doubtful. I played Bruce Ellington because Spurrier's comments on his injury sounded perfunctory and my gut says he'll play.

USC wins the toss and elects to kick.

1st Quarter

Remember last week's IRL opening drive against Arkansas? This one was pretty much the same thing. Tennessee rampages downfield, never gaining less than five yards on a play except for the three yard touchdown run by DigiRajion Neal. 7-0, Vols.

Connor Shaw's first pass is—almost picked. Hm. Let's hope that's the worst throw he makes all day! (SPOILER: It's not.) In fact, after leading the drive inside UT's 10, Shaw is picked at the 4 yard line. UT takes over, but on the first play, this happens:

It's a JT Surratt sack/safety, and it's 7-2.

Carolina gets the ball on the free kick, but does nothing. Punt. Tennessee takes over at their own 12. They stitch together a momentous drive, led by the arm of Justin DigiWorley (also fun to say.) The defense holds inside the 10, and UT will kick a field goal. 10-2, DigiVols.

2nd Quarter

On the first pass of Carolina's next drive, it's a bubble screen. DigiShaw rainbows the pass to the sideline. It is picked off and returned for a touchdown by Justin Coleman. Youch. 17-2, Vols.

But hey, DigiShaw's got a short memory—no memory, really, since he's just a sack of data without any actual autonomy—and leads South Carolina 81 yards downfield. On 3rd and 14 inside the red zone, Shaw recognizes a blitz, and connects with DigiBruuuuuce on this impressive pass-and-catch:

The next play is a Mike Davis TD run, and it's 17-9, Vols.

The Vols' next drive begins with a first down, but three consecutive losses ensue, and UT will punt.

On the first pass of Carolina's next drive, it's a bubble screen. DigiShaw rainbows the pass to the sideline. It is picked off and returned for a touchdown by Justin Coleman. Youch.

Hey, you're probably thinking, "Jorge accidentally copy/pasted something that happened earlier. Input error!" You're half right: I copied and pasted that paragraph, but not by mistake. The exactly same @&%*#&ing thing happened:

I like how Bruce still put his hands up to catch the pass in case the DB was hologram. 24-9, UT.

South Carolina gets it back, and Shaw scrambles for 13 on first down. He's actually having a nice day when not throwing pick-sixes! He then almost throws another pick-six, but it's dropped. Stop with the bubble screens, guys. Anyway, they punt, and Tyler Hull pins 'em at the 5. Two plays later—holy crap—Ahmad Christian picks off a pass and takes it to the house:

This game: it's crazy. 24-16, UT.

The DigiVols take over, and on 3rd and 2, DigiKadetrix lights up Rajion Neal on an option. DigiClowney looks on and celebrates:

Punt, and South Carolina takes over at their own 31. On 3rd and 8, Shaw scrambles for 20. He follows that up with this:

It's a 48 yard touchdown strike to Jones. They'll go for two and get it. Somehow, some way, the game is tied at 24.

UT gets it back with 48 seconds on the clock and all three timeouts remaining. Worley's hits DigiPig Howard deep to put the ball on the South Carolina 30 with :23 left. Two plays later, they're in the red zone. Worley tries to hit a man on a corner route near the goal line—and it's picked off by Jimmy Legree! Carolina gets it back with :04 remaining, and they'll run it into the pile.

FIRST HALF REVIEW

Just about the weirdest first half imaginable. For the second consecutive week in ODS, the teams combine for five turnovers in the first two quarters. They've combined for three pick-sixes and one safety. Both teams have a redzone turnover. South Carolina is outgaining UT 266 to 219, and Connor Shaw's having an OK day when he's not throwing interceptions (13-19, 155 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT). A bright spot: the DigiCock defense has 10 tackles for loss. South Carolina gets the ball out of the half.

3rd Quarter

After a touchback, South Carolina gets quick first downs on two 10+ yard MIke Davis runs. Shaw nearly throws another pick, of course, but follows it with a 30 yard completion to Damiere Byrd. Flash ahead to 1st and goal at the UT 5 yard line. Handoff to Mike Davis gains 4. I-formation, and it's a pass. Hm. Shaw hits Busta in the flat, who gains nothing. On third down, Shaw is stuffed on a zone read keeper, and they'll settle for a field goal. 27-24, Gamecocks. It's their first lead of the game.

UT takes over and works the ball across midfield with ease. But on 2nd and 10 at the South Carolina 39, Worley's deep pass is picked of by Ahmad Christian (who ODS seems to love). He returns it back to the initial line of scrimmage. The DigiCock offense goes backwards—Shaw is sacked twice—and Hull punts it away. UT capitalizes, and moves into the redzone before the defense holds and forces a field goal attempt. It's good, and we're once again tied. 27-27.

4th Quarter

South Carolina punts again. Then UT punts. Then, South Carolina punts it back. Another punt by UT. Let's keep it going: punt by Carolina. UT responds with a punt. Punts on punts on punts on punts on punts, y'all.

Finally, South Carolina seems to break through with this beautiful Nick Jones snag:

Yeah! Great job!

But...uh...I've got some bad news, guys.

DigiShaw rainbows the pass to the sideline. It is picked off and returned for a touchdown by Justin Coleman. Youch.

Yes. I copied and pasted that, again. Because that's what happened again. Same play, same pass, same guy. Holy hell. It's 34-27, UT.

South Carolina will get the ball back at their own 25 with 2:29 left. On 2nd and 2, Shaw throws a picture perfect pass to Shamier Jeffery, dropping it right over his shoulder for a 40 yard gain. At least it would have been a 40 yard gain had Jeffery not dropped it. No matter: on the next play, a virtually identical pass to KJ Brent, of all people, is hauled in for 50 yards. Ball at the UT 21 with 1:30 remaining. South Carolina proceeds to run three consecutive halfback screen passes, gaining a total of eight yards.

It's 4th and 2, line to gain is the 11. Shaw takes the snap, it's a zone read. Shaw keeps it. He gets around to the edge, and is met and dropped...at the 12. Turnover on downs. Tennessee runs out the clock.

Final Score, 34-27, DigiVols

The video game informs me this is now #1 on my "best games played" list. Joy.

PLAYER STATS
USC
C. Shaw 27-40, 330 yards, 1 TD, 4 INT, 6 sacks, 77 yards rushing
M. Davis 16 rushes, 65 yards, 1 TD
N. Jones 4 receptions, 86 yards, 1 TD
Defense 12 TFL, 3 sacks, 3 INT, 1 safety, 1 TD
UT 8 TFL, 5 sacks
J. Worley 26-39, 275 yards, 3 INT, 3 sacks
R. Neal 18 rushes, 57 yards, 1 TD
P. Howard 8 receptions, 106 yards
J. Coleman 2 tackles, 1 PBU, 3 INT, 136 INT yards, 3 TD. Yeah, that's a good game.
TEAM STATS
USC UT
Passing Yards 330 275
Rushing Yards 143 77
Total Yards 473 352
3rd Downs 6-15 5-14
Red Zone 2/4 (1 TD, 1 FG) 3/4 (1 TD, 2 FG)
Turnovers 4 INT 3 INT
Time of Poss. 60% 40%

FINAL ANALYSIS

If the IRL game even remotely resembles that thing that you just read, we're all in for a rollercoaster ride of a viewing experience. A rollercoaster ride that derails during the final bend an careens into a corn dog stand. Thankfully, our struggles in this simulation were predicated on Connor Shaw playing the most uncharacteristically sloppy game of his life. If an opposing defense scores 21 points while tallying six sacks, you probably deserve to lose. While nothing's impossible, it does seem that there's a significant, uh, cerebral divide between DigiShaw and IRL Shaw.

We return next week with a digital showdown in Other Columbia. Until then!

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