Our Digital Season: Week 6 — South Carolina v. Kentucky

Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

It's the DigiCocks vs. the DigiCats.

Howdy! Hope y'all enjoyed last weekend. I was busy hiking through western North Carolina, camping under the stars (which, alas, were obscured by cloud cover), and getting lost for several hours which forced me to actually use a compass, which was kind of rewarding but, holy hell, getting lost in the woods sucks. But hey, I made it out and am to back basking in the familiar luminescence of a computer screen. Most importantly, my streak of South Carolina losing games on weekends I've gone hiking has ended, so quit blaming me, jerks. In fact, we were able to ascertain the final score from a mountaintop. One of my buddies—who I'll call Joe—had enough of a signal to call his brother. Here's the conversation:

Joe: Hey, I have a signal up here. Y'all wanna find out how USC did?

Me: YES.

Joe: [tries to load ESPN] Score won't load. Let me call my brother. [dials, waits] Hey man, you there? I'm in the mountains right now. How'd Carolina do? [waits five seconds.] Aw, dammit!

Me:

Joe: Oh, sorry, we won. I just said "dammit" because the call dropped.

Me:

Anyway, I've since watched the game. Although I was aware of the outcome and was thus spared the anxiety, I can imagine it was a fairly stressful live viewing experience, especially the game's bookends. More troubling to me is that ODS has been exposed as a flawed system. My life's work, for naught! I thought I'd perfected it! I feel like Dr. Frankenstein must have felt after his creation ran amok and climbed the Empire State Building, or whatever. I'm kinda rusty on my 19th century lit, TBH. At any rate, let's see if ODS pulled anything off last week:

Curious Overlaps

• In Totality: All things considered, ODS wasn't that far off. It predicted a one-score game in which both teams would hover around the mid-to-high twenties. ODS: 30-24 (54 total), IRL: 28-25 (53 total).

• Passing Grade: ODS called for 289 passing yards and the IRL Cocks put up 265.

• Imperfect Storm: While it wasn't a home run, ODS successfully ballparked UCF RB Storm Johnson's day. ODS: 73 yards, 1 TD, IRL: 65 yards, 1 TD.

Notable Contrasts:

• Turnoverachieving: ODS didn't have our defense generating any turnovers. Thankfully, it managed four.

• Possession Charges: One of the reasons the DigiKnights were able to put us away was their ability to control the clock. IRL, South Carolina edged UCF in time of possession.

• And, you know: UCF didn't win. Phew.

Moving on! Kentucky comes to town this weekend for what we expect to be a tune-up game for our three week October road stretch [knocks piece wood so hard it splinters into mound of sawdust.] Will the DigiCocks make short work of the DigiCats? Before we find out, a few housekeeping items:

• Started Dylan Thompson.

• Took Brandon Wilds out of the rotation.

• Took Shaq Roland out of the rotation.

• Started Clayton Stadnik.

Off we go—the Cocks win the toss and elect to kick, further proving that DigiSpurrier and IRL Spurrier are not one in the same.

1st Quarter

South Carolina defense forces a three and out. This happened on third down:

South Carolina works into UK territory but stalls out at the UK 21. Fry boots a 38 yarder and the Cocks have an early 3-0 lead.

On the ensuing drive, Maxwell Smith carves up South Carolina's pass coverage. Four consecutive completions put Kentucky inside the USC 10 yard line. Two plays later, they'll punch it in. 7-3, UK.

Things get worse on the next USC drive, which starts promisingly enough but ends when Dylan Thompson bombs one into double coverage. It's intercepted in the endzone. UK does little with the opportunity and punts it away. On the ensuing drive, South Carolina does what South Carolina does and moves downfield via short passes and zone reads. Hey, David Williams caught a pass! Spurrier said he might play IRL this week. Quarter ends a few plays later.

2nd Quarter

The drive runs out of steam, and the Cocks settle for an unsatisfying field goal inside the UK 10 yard line. It's 7-6, UK.

Kentucky then puts together an almost identical drive to the one above. It moves downfield steadily before putting a chipshot field goal through the uprights. 10-6, UK.

Things still haven't clicked for the Gamecocks. They start from their own 25, but move backwards and punt from their own end zone. But on the opening play of Kentucky's next drive, a screen pass is snagged by a prowling Ahmad Christian. I had a video of this but the file was corrupted. Oh well. It happened!

On the heels of this enormous momentum swing, South Carolina charges downfield. Then, of course, they settle for another short field goal. Thompson's been sacked three times, by the way. 10-9, UK. 2:12 remains in the half.

Kentucky drives, but can't get past the South Carolina 41. It's 4th and long, and they'll try a senseless field goal. No good, and it gives South Carolina the ball back with 40 seconds left in the half and two timeouts. By the way, Maxwell Smith got rocked by Chaz Sutton on that drive and his return is questionable. Dylan Thompson runs the ol' 40 Second Drill beautifully, connecting on four passes of more than 10 yards, including the drive-capper to Nick Jones:

It's 16-10, DigiCocks. In addition to the a late score, they'll get the ball back at the half.

FIRST HALF REVIEW

The teams have posted relatively similar statistics. Kentucky has about 20 more pass yards, South Carolina about 40 more rush yards. Both teams have a turnover. South Carolina's settled for three field goals, which means this game could be a bit less competitive had they converted those scoring opportunities into touchdowns.

3rd Quarter

Having had enough field goals, South Carolina opens the half with a balanced, 85 yard scoring drive. It's punctuated by another Nick Jones touchdown reception:

It's 23-10, South Carolina.

After the touchback, we arrive at Jalen Whitlow's first real shot at leading a drive and keeping the Wildcats in the game. And this is the first play of that drive:

That's Ahmad Christian's second pick of the day. It's a short field for the Gamecocks, and the game follows through on Spurrier's (and most coaches', really) penchant for post-turnover death blows. Dylan Thompson airs one out to Damiere Byrd. It's a little overthrown, though—will he reel it in?

Of course he does. I'm not gonna post a YouTube of an incomplete pass. 30-10 Gamecocks. USC has scored 14 points in 21 seconds.

Kentucky is in a bad place. Three and out, punctuated by a JT Surratt sack, after which he shushed his own crowd for some reason. Kentucky punts from its own endzone, and Hampton muffs the punt but falls on it. South Carolina doesn't do much with the short field, butt Elliott Freisman does show off his boot, splitting the uprights from 44 yards. He's 4-4 on the day, and it's 33-10.

Kentucky decides that maybe throwing the ball is a bad idea, and Whitlow immediately scrambles for 32 yards. Then 10 more. Then a short pass. Then Clowney destroys Whitlow for his second sack of the day. But then it's another first down scramble, and all of a sudden Kentucky's at the South Carolina 22 yard line.

Then this happens:

Yeah, that's another interception on a bubble screen, this time by Jimmy "Jimmy Legree" Legree, and he returns it all 78 for a score. 40-10 South Carolina. This has not been a memorable 3rd quarter for the DigiCats.

Kentucky gets it back, and three plays into the drive Whitlow is creamed by Gerald Dixon Jr. He's now out of the game, and 3rd string QB Patrick Towles comes in. The bloodbath quarter ends mid-drive.

4th Quarter

Towles performs admirably, leading Kentucky downfield and completing a short touchdown pass, representing UK's first points since early in the 2nd quarter. It's now 40-17.

Spurrier's not taking his foot off the gas—starters still in. On an early 3rd and long, Thompson completes a 51 yard pass to Bruce Ellington. The still-full student section goes nuts. Davis runs for 11—he's got 90 yards on just 13 touches, by the way. But it's yet another drive that dies inside the 20, and Elliott Fresiman converts his fifth field goal of the evening. It's 43-17, DigiCocks.

UK goes three and out. Hampton again muffs the punt and falls on it. On first and 10, up 26 with minutes remaining, Spurrier calls a deep shot. Thompson has like three years in the pocket, then launches a stupefying pass to no one, and a roving Wildcat DB happily snatches it for the INT. Maybe we should stop throwing now.  Whatever the case, Kentucky responds with another scoring drive. South Carolina's defense was essentially non-existent on this drive, and DigiSpurrier is presumably apoplectic on the sidelines and will give them hell in the presser. Anyway, a three yard touchdown run makes it 43-24. Mere minutes remain, and Kentucky attempts an onside kick. It's recovered—by Shon Carson!

South Carolina goes three and out, and because DigiSpurrier is apparently intent on ruining his players' stat lines, he trots out his then-perfect kicker to attempt a 56 yarder. It falls short by two yards. UK takes over, but does nothing, turning it over on downs. Finally, with seconds remaining, South Carolina assumes the victory formation.

Final Score, 43-24, DigiCocks.

PLAYER STATS
USC
D. Thompson 24/35, 3 TD, 2 INT, 296 yards, long of 51
M. Davis 16 rushes, 97 yards
B. Ellington 6 receptions, 103 yards
N. Jones 5 receptions, 75 yards, 2 TD
SC D-Line 8 TFL, 5 sacks
J. Legree 3 tackles, 1 INT, 73 INT yards, 1 TD
A. Christian 4 tackles, 2 INT, 19 INT yards
E. Fry 5-6 FG, long of 44 and the 1 miss was BS
UK
Whole team Going to college for free which is great
TEAM STATS
USC UK
Passing Yards 298 296
Rushing Yards 107 72
Total Yards 405 368
3rd Downs 7/14 4/13
Red Zone 4/4 (1 TD, 3 FG) 4/4 (3 TD, 1 FG)
Turnovers 2 INT 3 INT
Time of Poss. 54% 46%

FINAL ANALYSIS

This game was blown open in a single quarter, but South Carolina didn't play all that well otherwise. It's hard to fault a defense that made so many big plays, but when UK quarterbacks weren't throwing picks or getting sacked, they were moving the ball with ease. Meanwhile, the offense wasn't always functional and probably didn't run it as much as we'll see on Saturday, but Dylan Thompson several of the well placed long-yardage throws we've come to expect from him. As was the trend at halftime, this game could have been a lot uglier: five South Carolina drives stalled out in field goal range. That's 20 unclaimed points. In fact, touchdowns accounted for less than half of the team's 43 points. But let's face it: no matter how effective the offense is in Kentucky territory come Saturday, we're not gonna see six field goal attempts.

Just like South Carolina, ODS sits at 4-1 on the season, having only whiffed on last week's game (and for that, we thank it.)

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