ODS hates to say it told you so...
Actually? No. It absolutely revels that sort of thing. If I've learned anything about this series after nearly two seasons, it's that it can be cruel and vindictive. I empathize with Dr. Frankenstein, the Promethean figure who sought to explore new scientific frontiers only for his creation to wreak havoc on the unsuspecting masses. (At least I think that's how that book went. It's been a while.)
Regardless, ODS did in fact predict a Tennessee victory last week over a mistake-prone South Carolina squad. Let's look at WHA HAPPEN.
Gee, Great: ODS predicted we would outgain Tennessee by 55 yards. IRL, we outgained them by 59 yards.
Posting Losses: The IRL Gamecock defense joined its digital counterpart in assaulting Volunteers behind the line of scrimmage (12 TFL ODS, 14 IRL)
Aaaaaaaand: We lost.
Christian Mangle: DigiAhmad Christian picked off two passes. IRL Ahmad couldn't do enough to disrupt the final deep ball, the completion of which ultimately set up the game-winning field goal.
Missed The Marcus: In ODS, we highlighted a big hit by Kadetrix Marcus. IRL, he was ejected for what appeared to be a relatively unremarkable hit.
At Least There's This: While his interceptionless streak ended, IRL Shaw didn't throw three hideous pick sixes.
The Cheetoh dust has settled, and ODS has pulled even with the IRL Cocks. Both are 5-2 in predictions/performance, respectively. Incidentally, ODS has now called for the Cocks to drop four games this season. Will it predict a fifth against Missouri, as many have? To find out, we surge west to Columbia, Missouri where the DigiCocks face the DigiTigersThatAren'tClemsonOrLSU in a week 9 matchup. IRL, the game has serious SEC East implications and the Gamecocks need a win to maintain the hope of capturing the division.
HouseKEEPING: Dylan Thompson is your ODS starter (even though I was burned on that one last time.) Still holding Cody Waldrop out. Ronald Patrick and Chaz Elder are back. I played Kelcy Quarles, who appears to be a go for this weekend. I followed Missouri's official depth chart for the SC game, so all should be square on their side.
A note, before we start: Folks, I've been playing sports video games for more than 20 years, and what follows is one of the most exciting sports gaming experiences I've had, be it as a participant or spectator. <----is aware of how pathetically nerdy that sounds Anyway, I hope it translates, because, man, was it fun to watch and would have made for a brilliant game IRL.
Missouri wins the toss and will kick it away.
On the first lay of the game, Dylan Thompson is sacked for a loss of 7 yards. But he regroups, finding Bruce Ellington for 16.9 yards on the next play. On 3rd and inches, Dylan hits DigiBusta for 12. DigiSpurrier heard your complaints about not running enough last week IRL and is trolling you outright. In fact, Dylan passes on 9 out of 11 opening drive plays, including this 5 yard touchdown strike to DigiBruuuuuuce in the back of the endzone:
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It's 7-0, USC.
But Missouri responds. Matty Mauk runs all over the frickin' place, racking up more than 50 rush yards on the opening drive. Is he even a running quarterback? DigiMauk sure is, and his scrambly prowess sets up an easy 1-yard touchdown run for Henry Josey.
South Carolina drives to midfield, but a sack derails the drive and Hull is on to punt. Touchback. Missouri gets a quick first down, then another. But on 1st and 10, Mauk is pressured and heaves a ball towards the sideline—and it's intercepted by Jimmy Legree.
South Carolina starts at its own 38, and surges across midfield as the quarter ends.
Pass to Byrd for 10, pass to Ellington for 8. Flash ahead to 1/G at the Missouri 1 yard line. It's a fullback handoff to McLaurin, and he's in for the score. Not a player who gets touches often/ever IRL, but he's a factor today. USC capitalizes on the turnover, and it's 14-7.
The defense then forces a 3 and out. Things are humming for South Carolina, when—oh, c'mon. Dylan pulls a "DigiConnor Against UT" and lobs a floater on a bubble screen. Picked off, returned for a touchdown. 14-14.
Thankfully, Thompson shakes off his error and completes consecutive passes of 6, 19, 17, and 16 yards. Five running plays follow, the last of which is a zone read give to Shon Carson, who plows ahead for the score. It's a laudable response by Thompson and the Gamecock offense, and it's 21-14.
Missouri takes over. On an early 3rd and 2, Mauk scrambles for 24 yards. Put a man on him! Jump ahead to 3rd and 3, and Mauk again scrambles ahead for the first, but he goes down hard. The "SRS INJURY" letterboxed cutscene engages, which mean Mauk's hurt badly. Indeed, it's a torn pectoral and he's out for 8 weeks. With James Franklin gone, that can only mean one thing:
ERMAGERD CERBIN BERKSTRERSSER!
Indeed, third stringer Corbin Berkstresser is on for Missouri. And, NBD, he needs four plays to get the Tigers to paydirt. Touchdown pass to L'Damian Washington, and it's 21 all.
South Carolina has 1:44 and three timeouts with which to operate. Dylan's spreading the ball out to the likes of Jones, Byrd and Roland, moving Carolina across midfield and sniffing the redzone. But two incompletions and one short gain mean it's 4th and 8. Fry on for the 43 yarder, and it's good. 24-21, SC.
Missouri gets it back with 46 seconds and three timeouts. On the opening play of the drive, Berkstresser finds Marcus Lucas for a 46 yard bomb, putting the Tigers squarely in striking range. The DigiCocks allow little more, and Missouri knots it up with a field goal. It's 24 all, and that does it for the first half.
FIRST HALF REVIEW
Missouri suffers a blow in the second quarter when it loses Matty Mauk for the game. He'd already run for 104 yards at the time of his injury [ed: this wouldn't happen, right?] Berkstresser hasn't run as well in relief, but he's nearly doubled Mauk's passing total. Meanwhile, DigiSpurrier is going to throw the ball whether you like it or not, Sally. Thompson's 22-30 with 254 yards, 1 TD and the ugly pick six. Mike Davis has 36 yards on just 8 attempts. Five DigiCock receivers have more than 30 yards. Statistically, Carolina has about 60 more yards of offense, anadvantage largely offset by the interception. But South Carolina turned an interception into points as well, and that equilibrium is represented by our score at the half: 24-24.
Missouri comes out of the gates strong, as Marcus Murphy nearly takes one to the house. TJ Gurley makes a TD saving tackle at the 35. Berkstresser leads the Tigers downfield and into the redzone. But a beautifully defended pass on 3rd and 5 will bring on the field goal unit. That was Berkstresser's first incompletion in ten passes, by the way. Kick is up and good, and Missouri has its first lead, 27-24.
South Carolina's opening 2nd half drive results in its first three and out of the game. Punt. Mizzou takes over, and crosses midfield before arriving at a 3rd and 4 at the South Carolina 41. This happens:
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The timely Darius English sack makes it 4th and 10. DigiPinkel (surely a top five Digi- name) calls for the 58 yard field goal. NCAA 2014's field goal AI strikes again—sorry Missouri—and it's no good.
South Carolina gets it near midfield. Passes to Byrd and Jones move the ball inside the 15, but Carolina will get no further. A 30 yard Elliott Fry field goal ties it up, 27-27.
Missouri's next drive begins with a wheel route to Josey that gains 36. But South Carolina forces two incompletions, and it's 3rd and 10. What follows is a baffling coverage breakdown on an obvious passing play. Lucas is wide open down the sideline, and Berkstresser nails him. 41 yard touchdown strike, and it's 34-27, Tigers.
South Carolina's ensuing drive starts poorly: a one yard loss is followed by a clipping penalty on a would-be first down. 2nd and 17. Pass nearly intercepted, and it's 3rd and 17. But on 3rd down, Thompson finds Roland on a 16 yard crossing route—and he plunges ahead after the catch for the first down. On the next play, Dylan has all day, and eventually finds Roland ahead of three defenders for a 38 yard gain.
So ends the 3rd quarter. Strap in, folks.
The ball is at the Missouri 31. After an 8 yard completion to Busta Anderson, Dylan keeps it on a zone read and gains 16. First and goal. Let's jump ahead to 4th and goal at the one yard line. I-formation, and they'll give it to McLaurin for a fullback dive.
Stuffed. Turnover on downs.
Missouri starts on its own one yard line. Three conservative running plays yield seven yards, and Missouri will punt from the back of its endzone. Cooper fields the punt at the 50 and knifes ahead for 12. After a loss on first down, a screen to Davis gains 12. Then Carson runs for 10. Jump ahead to another 4th and 1, this one at the Missouri 8 yard line. Again, I-formation. It's a pitch—GULP! Pitches never work on this game! Except this time. Carson gains 5. First and goal, and Mike Davis runs it in for a touchdown:
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Tied at 34.
Missouri gets the ball back, and this happens on first down:
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TJ Holloman is never touched. The sack leads to a three and out, and Cooper posts his second consecutive quality return, this time 16 yards to the Missouri 40.
Carolina now has the ball with 2:49 remaining. All timeouts are still on the board.
Dylan hits Busta on first down for 13 yards. The game dictates that the DigiCocks are not in clock burning mode. Dylan hits Roland for 6, then Carson for 5. Shon gets knocked out of the game, meaning Jamari Smith steps in as the new second string back. The good news: Carolina is now in clock burning mode. Inside the Missouri 10, Mike Davis scoots in for his second touchdown in as many drives:
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The good news: it's 41-34, Carolina. The bad news: they might have scored too quickly. Missouri has 45 seconds and 3 timeouts to score.
After a touchback, Berkstresser's first and second passes are incomplete. On 3rd and 10, with :37 remaining, Carolina brings a blitz—but Berkstresser gets rid of it and completes a pass to Washington for 23 yards. Timeout, Mizzou. Another 15 yard completion follow. Timeout. First and 10 at the Carolina 36 with :26 remaining. Pass is dropped. 2nd and 10. Berkstresser unloads, but the pass is nearly intercepted.
It's now 3rd and 10 with :17 remaining. And again, a mindblowing coverage breakdown means L'Damian Washington is open in the endzone. Touchdown, Missouri. 41-41.
South Carolina gets it back with :08 and two timeouts remaining. A long pass/field goal sequence is conceivable, and indeed, Dylan will throw. But he's pressured—and instead of taking the sack, he throws off his back foot and across his body into coverage. INTERCEPTED AT THE 39 WITH ONE SECOND LEFT.
Missouri's got huge receivers who are salivating at the chance to snag a Hail Mary—but instead, they'll attempt the field goal. The kick is up...
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...and it falls short.
WE GOIN' OVERTIME, Y'ALL. Missouri wins the toss—they'll play defense first.
Carolina starts at the Missouri 25.
First down is handoff to Davis, which loses a yard. A zone read keeper follows, and Thompson gains 5. It's 3rd and 6. Watch this freaking video:
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DYLAN FOOTBALL. Let's review what happened in the clip: Thompson takes the snap, has plenty of time—but Ronald Patrick is forced backwards, and Thompson tumbles over him. But wait! Thompson gets a hand down, and springs back up. He plants and fires—NICK JONES IS THERE! Touchdown, Carolina. 48-41
Missouri must score a touchdown to keep its hopes alive. First down is a pass to Josey for 9. A handoff goes nowhere, and a speed option on 3rd down is swallowed up for a 4 yard loss. Josey is hurt, to boot.
So it's 4th and 5, and Missouri must go for it—but leave it to today's DigiCock secondary to let the former #1 overall recruit wander beyond coverage. Berkstresser connects with Dorial Green-Beckham, who was 15 yards removed from the nearest DB. Touchdown, and we're tied 48-48.
Missouri starts on the South Carolina 25. The pass on first down hits Vic Hampton in the hands and thuds to the earth. Blast! It would have been a pick six, in all likelihood. Handoff to Murphy on 2nd gains 4. Third down, and Berkstresser is pressured—he throws it away! Missouri will settle for a 38 yard field goal. Up and good. 51-48, Missouri.
South Carolina can win it with a touchdown. On first down, a halfback draw to Jamari Smith gains 9. That's followed by a 3 yard dive—first down at the Missouri 13.
You'll be familiar with the opening line here: Dylan takes the snap, and turns and fires to the sideline without doing important things like dropping back or looking first. Let's see what happens:
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Touchdown—and victory—Gamecocks, 54-51.
|D. Thompson||38-48, 424 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, 7 rushes, 25 yards|
|M. Davis||18 rushes, 62 yards, 2 TD|
|B. Ellington||5 receptions, 50 yards, 1 TD, 1 rush, 13 yards, 1 TD|
|Jones/Roland/Byrd/Anderson||28 receptions, 346 yards, 1 TD|
|J.T. Surratt||3 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 sacks|
|C. Berkstresser||20-28, 319 yards, 4 TD|
|M. Mauk||5-10, 41 yards, 9 rushes, 104 yards|
|L. Washington||9 receptions, 107 yards, 2 TD|
|Red Zone||7/8 (6 TD, 1 FG)||5/5 (3 TD, 2 FG)|
|Turnovers||2 INT||1 INT|
|Time of Poss.||62%||38%
What that final video's angle doesn't really highlight is just how close that DB was to intercepting Thompson's throw. Instead, Bruce made the snag and was able to streak into the endzone thanks to a Ronald Patrick block. By the way, he was credited with a rushing touchdown since, technically, Dylan's pass went backwards by a degree or two. Go figure.
This game was about as entertaining as a digitally simulated sporting event can be. The sheer number of late plot twists made for some incredibly tense sequences. The most compelling thing about the game's trajectory is just how close it was throughout. No team ever had more than a one score lead. It was tied after the one quarter, two quarters, four quarters, and the first overtime. But the South Carolina defense—secondary notwithstanding—eventually gave its offense the opportunity to win.
Offense was the story in this game, with Berkstresser throwing for 319 yards and 4 touchdowns in relief of Mauk, injured in the first quarter. Dylan Thompson was once again the road hero, posting a gaudy line of 38-48, 424 yards and 2 touchdowns. Granted, his two interceptions cost the team 7 points and almost the game, respectively. But Thompson's arm also kept them competitive, and the result was a huge road win. If the IRL contest is half this entertaining, we're all in for a treat .
See you next week for the Mississippi State preview. Until then: Go Cocks!