Welcome back to Our Digital Season, our season-long feature in which we gaze into EA Sports' crystal ball and observe how the Cocks fare in the digital arena. Two weeks ago, the DigiCocks vanquished Vanderbilt, 36-29. Hey, that wasn't all that different from the IRL final score of 35-25. Let's see how else things did or didn't align:
• Y'all ready for this?: Total yards ODS: 581. Total yards IRL: 579! OH YEAH ODS GETTIN SAGELIKE UP IN THIS PIECE
• Bruuuuuce: ODS predicted a breakout game for Bruce Ellington. DigiBruce caught 7 for 124 and IRL Bruce snagged 8 for 111 and a TD.
• Air Jordan: This was somewhat predictable, but Jordan Matthews put up numbers in both realms (8/155 ODS, 8/106 IRL)—no touchdowns, though.
• Don't Call It A Comeback: IRL, the Gamecocks sprinted out to an enormous early lead that was nearly compromised due to turnovers and ensuing short fields. In ODS, the DigiCocks had to post a big second half for a come from behind win.
• Turnoverload: The ODS squads played clean—zero turnovers between them. IRL, they combined for five.
• Freisman'd: ODS Elliott Fry booted three field goals, but his real life counterpart never had the opportunity.
After four weeks, ODS is still perfect for the season (we totally nailed the bye!) This weeks edition takes us to DigiOrlando where the DigiKnights await.
UCF wins the toss and elects to kick. The opening kickoff goes for a touchback.
On its opening drive, South Carolina manages a lone first down before punting from their own 45. Central Florida answers with an efficient and balanced drive—precisely what we're all fearing in IRL. The defense makes a stop inside the 20, and UCF will settle for a field goal. 3-0, Knights.
On the opening play of South Carolina's second drive, Connor Shaw rips off a 40 yard scramble. Let's go to the tape:
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***ODS IS EXPERIENCING TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES GABA APOLOGIZES***
The Cocks need only five more plays—all of them runs—to reach the endzone. It's Wilds who gets the score, and the DigiCocks take the lead, 7-3.
But UCF answers back, soldiering downfield on the strength of Borltes' arm and the pass protection in front of him. Bortles is able to convert two 3rd and long situations. The quarter ends with UCF inside Carolina's 10.
On the second play of the quarter, Bortles scores on a zone read keeper. 10-7, UCF.
South Carolina looks like it'll respond, pushing into Central Florida territory after a few typically effective Connor Shaw scrambles and short yardage completions. But on 3rd and long, Shaw underthrows a ball down the seam and it's intercepted. UCF responds with a scoring drive that sees them convert another pair of 3rd-and-long situations. The drive ends with a fullback dive into the endzone, and it's 17-7, UCF.
The Cocks get it back, and Shaw starts going to the air in earnest, completing four passes to start the drive. A few plays later, he finds Nick Jones deep:
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Unfortunately, some poor playcalling and/or execution inside the five yard line means the DigiCocks will settle for a field goal. 17-10, UCF with :47 seconds remaining. UCF has all three timeouts and will try to put a drive together.
However, the defense finally manages a three and out—it's UCF's first non-scoring drive of the game. South Carolina gets it back with 23 seconds left. It's enough time for the DigiCocks to get to the 50 yard line, but not every Orlando Hail Mary attempt can work as well as this one, and the half ends on a deep incompletion.
FIRST HALF REVIEW
The name of the game has been SC's inability to stop UCF's pass attack, either via coverage or pressuring Bortles, who is 18/22 with 171 yards. UCF has converted four 3rd down passing situations. Offensively, the Gamecocks have forfeited multiple scoring opportunities, turning the ball over in UCF territory and failing to reach the endzone when inside the UCF 5 yard line. Shaw has 83 yards rushing and 96 passing.
Central Florida continues to move the ball easily, including one infuriating 3rd and 2 when Bortles stood statue-still in the pocket for six seconds before finding an open receiver for a 29 yard gain. (Go ahead and count off six seconds and imagine a quarterback having that much time to stand perfectly still and scan the field.) Anyway, the D-line continues to struggle and the drive is capped by a 2 yard Storm Johnson TD run. 24-10, UCF.
South Carolina finds itself down two scores on the road, but Shaw's looking to keep it interesting. He moves South Carolina into UCF territory before the Knights tighten up, and the Cocks face a 4th and 9 on the UCF 40. SO OF COURSE ELLIOTT FRY WILL TRY THE 57 YARD FIELD GOAL AND OH IT THUDS INTO THE MIDDLE OF THE ENDZONE NO GOOD HOW ABOUT THAT
UCF takes advantage of DigiSpurrier's, uh, atypical decision, turning to the ground game to work the clock and the defense. They make it inside the ten, but the defense bears down and forces the field goal. 27-10, Knights with less than a minute remaining in the third.
The Cocks do nothing on 1st and 2nd down, but finally break through on 3rd via a 61 yard completion to Damiere Byrd that puts the Gamecocks at 1st and goal at the UCF 9, and that's how the third quarter ends:
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South Carolina continues to flounder in scoring situations, but Mike Davis finally finds paydirt on a 4th down run. It's 27-17, UCF.
Then, lo and behold, the defense moves UCF backwards, and the Knights will punt. It's the late-game momentum shift the DigiCocks need. So of course, South Carolina turns it over on downs and the Knights get it back. But the SC defense continues to be stingy and forces a second consecutive punt.
With 4:13 remaining, the Gamecocks will need to make something happen on this drive if they hope to have a chance. So, of course, Connor Shaw throws a gruesome interception to middle linebacker Terrance Plummer (a player to watch out for IRL, by the way.)
Central Florida will turn the interception into its third field goal of the afternoon—that's 10 points off turnovers for UCF. Perhaps more importantly, they bleed all but 30 seconds off the clock. It's 30-17, UCF.
South Carolina gets the ball back and, believe it or not, covers 75 yards in five plays and 22 seconds, punctuated by a 27 yard touchdown reception by Damiere Byrd. It's 30-24, UCF.
But you've probably done the math, and yes, there are 8 ticks remaining. Onside kick + Hail Mary is about the DigiCocks' only hope, and they won't get the front end of that equation.
Final Score, 30-24, UCF. [dodges tomatoes]
|C. Shaw||20/29, 276 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 85 yards rushing|
|M. Davis||14 rushes, 45 yards, 1 TD, 3 receptions, 28 yards|
|D. Byrd||4 receptions, 117 yards, 1 TD|
|K. Marcus||8 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 deflections|
|B. Bortles||29-38, 261 yards|
|S. Johnson||23 rushes, 73 yards, 1 TD|
|J. Worton||6 receptions, 69 yards|
|S. Moffitt||3/3 FG|
|3rd Downs||4/11 (1/2 on 4th)||6/14 (2/2 on 4th)|
|Red Zone||3/3 (2 TD, 1 FG)||6/6 (3 TD, 3 FG)|
|Time of Poss.||43%||57%
South Carolina lost this game for two reasons: its defense's inability to pressure Bortles, and its offense turning the ball over. UCF was able to convert on five 3rd and long situations, extending three separate drives that led to a total of 17 points. And as previously mentioned, the DigiKnights scored 10 points off turnovers. If you're curious, DigiClowney had two tackles and one TFL, which was about on par with his linemates. Ultimately, South Carolina's offense outgained UCF's in every phase, but we see what happens when yards converted into points because of turnovers/stallouts. It was poison for the DigiCocks, and the DigiKnights got their upset.
But hey, at least we know Steve Spurrier would sooner retire than attempt a 57 yard field goal in the third quarter.
Until next week, this is Our Digital Season reminding you that this is an unscientific endeavor and should in no way be viewed as a prediction or portentous in any way!