Welcome back to Our Digital Season, our weekly digital simulation of South Carolina's upcoming game. Last week, both the DigiCocks and IRL Cocks vanquished the UNC Tarheels. Let's see how the simulation stacked up to the real thing:
• Final score ODS: 26-15. Final Score IRL: 27-10.
• Connor Shaw stats. ODS: 20-24, 164 yards, 16 rushes, 53 yards; Connor Shaw IRL: 11/20, 149 yards, 1 TD, 12 rushes, 43 yards.
• USC passing yards: ODS: 175. IRL: 178
• UNC passing yards: ODS: 331; IRL: 194
• Clowney: ODS: 5 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 sack, NOT ALL THAT GASSED; IRL: 3 tackles, 0 TFL, 3 QB hurries, PRETTY GASSED
• USC Secondary: ODS: 3 INTs; IRL: 0 INTs
Props, NCAA 2014. After a decent week 1 projection, let's find out what the game's calling for in Athens. First, a few housekeeping items:
—Edited Ronnie Martin into Jamari Smith. At this point it looks more likely that we'll see the latter.
—Edited Mike Matulis into Mason Zandi. Matoozles is likely headed for a redshirt year.
—Despite his heroics I still have yet to create Kane Whitehurst, seeing as there are so many viable receiving candidates ahead of him. If IRL Kane continues to contribute, I'll reevaluate.
—Removed Malcolm Mitchell from every phase of the game.
—I left Georgia's suspended kicker in, as there exists no backup the game and creating one didn't seem like a worthwhile endeavor. Just assume that the backup kicker is in, okay?
Onward! Georgia wins the toss, and will kick.
On the third play of the game, Connor Shaw tries to hit Shaq Roland on a fly route and is intercepted by former USC commit Brandon Langley. He returns it to the USC 26. Georgia goes 3 and out, and kicks a 50 yard field goal. I'm now regretting not creating a 2nd string kicker. 3-0, UGA.
Carolina responds, stringing together a 12 play drive that covers 76 yards. Shaw goes 6-6, connecting with 5 different receivers including a short touchdown pass to Bruce Ellington.
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7-3, Carolina. 4:40 remains in the first quarter.
Back on defense, Carolina sends a seven-man blitz on 2nd and 7 at its own 35, but Murray reads it and hits tight end Arthur Lynch, who streaks for a 58 yard touchdown. 10-7, Georgia.
Yet again, South Carolina puts together a long drive that only reaches 3rd down once. The final play is a 12 yard touchdown scramble by Brandon Wilds:
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The ensuing drive begins thusly:
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That ends the quarter.
Still, Georgia drives, sustaining another Clowney sack along the way. They surge into South Carolina territory, mostly thanks to a 61 yard completion to Michael Bennett. They stall out at the South Carolina 10 and settle for the field goal. 14-13, USC.
South Carolina continues to stitch long drives together out of relatively short gains. Their fourth drive is 13 plays, and ends with another Brandon Wilds touchdown run. 21-13, USC. 4:39 remains in the half.
Not much else happens. Georgia gains a pair of first downs, but ultimately punts. South Carolina responds with its own three and out. Georgia's final drive is cantankerous but functional. But at midfield, Murray is sacked on consecutive plays (by Quarles and Sutton, respectively), and is forced to launch a Hail Mary as time expires, to no avail. They trail by 8 going into the half.
Georgia looks good on its first drive, but stall out in South Carolina territory. Another booming field goal—this one from 47 yards—splits the uprights, and it's 21-16, South Carolina.
South Carolina begins its ensuing drive at the 12 yard line after a clipping penalty. DigiShaw continues to rely on drag routes and scrambles, moving the team into UGA territory. But an eventual 4th and 7 at the UGA 41 yard line suggests Spurrier will punt or, should bravado take hold, go for it. No, wait. It's a 58 yard field goal attempt. Elliott Fry's kick falls short, and Georgia takes over at the 41. The Spurrier I know isn't going for any 58 yard field goals, EA Sports, but I'll hear you out. I owe you that much.
Georgia works quickly, gaining all 59 yards through the air. The scoring play is a 15 yard bootleg to Lynch for his second touchdown catch of the day. UGA attempts the two point conversion—they get it. 24-21, UGA.
South Carolina punts, and Georgia has an opportunity to stretch the lead. But on 3rd and 8, Jimmy Legree intercepts Murray and returns it all the way to the UGA 25.
Two plays later, Shaw connects with Byrd on a fly route:
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It's 28-24, USC. 8:00 remain in the game.
Georgia manages a pair of first downs. Then, after a pass is completed to R. Wooten, Brison Williams jars the ball loose and Kaiwan Lewis falls on it.
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Connor Shaw puts together another pretty drive, including several scrambles. He tops out at 115 yards rushing before he's knocked out of the game on a scramble that gains no yards. Dylan Thompson is in, and on his first play, he scrambles for a score.
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35-24, USC. 5:32 remains.
UGA puts together an impressive drive that sees Aaron Murray slice and dice the young Carolina linebacking corps, connecting with Bennett and crew, steadily moving the chains. The Gamecocks only force one third down (and one fourth down, which was converted) and Murray caps the drive with his third touchdown pass to Arthur Lynch on the afternoon. They'll go for 2, but Todd Gurley drops a pass and the score is 35-30 with just under 3:00 remaining.
A crummy kickoff return means USC will start at its own 17. But hey, at least it's clock milkin' time. Pound the rock! Three yards and a cloud! Let's put this thing away!
The DigiCocks proceed to pass on three consecutive plays. All incomplete. Punt. It was a playcalling sequence reminiscent of LSU in last year's Chick-fil-a Bowl.
At any rate, UGA will start with immaculate field position, 2:30 on the clock, and three timeouts. USC immediately forces a 3rd down, but Murray connects with Conley for a 13 yard gain. Five yard gain on first. On second down, Ahmad Christian watches a giftwrapped interception bounce off his hands. On third down, a screen pass to Gurley is gobbled up. Four yard loss, and it's 4th and 9. Georgia, on the USC 30, has to go for it.
Murray takes the snap, and connects with Conley for a 30 yard touchdown. Woof, indeed. Two point conversion is no good, so it's 36-35, UGA with 59 seconds remaining.
Worry not, fans! This is a workable situation. I'm actually excited watching the simulation play out, knowing this good come down to a last second field goal. After all, Carolina has three timeouts and one Elliott FREISMAN lurking on the sideline.
The kickoff is taken for a touchback. Dylan Thompson is still in. He throws the first down pass away, but then connects with Shaq Roland for a gain of 11. First down on the UGA 36. Incomplete. Second down. Incomplete. THIRD DOWN. Connects with Damiere Byrd for 9.5 yards.
IT'S FOURTH AND INCHES WITH 31 SECONDS LEFT. Call timeout!
We're not calling timeout. That's OK—quick lunge up the middle for the first, right? Then call a timeout, right?
Right? (5 seconds elapse.)
Dylan? (5 seconds elapse.)
SNAP IT DYLAN! (5 seconds elapse.)
SNAP IT DYLAN! (5 seconds elapse.)
DYLAN! SNAP IT! (5 seconds elapse.)
Alas, some sort of algorithmic glitch has taken over. The Gamecocks let the clock bleed nearly to expiration, snapping it with a second left. Thompson hits Byrd over the middle for 10 yards. This puts Byrd over 100 yards for the day. That's good. It also ends the game. That's bad.
Final score, 36-35 UGA.
|Shaw||31-38, 252 yards, 2 TD; 137 yards rushing|
|Davis/Wilds||10 rushes, 11 yards, 2 TD|
|Byrd||11 receptions, 104, 1 TD|
|Clowney||8 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 sacks|
|Legree||4 tackles, 1 INT|
|Murray||40-48, 447 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT|
|Gurshall||17 rushes, 39 yards|
|Lynch||10 receptions, 169 yards, 3 TD|
|Bennett||9 receptions, 146 yards|
|Red Zone||4-4 (4 TD)||3-3 (2 TD, 1 FG)|
|Time of Poss.||55%||45%|
There's no gentle way to put this: you've let me down, EA Sports NCAA 2014. There were three crucial oddities that steered the game into the realm of fantastical: the 58 yard field goal attempt, the three pass plays on USC's second to last drive, and—the most egregious—Dylan Thompson's inexplicable 30 second clockbleed.
But looking past these lapses in realism, there are some points of intrigue. We see two teams known to varying to degrees for their tandem of backs, yet the Davis/Wilds/Gurley/Marshall quartet combined for just 50 yards (perhaps this should be lumped in with the oddities.) Lucky for the DigiDawgs, Aaron Murray had no trouble slicing and dicing the Gamecocks' pass defense, a portentous performance that the IRL Cocks would do well to avoid. The best news here is that UGA's O-line wasn't always sturdy on Saturday night in Clemson, and a similar performance could mean a painful couple of hours for Murray.
Overall, a weird week on the digital landscape. Let's hope IRL Spurrier eats his Wheaties on Saturday morning, lest he call for a 58 yard field goal or somethin'.