Welcome back to Our Digital Season, wherein we simulate South Carolina's game each week in an attempt to determine how it's all gonna down. Is it unscientific? You know it. Is it riddled with infuriating A.I. glitches? Yes sir. Did it accurately predict South Carolina's double overtime victory last year? ALSO YES. Efforts validated for the next three centuries, we soldier on.
Would you believe this is now the third season we've done this little feature? While this isn't meant to offer you any sort of value from an analytical standpoint, it's always been a fun and at times eerily clairvoyant exercise.
"But Jorge, I thought EA Sports didn't make a college football game this season," you might be speaking aloud at your computer, you weirdo you. This is true, there's no NCAA 2015 proper, but the nerd heroes over at Operation Sports took it upon themselves to create update rosters for all teams. I have a few issues—Jerell Adams is severely underrated, for example—but overall I thought whoever created South Carolina's roster did a decent job. A tip o' the visor to you, sir.
Here's how we do it: I simulate the game with both teams playing at Heisman difficulty. I use eight minute quarters, which, due to the frenetic paced at which the game's A.I. plays, I find to yield a realistic number of plays and drives. And by the way, I watch each play unfold. I don't just simulate from afar. I mean, what kind of documentarist would I be? Speaking of what kind of documentarist I am, I'm scrapping videos this year unless y'all really want to see them. I figure 6 seconds of shaky Vine footage may not be worth my time. I looked into recording the games and grabbing highlights but that turned out to be a huge pain in the ass. So unless someone knows a quick way to get highlights from my PS3 to my iMac, I'll rely on the written word to convey game action.
Without further ado, let's get into game one!
Week 1: Texas A&M at South Carolina
It's a beautiful evening here in DigiColumbia as the DigiAggies and DigiCocks are set to kick off the 2014 Digital Season! Carolina wins the toss and will receive.
FIRST QUARTER, or, WELL THIS STARTED OUT WELL
After a touchback, South Carolina will go to work. The opening play of the season is a handoff to Davis out of the I, which he promptly takes for 12 yards. Dylan Thompson follows that with a 13 yard completion to Nick Jones. Three plays later, Thompson finds Busta Anderson, whose digi-triceps don't seem to be hindering his performance, for back to back seven yard receptions. On 1st and 10 at the TAMU 15, Thompson finds Drew Owens on the sideline, who turns upfield, stiffarms a defender, and rumbles over a second Aggie tackler into the endzone! CLASSIC DREW OWENS, RIGHT?
On A&M's opening, Kenny Hill breaks off a 29 yard run on a zone read keeper. But they'd gain just two yards on the next three plays, and are forced to punt. Touchback.
South Carolina takes over again at its own 20. After a nine yard Davis run, DigiDylan finds Busta down the seam for 26 yards. The Cocks continue downfield, converting a pair of third downs and moving deep into into A&M territory. Knocking on the door on 2nd and goal, Dylan stuffs the rock into Connor McLaurin's gut, and the fullback plows ahead for the score. CLASSIC CONNOR MCLAURIN, RIGHT?
Texas A&M's second drive begins much like its first, with Kenny Hill knifing for big yardage on a zone read keeper. This one gains 13. Five consecutive run plays yield a pair of first downs-this included two more Kenny Hill scrambles, and he now has 61 yards in the first quarter alone. But the fun stops for A&M when JT Surratt finds his way to the quarterback and logs a thunderous sack. Hill scrambles for 8 yards on 2nd down, which brings up 3rd and 7. Pass over the middle-batted down by Kadetrix Marcus! It's 4th and 7, and A&M will call on the field goal unit. The kick is up-and good.
14-3, DigiCocks. Three seconds remain in the first quarter, which expires on the ensuing kickoff-which Pharoh Cooper only takes out to the Gamecocks 16 yard line.
SECOND QUARTER, or, A LATE BUMBLE
The South Carolina offense is living up its billing, specifically Dylan Thompson, who looks comfortable in the pocket or maybe that's just the lifeless facial expression all these digital players carry. Either way, he finds Nick Jones on a post route for 16. Two plays later, Thompson runs thrice consecutively, all zone read keepers.
On 1st and 10 from the TAMU 45, Dylan does something unnerving. Remember last season when DigiConnor Shaw had a bad habit of throwing no look bubble screens that were often intercepted and returned for touchdowns? Like, the ball would be snapped and he'd get rid of it as fast as humanly possible, even if the screen was blown up? It's some kind of lapse in the game's A.I. Anyway, Dylan does just that-thankfully the ball falls incomplete. But it's foreboding to say the least. Will this yip eventually cost the DigiCocks as the game and season wears on? My guess is "definitely."
Anyway, after that incompletion and a short gain, it's 3rd and 8. But the Dylan to Busta connection is true, and it's a 22 yard gain up the middle. Two plays later it's 3rd and inches on the A&M 11. Dylan hands off to Davis—no, he keeps it! And Dylan's got room—he will score!
21-3, DigiCocks with just under five minutes remaining in the half.
DigiA&M needs to keep pace, but after a touchback its quickly 3rd and 3. But Kenny Hill's keeping drives alive with his feet, scrambling for the first down. But on the next play, Gerald Dixon drags Hill down for a sack. After a short gain, it's 3rd and 11. The DigiCocks blitz—it's picked up by the beastly A&M O-line, and Hill lets one fly. And Seals-Jones is there, dragged down just shy of the endzone. It's a 60 yard gain on 3rd and 11. On the next play, a bootleg to Tra Carson yields A&M's first touchdown of the digiseason.
21-10, DigiCocks. Three minutes remain in the half.
South Carolina's offense isn't discouraged by the defensive lapse, moving downfield with ease. Thompson completes passes to six different receivers en route to a 1st and goal from the two yard line. But what follows is a strange playcalling sequence: Dylan drops back on first and is nearly picked. A give to McLaurin is stuffed. And on third down, another pass is called, and this time it's picked by De'Vante "I will not play in this game IRL" Harris.
A&M does nothing with it in the remaining 30 seconds, but those points unscored loom large as the teams head to the digilocker rooms.
FIRST HALF REVIEW
The Gamecocks own a 21-10 lead. South Carolina's offense has had little trouble moving the ball, scoring on three of its four drives. A poor series of playcalls and a bad pass leave points on the field, but Thompson is still a staggering 16-21 for 212 yards with two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing.) Mike Davis has 47 yards on the ground, and Thompson has 40.
For A&M, Kenny Hill's been servicable-most of his 75 yards passing came on the Seals-Jones bomb. But he's got 66 yards scrambling, and that includes yards lost on three sacks.
A&M gets the ball out of the half.
THIRD QUARTER, or, THINGS ARE COMIN' UP AGGIE
After a touchback, the quarter almost begins with disaster for A&M when DigiKadetrix Marcus steps in front of a pass. He drops the pick, but it's 2nd and 10. A short gain on 2nd yields 3rd and long-which Kenny Hill promptly converts via a 30 yard completion to Seals-Jones. After a five yard gain on first, Darius English gets to Kenny Hill-the fourth sack of the game for the defense!-and it brings up 3rd and 14. But again, the Aggies convert on 3rd and long. This time, it's a go route to Sabian Holmes, who dusts the coverage and is home free.
21-17, Gamecocks. A&M has scored 14 unanswered.
The Cocks need an answer. They'll not get one, punting after losing a yard. A&M will have a shot at the lead. We jump to 3rd and 4, which yields one of the weirder plays in ODS history. Kenny Hill drops back to pass, sees nothing, and scrambles. After a few yards he's gang tackled at the 45 yard line—and the ball is loose! But it squirts out of the scrum in the direction of the end zone, and also right in the path of Aggie receiver Josh Reynolds. He scoops the ball and enjoys a leisurely jog to the promised land. It goes down as a 52 yard touchdown run for Reynolds. DigiSpurrier launches his visor, which explodes into a jillion pixels
The DigiCocks can't stands no more, and the offense comes out swingin'. The drive is reminiscent of the 2013 Gamecocks, mostly comprised of mid-yardage passes and zone reads. It's a 75 yard drive that culminates with a short Mike Davis touchdown run, and the digiCocks retake the lead.
The Aggies respond with a healthy drive of their own, one that doesn't see a third down until the ball's in the red zone. Seals-Jones is now up over 100 yards receiving, by the way. On 3rd and 4 at the 19 yard line, digiWammy calls a blitz and Kenny Hill has to throw it away. The Aggies will settle for a field goal.
28-27, Gamecocks. 1:08 left in the 3rd quarter.
After a no gain on 1st and a gobbled-up screen on 2nd, it's 3rd and 11. Dylan takes the snap. He's got time, and finds digiBusta down the sideline for a 29 yard gain. The third quartly ends thusly.
FOURTH QUARTER, or, LATE DRAMATICS
The digiCocks are driving, gaining a pair of first downs and needing just inches to make it 1st and goal. The give is to Davis, who's met at the line but falls foward for the first down. It's 1st and goal at the 7 yard line. Two plays later, it's Brandon Wilds who bangs his way in for the score. After losing the lead, a 14-3 run has given the digiCocks some breathing room.
35-27 Gamecocks. 5:49 remains.
The digiAgs begin the drive at their own 25 yard line. After two runs gain a total of six yards, Kenny Hill gives it to Carson on a zone read. Larenz Bryant comes flying across the line and lays the wood on Carson, who promptly coughs the ball up. JT Surratt falls on it, and the Gamecocks are in business, taking over at the Aggie 26.
It only takes five plays for the digiCocks to capitalize. After a quick first down, a Brandon Wilds draw gains big yardage and puts the ball on the one yard line. On the next play Dylan Thompson finds Nick Jones on a quick slant. Touchdown, Gamecocks.
42-27 Gamecocks, 3:31 remaining. It's a two score game, but A&M can score quickly and has all three time outs.
A&M begins the drive at its own 21, and picks up a first down on each of its first two plays-both Kenny Hill scrambles. He tries it again, but not this time-JT Surratt, who's having a damn game, bowls him over for his third sack. But after a successful screen pass gains ten, we jump ahead to 4th and 1. Hill keeps it, and gains seven. The chains move. Hill to Kennedy for five. Clock is ticking. Consecutive incompletions, and it's another 4th down situation. On the South Carolina 30 yard line and down 15, they must go for it. Hill takes the snap, shakes off two would-be tacklers but feels the heat from a third, lobbing up a prayer that bounces harmlessly across the turf. Turnover on downs.
The DigiCocks have it with 1:30 left. A&M still has all its timeouts, which they use on 1st and 2nd down after minimal gains. It's 3rd and 5, and digiSpurrier gets cute with the playcall. Davis runs the wheel route, and Dylan has him-but it's dropped. Carolina has to punt with 1:22 remaining. A&M still has a timeout.
A&M has to work quickly, and they do, immediately completing a 34 yard pass down the sideline. Then 29 more on the next play-both passes complete to Reynolds. It's 1st and goal on the 7. Pass to Kennedy is complete, but short of the end zone and the clock runs. Hill tries to scramble in on 2nd, but is tackled for a loss. Finally, on 3rd down, Hill hits Seals-Jones for a touchdown. They'll elect to go for two and make it a seven point game. Carson runs it in without much effort.
42-35, Gamecocks. :31 seconds remain.
A&M's last hope is an onside kick. Unfortunately for them, it's not a very good one, and Brandon Wilds fields it without any pressure. Carolina will kneel it out for the win.
The DigiCocks win, 42-35.
[Jorge accidentally deleted the stats and only just now realized it. :( ]
The game played out in relatively believable fashion, with offense coming in droves and South Carolina faring slightly better on defense up front (SC sacked Hill six times, A&M went sackless) while struggling a bit containing Hill and the big receivers. But Dylan Thompson spread the love, connecting with nine different receivers (I think. I deleted the stats, remember.) All this is to say, you should go ahead and put a shitload of money on the above score 'cuz it'll probably happen. I mean, it worked out for Harold.