Hope may spring eternal, but as Gamecocks fans we know it can also be fleeting.
Never was this more evident than with Saturday’s flat first half performance.
Coming off a rousing conference road victory against Vanderbilt, South Carolina looked to build off that momentum in Starkville, taking on a Mississippi State squad that just lost at home to South Alabama.
In hindsight, Gamecock fans may have read into the tea leaves a little too far in regards to both teams’ respective Week 1 games - us feeling a little, dare I say, cocky after the comeback in Nashville while looking down on MSU after being upset.
I detailed my positive takeaways earlier this week, but it seems that much of the Gamecock faithful is deciding to look at a lot of the negative from Week 2.
I’m deciding to take the good with the bad in looking at a couple key talking points from the season thus far:
Last year’s first two contests (win vs. UNC, loss vs. UK) somewhat mirror this year’s - but here’s when I’m going to throw some stats your way.
Though the MSU loss was much more lopsided than 2015’s L vs. UK, the defense has given up 727 total yards of offense in 2016. That’s a 100+ yard improvement of a 2015 Week 2 total of 839.
My garnet glasses might lie, but the stats don’t lie: 364 ypg surrendered thus far in 2016 vs. 419 through the first two weeks in 2015. Missed tackles aside, I still feel really good about the D.
The offensive line, long thought to be a strength of this team, has been the topic of much conversation this past week - with many fans pointing to the lack of protection as the reason for Saturday’s stagnant offense.
All of the circumstances (opening on the road, freshmen at many skills positions, against two nasty conference defenses) aren’t doing the OL any favors, but I’m going to recommend all fans hold out judgement on this group - especially if this man is under center on Saturday...
Aside from a questionable fumble (I’m still shocked it didn’t get a closer look in the review booth), the true freshman QB has given the offense a noticeable spark whenever he’s taken the field.
A monster pass rush, especially in the case of Mississippi State, is made a tad less threatening when a mobile quarterback like McIlwain is under center.
His two touchdown drives, combined with spreading the ball around to numerous receivers vs. MSU, make the former Elite 11 QB an intriguing candidate to start against ECU.
Should the Gamecocks have been considered world-beaters after getting out of Nashville with a comeback win? No. Is all hope lost following a 13-point road loss to a conference foe? Definitely not.
Realistically, there’s still a lot we don’t know about this team. How will they play at home? How will the offense look with McIlwain starting? We might get some answers Saturday, but it will be hard to get a real read on this team until Week 4 or 5.
Taking into account the good and bad we’ve seen thus far, give me the Gamecocks in another close (and potentially ugly) one, 17-13.