For a pivotal SEC matchup against Missouri that Gamecock fans were looking forward to all week, the result was kind of a letdown.
The final score of 31-28 may give off the vibe that it was a close, competitive game, but without two key turnovers by the Tigers in the fourth quarter, this thing could have gotten ugly. Let’s not forget that it was already a three-possession game with Missouri approaching the red zone before Mookie Cooper coughed it up, giving the Gamecocks some life.
All in all, I think the fans will probably agree with me in saying that last Saturday was a bit of a failure. Despite that, it did teach me a few things about this team.
First, the Cocks are (in my opinion) a competent offensive line and run defense away from being competitive. Prior to last week, the fewest rushing yards Missouri allowed all year was 168 in a loss to Georgia... and South Carolina managed to rack up only 57. Additionally, Jason Brown was hurried seven times on top of being sacked three times.
Like if a team like Southeast Missouri State gave the Tigers more issues on the ground than South Carolina, that is a major cause of concern.
Also, the Cocks may have made Tyler Badie — the leading rusher in the SEC — look like a Heisman candidate out there, but the truth is that he has not rushed for more than 68 yards against a conference opponent not named Vanderbilt before this game. Run defense was already a weakness for USC, but Badie’s performance was hopefully a wakeup call for the coaching staff to give it a bit more emphasis in the future.
Next, I learned the Cocks are a completely different squad home vs. away. I don’t quite know why, but it has crossed the line from being a coincidence into a trend.
At Williams-Brice Stadium, South Carolina has one loss, and it was a respectable six-point L against Kentucky.
On the road, the Gamecocks are losing by an average of 17.6 points and have covered the spread only one time.
Thankfully, USC is done traveling before the postseason (if they end up qualifying), but it is an issue that needs to be cleaned up by then.
You will find out the last thing I learned in my honorable mentions.
Those were my thoughts on the game, now on to the game balls!
Offensive Game Ball: ZaQuandre White
Apparently he was the only running back on the team that got the memo about Missouri entering this game ranked 129th out of 130 teams in rushing defense.
White ran for 60 yards on 10 carries — good for a respectable six yards per carry — and had his fingerprints all over the Cocks’ last two touchdown drives in addition to scoring on both of them.
He was responsible for every first down on the nine play, 80-yard touchdown drive that cut the lead to 10 points, highlighted by his 38-yard touchdown reception and his 25-yard run that was decreased to only a nine-yard gain because of a holding call.
I wish White was used a bit more in the first half, but when his number was called in big moments, he delivered.
To put White’s impact more into perspective, he had 102 total yards and two touchdowns. The rest of the team combined for 148 yards and two touchdowns...
White managed to shine on a day where not much was working offensively for the Cocks.
Defensive Game Ball: N/A
Why write anything when I could just let the meme do the talking (created by yours truly).
Yeah... no game ball here this week.
Honorable Mention: Jason Brown
I am fully aware he didn’t have the most attractive game ever, completing only 53% of his passes for 193 yards with two touchdowns, an interception and a lost fumble turned touchdown, but the final thing this game taught me was that I believe Brown is undoubtedly the best option in this quarterback room and maybe even for next season.
He perhaps has some decision-making issues made clear on his one pick and two others that got called back because of penalties on the defense, but he is — at least to me — an accurate thrower of the football who is understandably struggling behind this offensive line.
Brown has also demonstrated a bit of that “wow” factor you look for in a quarterback, which is on full display during this 26-yard touchdown pass to Josh Vann.
He succeeded in spite of the offensive line here, evading pressure before delivering a perfect throw on the run to Vann, placing the ball exactly where it needed to be.
Some quarterbacks struggle making that pass in the pocket with no pressure, and Brown did it in some pretty rough conditions.
On that same drive, Brown was also four of four on third down conversions with three of them being from at least nine yards out.
I’m not looking for the next Patrick Mahomes to play quarterback for the Gamecocks, but a guy who can make plays like that is a guy I can get behind.