What a start to the year!
We all knew this kind of win was coming, but it hit different knowing that it actually happened. This is likely going to be a year dedicated to silver linings and building a winning culture, and that was definitely the start this Carolina team needed to open the season with.
Of course play wasn’t perfect, but the Gamecocks accomplished everything expected of them last night. The starters shined and the backups picked up things right where they were left off.
The real season likely begins next week at East Carolina, but there’s no reason to not feel good about this South Carolina squad at this point in time.
To continue with the good vibes, I have some players I want to recognize who stood out to me during the 46-point thrashing of Eastern Illinois.
Offensive Game Ball: ZaQuandre White
Going into the game, I thought it was going to be the Kevin Harris (if he suited up) and MarShawn Lloyd show, but Harris didn’t take a snap and we got a good look at the third string guy in the backfield: ZaQuandre White.
The man was electric, and we saw his talents on full display as he had his way on the ground AND through the air. It’s pretty rare to see a running back lead the team in rushing and receiving yards, but that is exactly what happened last night.
White picked up 128 rushing yards on 12 attempts and 39 receiving yards on four receptions, picking up a touchdown as well in each category INCLUDING this 63-yard run in the beginning of the fourth quarter where he basically blew by the whole Panther defense in seconds.
Good Lord, 6-1, 215-pound ZaQuandre White lookin’ like he was shot out of a cannon on this run pic.twitter.com/3IGpaa29NE— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) September 5, 2021
If I have one position to feel good about as the season rolls on, it’s running back, and we haven’t even seen Kevin Harris yet.
All I know is this guy is too good to be riding the bench, so I hope Shane Beamer continues to work him into the offense in some way.
Defensive Game Ball: Jordan Burch
It’s no secret this guy hasn’t necessarily had the start to his career that we’ve all wanted to see, so it was great to see him get some time out there today and make the most of it.
Burch didn’t really light up the stat sheet, logging one lone tackle all game, but he DID light up the whole stadium providing the metaphorical nail in the coffin with his 61-yard pick six in the middle of the fourth quarter.
BIG. MAN. PICK. SIX.— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 5, 2021
Jordan Burch for 61 yards! pic.twitter.com/5jfPTbs8S0
These are the types of plays that we expect him to make, and I would love to see more of this in a game lagainst equal or greater competition.
As for now, he provided the Gamecock faithful with at least some hope that he’ll live up to his five-star status.
Honorable Mentions: Zeb Noland, Nick Muse and MarShawn Lloyd
I’d be wasting your time if I didn’t talk about Zeb Noland, so I’ll just start there.
He’s one of those guys that you can just tell knows all the ins and outs of the game of football but doesn’t have the unquestioned talent that usually comes with the position - or at least the best of the best.
There were some reads that he made where he literally looked like a coach on the field, which he is. There’s no doubt he knows the playbook and how to execute it, but we also know his ceiling.
Noland is a guy who won’t blow you away his his athleticism and may miss the occasional throw like his off-target bomb during the first drive, but he’s also the guy you wanted starting this game. I’ll take 121 passing yards and four touchdowns straight to the bank.
As for Nick Muse, we knew the offense was going to heavily incorporate the tight end position, and we saw that especially on the first touchdown drive.
Muse capped off South Carolina’s first scoring drive of the day on a four-yard bullet pass from Noland. He then tacked on the two-point conversion as well.
We didn’t see much of him after that, but it was to be expected in a game like this where to goal was to get everyone prepped for the more important games to come.
Muse is probably this team’s most capable receiver, and he showed it in flashes last night.
In closing, welcome to Columbia, MarShawn Lloyd!
His debut got pushed back because of injury, but you could see why he was so highly touted. He picked up 55 rushing yards on 14 carries and added on a 19-yard catch.
We will be definitely seeing more of him, but I just wanted to say how happy I was to see him healthy. Lloyd was one of my big winners of the game just by stepping on the field.
Anyway, a lot of things went well for the Gamecocks in week one. Let’s see if they can build on this victory in week 2!