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Let’s unpack what we saw Saturday night

What a night. Carolina absolutely boat raced the #5 Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday in their best performance in years to ruin Tennessee's playoff hopes. Let’s talk about what in the world happened to allow for that performance to happen.

NCAA Football: Tennessee at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Ok, this is also partially my article to come here and completely own my horrible prediction in the roundtable discussion. Let’s review my take.

“Brent: Simply put, I think that this has all the makings of being one of the worst nights in Williams Brice Stadium history. I’m talking up there with 63-17 in 2003 against Clemson, 63-7 against Florida in 1995, and 59-0 against FSU in 1988. Hammer Tennessee and the 22.5 points. I don’t know what happened following the Texas A&M game but all of the air has been sucked from the sails of the 2022 Gamecocks. I don’t know what happened but in the last three games at least one side of the football has seemed disinterested in showing up. Last week in Gainesville was a complete no show in a game that on paper South Carolina should have been competitive in, yet they were pummeled 38-6 and did not score an offensive touchdown. #5 Tennessee rolls into Columbia with a Heisman candidate at quarterback and maybe the most explosive offense in college football. ESPN’s primetime crew of Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit will be in town to call the game, and unfortunately I predict it will be all Tennessee talk. Carolina is missing their #1 and #2 tailback and couple that with Marcus Satterfield seemingly being a dead man walking, I don’t see the Gamecocks being able to keep up at all. I will go with Tennessee easily winning this one 55-20.”

Man, I could not have been more wrong about that and I am happily here to admit that I was wrong. It was actually one of the best ever. Carolina did things on Saturday night that I just did not think they were capable of. I think we can all agree with that. But what were they exactly?

They started fast. (They never stopped, either)

Carolina has constantly come out this year, and last year for that matter, and fallen behind to just play catchup with an offense that seemingly has no chance to make that comeback. Last night Carolina jumped all over Tennessee’s defense and never let them up for air. Carolina scored on every drive in the first half, which I honestly thought they had to do but weren’t capable. A fast start was an absolute must to have a chance of pulling off the upset and the Gamecocks were Dale Earnhardt level fast last night against the Vols.

The primetime faceplants at home are a thing of the past, hopefully.

This is the second primetime game in a row in Williams Brice when the Gamecocks have performed well dating back to the Texas A&M game. We have highlighted the huge primetime disappointments that began with the 2014 Texas A&M game and had continued until recent games when Carolina fans will show up and have Williams Brice Stadium rocking only for the game to be over by halftime. In the last two such games, the Gamecocks have kept the Williams Brice Stadium crowd in the game and used it to their advantage. Williams Brice Stadium is flat out one of the best environments in college football and always has been. It proves it every time it gets a chance on the national stage. Saturday night proved it as a major asset yet again.

Where has that offense been?

I am stating the obvious here but the offense looked a little pretty good on Saturday night, right? I have seen it said all over Twitter that “someone else called the plays” and I just can’t disagree with that more. That was 100% Marcus Satterfield’s offense. That was his scheme and that was his plays that were being called. There was nobody else calling plays hunkered under a table in the press box with a headset on that was brought in from elsewhere. I said it last night while watching the game as it neared its conclusion that I thought that was the best called football game that I have ever seen at South Carolina, and I watched every single game that Steve Spurrier called here. The Gamecock offense was aggressive from the very first play and they knew where to attack the Tennessee defense all night. Spencer Rattler was spreading the football around to Carolina’s dynamic playmakers all night. Jaheim Bell, Juice Wells, Jalen Brooks, Dakereon Joyner, Josh Vann, Juju McDowell, Ahmarean Brown, and the entire cast of characters that we expected to be contributing all year made plays all night. Rattler looked like a first round NFL draft pick on Saturday. The touchdown pass to Josh Vann down the seam to beat the safety that made the score 14-7 made my jaw drop. Rattler was 30-37 for 438 yards and 6 touchdowns. I am trying to recall a better performance by a Gamecock QB and I am struggling to come up with one. It was a special performance by Rattler. We must give the offensive line a ton of credit as well. They were awesome all night in giving Rattler time to find receivers and make plays. They have been put through the ringer for their performance and they deserve as much credit as anyone.

But again, the question needs to be asked, where the heck has that been? The offense had been abysmal at times this year and then will have a great performance only to turn around and have a game where they can’t score a touchdown on offense against Florida. It is a little frustrating to see that performance last night, knowing they are capable of that, while having some of their other performances on their resume. Does this change things with Marcus Satterfield? I have no idea. I don’t know if Carolina will still move on from him or not at the end of the year. I will, however, sit here and give him a ton of credit for their performance on Saturday night against Tennessee. The Carolina offense must turn in another great performance next week in Memorial Stadium if they want to have a chance to upset Clemson.

The offense will get the love, but the defense and special teams deserve love too.

Tennessee was going to score points. They have done it on everyone not named Georgia. I was worried to death that they were going to do exactly what the Carolina offense did to Tennessee and score just about every time that they got the ball. Carolina found enough stops to keep Tennessee from ever getting their avalanche of points going like they have done so many times this year. Cam Smith, once again, turned in another great performance. Holding Tennessee to 38 points, and it was 31 before Tennessee scored a garbage time touchdown late. If you told me that Tennessee would have 31 points late in the 4th quarter, I would have told you Carolina had a shot to win. I never would have thought the Gamecocks would be up leading by 32 points at that time. Mitch Jeter and the Carolina special teams deserve a tip of the cap as well. Jeter was 9-9 of extra points and constantly bombed kickoffs out of the endzone. The coverage team never allowed for Tennessee to make a big play when they had a chance, either. As an aside, I really hope Hendon Hooker is ok. The injury did not look good for the Heisman hopeful but I think I speak for everyone when I say that we are hoping for good news today on Hooker. He has had an awesome year and is an awesome football player.

Take a victory lap, fans.

If you were in attendance last night, you made a difference. It was noticeable on TV. Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit made note of it multiple times just how loud the environment was. That is not a new development to us as Carolina fans, however. Williams-Brice at night matches up with any environment in college football. Credit to the athletic administrators and the security on hand as well for letting the fans rush the field. It was awesome to see the fans get to celebrate with the team. Ray Tanner sounds like he will gladly play the $100,000 fine that is coming his way. Pass the plate around for donations, I am sure the fans will gladly donate some cash to the cause.

NCAA Football: Tennessee at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, these seniors deserved last night.

This group of seniors has been through a lot at Carolina and elsewhere. For many of them, they experienced a 4-8 2019 season under Will Muschamp, then COVID hit and they had to endure a miserable 2-8 COVID season in which Muschamp was fired with three games to go to finish the season with Mike Bobo as interim head coach. They then had to go through a coaching change and a difficult beginning to the 2021 season before turning it around to finish 7-6 with a bowl victory over North Carolina. Going into last night it had been a frustrating season for many of them. They looked like they had a lot of fun last night and they deserve it after all they have been through. Congratulations to them on a great performance last night.