The events from last Saturday night may have resulted in a mixed bag of emotions at times (especially when Georgia State took the lead in the third quarter), but South Carolina was still able to secure a 21-point victory against the Panthers thanks to stellar defensive and special teams performances.
The main storyline coming into this matchup was Spencer Rattler and how he would look in his first game wearing garnet and black.
I’m sure many would agree with me when I say that I believe he 100% passed the eye test, making some impressive throws on the run in addition to showing off his arm and accuracy at times.
The reason why he had to make so many throws on the run was because he was running for his life. The one constant dating back to last season is that the offensive line did not do a sufficient job at protecting its quarterback.
So, this will not come to a shock to anyone, but *spoiler alert* the offensive line will not be taking home a game ball in this article.
As for the good, the defense came to play at least.
They collectively held Georgia State quarterback Darren Grainger to a completion percentage of 24% (!!!) in addition to forcing a pick and holding him to only 111 passing yards.
I said in my previous article that defending mobile quarterbacks is for whatever reason the Gamecocks’ specialty, and that remains true through one game after completely shutting him down.
As for the special teams, they returned two punts for touchdowns in a game where the offense wasn’t as effective as it should have been, two field goals were made from 50+ yards out, a punt went 79 yards and there was a fake punt first down.
That unit deserves some reward, a day off, SOMETHING for the performance we were blessed enough to have witnessed a few nights ago.
Seeing special teams steal a show like this is a rare sight in college football but a welcome one in Columbia, South Carolina.
Anyway, on to the game balls!
Offensive Game Ball: Jalen Brooks
We were waiting for Brooks to pop for a while now — although injuries delayed that for a bit — and live up to the hype that followed his name after transferring to South Carolina.
It looks as though he finally showed up.
Brooks was undoubtedly one of Rattler’s favorite targets, finishing with four receptions for 88 yards.
No play that he made was flashier than this one, though.
Spencer Rattler @GamecockFB pic.twitter.com/6TXMZzMnuP— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 4, 2022
This could be the start of a special connection in Columbia.
Defensive Game Ball: Brad Johnson
The guy that perhaps contributed the most to the dominant defensive performance I brought up earlier may have been Brad Johnson.
He led the team with five total tackles and even earned some praise from his head coach.
“He really played well and was a force [Saturday night],” Beamer said. He even named Johnson as one of his players of the game at a press conference Sunday night.
If there was an important play that was made on the defensive side of the ball, chances are Johnson was involved.
I hope to see some more highlight reel worthy plays from the senior, like this one.
Shane Beamer had some fiery moments on the sidelines last night.— Ben Portnoy (@bportnoy15) September 4, 2022
Here’s a fun one after this Brad Johnson stop (watch the bottom of the screen). pic.twitter.com/S9xtjBap8N
Honorable Mentions: Mitch Jeter and Kai Kroger
You didn’t think I would forget about the special teams, did you??
Jeter’s first game as South Carolina’s placekicker did not disappoint despite all the pressure on his shoulders to follow up the legacy Parker White left behind in Columbia.
After capping off a scoring drive with a 53-yard field goal midway through the second quarter, he decided to follow it up with a 51-yard boot through the uprights two drives later to help the Gamecocks go into the half up 9-7.
Some college kickers have the leg, others have the accuracy, but it seems as though Jeter may have both.
Is South Carolina turning into a kicker factory?
Switching from kicking to punting, Kai Kroger had a masterful showing as well, booting one 79 yards in addition to forcing Georgia State to start four drives inside its own 20-yard line.
Beamer loves putting emphasis on the squad’s special teams, and time after time it shows.
Let’s hope the good work continues into week two at Arkansas!