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Our Digital Season 2015: Week 1—USC v. UNC

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It's the DigiCocks versus the DigiHeels!

Welcome to the fourth season of Our Digital Season, wherein we simulate the Gamecocks' upcoming contest on NCAA 2014. While we all know EA Sports' NCAA franchise has been discontinued, the internet heroes at Operation Sports roll out fresh rosters each year, so thankfully we're able to keep on keepin' on.

While I used to get all into dressing this feature up with screencaps and videos, that's all gone by the wayside. I am an adult now. I have priorities now [cut to Jorge binge-watching Bloodline] My promise to you is it will be the laziest, least scientific, most verisimilitude-free season yet! But the main thrust continues: simulate the games I shall, and report the findings I will.

The parameters: I set the gameplay to Heisman and watch two computer-controlled teams duke it out. I find that eight minute quarters yield roughly the number of drives you'd find in a real game, since NCAA 14 doesn't tick much time away between downs. Fifteen minute quarters last an eternity. But aside from that mod, I take a laissez faire approach. Even if the game glitches (it does) or nonsensical things happen (they do) I let the chips fall as they may. Sometimes this results in a quarterback throwing a no-look bubble screen into tight man coverage.

And sometimes it results in accurately predicting a double-overtime victory over Missouri.

Without further ado, we go to DigiCharlotte. Ed note: I'm out on vacation all gameweek, so I'm simming this one a week in advance of gametime. I'm using mostly default rosters. Lapses in realism will be tolerated by you, the reader. There will be no apologies.

South Carolina v. North Carolina
Charlotte, NC

For what it's worth, the game ranks South Carolina at an 88 overall and North Carolina at 86. Cocks win the toss and, as expected, DigiSpurrier will receive.

First Quarter, or NEW D SAME AS THE OLD D

Kickoff is a touchback. WE ARE UNDERWAY. The DigiMitch era begins with a dumpoff to Brandon Wilds for 4 yards. Wilds runs for 10 over the next two plays. First and 10 at the SC 40. After a short gain on first, Mitch gives it to David Williams on a zone read for 12. Then Mitch with the keeper—he gains 7, but it strikes me that this game is calling plays AS IF HE'S CONNOR SHAW OH NOOOOO. Jump ahead to first and goal on the 5 yard line. Mitch hits DigiJerell Adams at the 2—he can't get in. Two plays later, and what do you know, Mitch keeps it on the zone read and runs it in himself. He was 6 for 6 on that drive, and the Cocks never went backwards. 7-0, Cocks.

The kickoff is a touchback. LET'S SEE WHAT THIS DIGI-D CAN DO WHY DON'T WE?

Oh hi, Quinshad Davis, nice 16 yard reception. Oh hi T.J. Logan, nice 15 yard run. Let's jump to 2nd and 9 at the SC 31. Five wide, and the pass is complete to Mollette for 12. Two plays later, it's over the middle to a wide open Bug Howard—he cuts up for the score. The Heels march unimpeded and tie it at 7-7. The Digi-D is in vintage IRL 2014 form.

Back to us, it's first and 10 at the 25. Make that 2nd and 14 as Mitch is gang-sacked. But he dumps it off to Wilds for 10, bringing up third and short. Mitch drops back—and finds DigiPharoh over the middle for 15. Then he hits Jerell Adams on the sideline for 11, and the Cocks are in UNC territory. But alas, two plays later, a breakdown in communication means Mitch throws to a wide open Tarheel cornerback. Interception, and UNC takes over at their own 32.

The South Carolina D quickly forces a third down—its first of the game—and that's how the quarter will end.

Second Quarter, or SIGNS OF LIFE ON D

It's third and 2 at the UNC 40. Dixon makes contact with Logan behind the line, but Logan falls forward for the first. Then it's an off-tackle handoff for 11 more. Jump to third and 2—NC runs the option, but Dixon stuffs it at the line! It's fourth and 2, and NC will attempt the 52-yard field goal. Wide left, and Mitch is bailed out.

Real Carolina takes over at their 36. Jump to third and 9. Mitch drops back, gets protection, and fires down the seam to Jerell Adams for 27! Jump to third and inches at the NC 26. Mitch under center—and it's a sweep to noted speed demon Carlton Heard that gains zero yards. So on fourth and inches, its the jumbo set, and Mitch gives it to DigiRivers "Effin'" Bedenbaugh—he plows ahead for the first. Two plays later, David Williams stays down after an 11-yard rush. Gulp. It's third and inches again. MORE BEDENBAUGH. 'Nother first. After another Connor Shaw Mitch keeper, a well-executed bubble screen almost means paydirt for Wilds. But alas, he's dragged down just shy. First down, though. Mitch under center and—hey, David Williams is back! Hey, he gets the handoff! Hey, he scores! 14-7, DigiCocks.

Less than four minutes remains in the half. NC fields the kickoff just in front of the endzone, and takes it out to the 29. Williams hits Romar Morris on a swing route for 10. He then throws it away—notable, as it is his first incompletion in nine attempts. Carolina bites on a screen and NC picks up 8, bringing up yet another third and 2. It's an option, and DIGIQUAY brings the QB down before he can pitch it! Loss of 4, and NC punts it. Pharoh takes the punt back 10 yards, and SC will begin the drive at their own 21.

DigiMitch is pressured and obliterated on 1st down. Jump to third and 9—screen pass, but it doesn't do much. Wilds gains just 4, and SC will punt it back. Hey, who is our punter in this game? I don't know! Anyway, Switzer returns it 13 yards to the Heels 44.

Less than two minutes remain. After a loss on 1st, Williams scrambles for 14 and brings it into SC territory. Two plays later, Digi-Dixon brings him down for a sack! It's 3rd and 13. Williams will go for the longball—but Rico McWilliams is there to defend it! Incomplete, and UNC will punt again. It skids through the endzone.

DigiMitch has one minute and three timeouts to make something happen—and swiftly throws an interception trying to hit Carlton Heard in double coverage. Which is why I've always said: "Trying to hit Carlton Heard in double coverage is not a good idea." UNC takes over at their own 33.

Next play: 33 yard touchdown strike to Bug Howard. A quick-strike after a turnover? We just got Spurrier'ed. 14 all.

Deebo Samuel takes the kickoff for not much at all, and so now the clock shows :47. Mitch is going to try to make something happen and—holy moly, circus catch alert! Pharoh Cooper fully extends to make a 34-yard snag. Mitch follows it with a 20-yarder to Heard. Just like that, SC is inside the Tar Heel 30. Mitch hits Cooper for 9—SC uses its 2nd timeout. The give to Wilds—he finds room! It' snow first and 10 at the 11. On the next play, Mitch finds Wilds alone in the middle of the field, and he bullies his way into the endzone. Carolina goes up 21-14. An ominous 16 seconds remains.

Logan brings it out to the 26, and now :11 shows on the clock. But the DigiHeels are content to take a seven point deficit to the locker room.

FIRST HALF ANALYSIS

It's been highs and lows for DigiMitch—a pair of ooglay picks, but otherwise the circuits seem to be firing. He's on pace for roughly 400 yards passing. Pharoh's three receptions put him above 50 yards. The defense has been serviceable, and were it not for Mitch's pick deep in SC territory, this might be a two score lead.

THIRD QUARTER, or

The kickoff is muffed, but NC brings it out to the 30 yard line anyway. On second and 5, Jonathan Walton blindsides Williams for a picturesque sack. Williams tries to hit Davis on the sideline, but he can't real it in—it's a three-and-out out of the half for the Carolina D. And good field position too—they take over at their own 40.

But alas, SC can't do jack and punts it back.

UNC's next drive begins at its own 25. After a 6-yard loss on first and a 6-yard gain on second, Williams connects with Davis for 39 down the sideline—oof. He then scrambles for 23. All of a sudden, the DigiHeels are in the redzone. Jump to 3rd and 12—the heels totally fool the defense on the delay, but don't quite make the line to gain. So it's a chipshot field goal—up and good. 21-17, Cocks, with 4:51 remaining in the 3rd.

DigiDeebo Samuel does his best IRL Shon Carson impression and runs a kickoff return directly at the first gunner he sees. Ball at the 21. After a quick first, Carolina goes backwards on 2 plays. It's 3rd and 13. Hmm maybe they'll run a bubble screen? You know that play DigiSpurrier has called on, like, all 3rd and longs this game? And maybe it'll gain like 3 yards? Let's see! [watches them do exactly that] Oh cool! They punt.

North Carolina takes over at its own 34. After a DigiQuay Lewis sack on 1st, Williams runs for 14 on second. Jump ahead to third and 3 at the SC 46. Williams will scramble—and barely makes the line to gain. Two plays later, DJ Smith lights up a would-be receiver; pass dropped, and it's third and 9. The pass is complete over the middle, but Diggs makes the tackle short of the line to gain! Except he uses, like, 100% facemask to make the tackle so the refs go ahead and flag it. Ah, a Jordan Diggs personal foul—it really is football season, isn't it? Anyway, jump to third and 2 at the 8. And again, Williams just gets to the six for a fresh set of downs. Jump to third and goal at the one inch line. It's a keeper, and UNC breezes into the endzone. The Heels have their first lead, 24-21.

A DigiMitch keeper gains 15, somehow. First and 10 at the 35—Mitch drops back, and The Heels drop eight into coverage. But Mitch has plenty of time, and finally airs one out. It's David Williams, on a wheel route out of the backfield, wide open beyond the secondary! Catch made, and he'll streak to glory. It's a 65 yard touchdown reception. 28-24, DigiCocks.

UNC takes the kickoff out to the 25, and that's how the quarter will end.

4th Quarter, or HOLD EM BOYS

Carolina North is moving it, but Dixon picks up a sack—and knocks Williams out of the game. FOLKS THE GAME IS IN THE HANDS OF BACKUP QB DIGIMITCH TRUBISKY. it's 3rd and 8, and Trubisky connects—but it's short of the first. Fourth and 2, and the DigiHeels will go for it, despite being down just four and still in SC territory. I-formation—they give it to the fullback and oh my god like FOUR Gamecocks hit him he still manages to plop down over the line to gain. SMDH. Anyway its first and 10 at the DigiCocks 48. Two plays, two impressive Quay Lewis tackles. It's third and 8, and Trubisky launches it—and it's Chris Lammons with the acrobatic goalline pick! He even takes it out to the 13! So, yeah, armpunt but a timely turnover nonetheless.

Oh god, Mitch throws a HIGHLY risky no-look screen pass like he's John Wall or something, and it's almost picked. Instead, Samuel is taken down behind the line. But DigiMitch atones, gaining 15 on a scramble. Jump to third and 4. Mitch finds Shaq Davidson (who, I just learned while writing this, may not be playing much football this season) for the first. Ball at midfield. Oh boy, Mitch playing with fire—throws a screen into THREE defenders that somehow gets to Pharoh Cooper for a gain of 4. Then he runs for 13 yards on a zone read keeper. Finally, a regular-ass handoff to Wilds gains six. Clock is down to 3:30 but Carolina's playing at a fairly brisk pace. Zone read—Mitch keeps it and runs it in from 16 damn yards out! He's got friggin' 80 yards rushing. The PAT makes it 35-24. 3:17 remains.

The Heels start the drive at their own 27. Trubisky is still your QB, by the way. Jump ahead to second and 8, when Trubinsky somehow vacates a collapsing pocket for a gain of 14. Two plays later, a 10 yard completion makes it first and 10 in South Carolina territory. Two plays later, 10 more yards. Trubisky lobs one into the endzone on first, and man, it just bounces right off Jordan Diggs' palms. A DigiDavid Johnson sack makes it third and long. But Chris Lammons gets beat off the line, and Trubisky hits Hollins on the go route—touchdown, DigiHeels. They will go for two to make it a three-point game. But Trubisky is sacked! It's 35-30, and NC will evidently go for an onside kick, down five with almost two minutes left and three timeouts. SEEMS HASTY. At any rate, South Carolina recovers.

First and 10 from the 41. The give is to Wilds, and he gains 5. UNC calls timeout. I formation—Wilds again, and he'll get the first! UNC spends its 2nd timeout. The DigiCocks play it conservatively, milking time via short rumbles. Jump to 4th and 3. They call out DigiFry for a 40 yard attempt—it is up and good, with just 10 seconds remaining.

The DigiCocks aren't completely out of the woods yet—it's an 8-point game, after all. UNC takes the kick out to the 30, so they'll get one shot at a Hail Mary. Trubisky drops back—he'll get a throw off, but it falls harmlessly to the turf.

The DigiCocks win it, 38-30.

SC STAT NC
470 Total Yards 389
311 Pass Yards 236
159 Rush Yards 153
2 INT Turnovers 1 INT
7/12 3DC 7/14
Connor Mitch: 32-35, 311 YDS, 2 TD, 2 INT, 14 ATT, 80 YDS, 2 TD OPOTG M. Williams: 17-23, 167 YDS, 2 TD, 17 ATT, 54 YDS, 1 TD
M. Lewis: 7 TACK, 4 TFL, 1 SACK DPOTG M. Stewart: 5 TACK, 1 TFL, 1 INT

I mean, I'd take it. Signs of life on defense, and Mitch lookin' impressive despite the picks. This at least feels like a game that could happen (except for Mitch having 80 rush yards, maybe.) Anyway, let me know how the IRL game goes.

Until week 2!