It feels good to be back on the winning side, doesn't it? By beating the Fighting George O'Leary's it looks like our Gamecocks may have (at least temporarily) changed the narrative. It wasn't perfect or pretty for the entire game; hell, we were losing by six points at halftime. But at the end of the day it's a win; and more importantly, it's a win that we can potentially build on.
Nun-YES (Trademarked by The Rubber Chickens)
Well, that was a pretty impressive performance by a true freshman, wasn't it? I know it was against UCF, who may be one of the worst teams in the FBS this year. But it was still Lorenzo Nunez's first ever start, and the young man promptly responded with 184 yards passing and two touchdowns and 123 yards rushing. That's 307 all-purpose yards. By a quarterback. In his first start. That's pretty decent in my eyes. In fact, we had 400 yards as a team. So that means Nunez accounted for roughly 76% of our offensive yardage. He'll definitely have a bigger challenge to prepare for next week at Missouri, but I think he has cemented himself in the starting role for at least the next few weeks.
Superman Is Human After All
Pharoh Cooper is our superstar. Every college football pundit, coach, and fan in America knows that. But yesterday, he proved to us that even he is capable of occasionally suffering from a mental lapse in judgement. He made a terrible decision to try to field a punt inside his own 5 yard line, muffed it and the defense gave up a touchdown a play later. He then dropped what looked to be a surefire touchdown catch in the 2nd quarter as the ball went straight through his hands. As the only receiver on our team that has proven to be consistently effective, you've got to think he's feeling extra pressure to be the hero and make a huge play. We probably saw some of that in the first half on Saturday. However, our superstar came out in the 2nd half and immediately made a huge impact with a cathartic touchdown run on a busted trick play and then caught a touchdown pass while being blanketed by double coverage. What we saw from Pharoh in the second half was a mature response by a veteran player after a rough first half. Props to Mr. Cooper for that.
Signs of Life
Hey look! We do have a defense! I don't know if it's because they were playing the statistically worst offense in the FBS (probably), but they looked almost competent this week. Now, the corners still got picked on at times and it was by no means perfect. But at this point, I'll take what I can get. They ended up holding UCF to a measly 230 yards of offense (93 of those came on one drive), got a few sacks, forced a safety and picked off a couple bad passes (credit to TJ Holloman). I'd also be remiss if I didn't give a big shoutout to Boosie Whitlow. He's already made an impact as a true freshman (pressure on Kentucky QB Patrick Towles that led to an interception), but Boosie made an even bigger impact early on in the game Saturday. Not only did he record his first career sack, but also he also broke through the UCF line and got credit for the safety. That guy has a high motor and never quits. I'm really looking forward to what he can do as he develops.
Secondary Where Art Thou?
We severely miss Chris Lammons. I mean it's bad. We need at least one corner on the field that is physically capable of challenging receivers at the line of scrimmage. And I'm beginning to think that there's a reason Al Harris plays 5-6 yards off the ball. It's because he's not very good. The secondary gave up over 200 yards passing to a team starting a true freshman of their own at QB and that couldn't move the ball through the air at all against Furman. If they can't figure out some things back there when we play the LSU's and A&M's of the world, things will get ugly (and yes, I do mean UGA ugly).
At the end of the day, a win is a win and I'm glad I don't have to write another one of these full of hot takes. It wasn't pretty at times, but we saw flashes from Nunez that shows he could be great, young talent showing out on defense, and Pharoh Cooper showing maturity. So please Carolina, build upon this game and go beat the fighting Maty Mauk's of Missouri. I'm begging you.
Did I miss anything? Anything you disagree with? If so, feel free to leave your take on the game in the comment thread. Beat Missouri and go Gamecocks!