South Carolina Football: What We Learned from the Week 1 Game vs. Vanderbilt
South Carolina earned a gritty win against a good SEC opponent on the road in Week 1.
While numerous opposing fans are trying to get South Carolina bumped out of the Top 10 and are now predicting six wins for the team, and bandwagon Gamecock fans are panicking about the team barely beating "lowly" Vanderbilt, I am savoring the victory.
In my opinion, while it wasn't the most beautiful of all victories, the fact that the Gamecocks went down to Nashville, in the rain, on a turf that they don't play on often, playing with half of a quarterback, against a team so determined to win their "Super Bowl," made the win one of the most impressive opening victories of the weekend.
Now, there is plenty of work to do to even compete with some of the amazing things we saw out of Alabama and LSU, but we knew that.
I'll take a conference win against a quality opponent over three bad quarters leading to an impressive fourth-quarter win against one of the worst programs in Division I any day (cough).
Here's what we learned after Week 1.
Connor Shaw Is One of the Toughest Men in College Sports
When Connor Shaw got speared in the back on a scramble, it looked as though he could barely move his arm. His throwing arm, of all things.
He went into the locker room, during a game in which he was needed. It didn't look good.
Somehow, he returned. He took numerous shots to the shoulder and was in obvious pain. While he wasn't asked to pass much after that (he only threw 11 times, completing seven), he ran the team to victory.
Through all that pain, Connor Shaw led the Gamecocks to a W. It was an amazing performance.
Marcus Lattimore Is (almost) 100 Percent
Marcus Lattimore looked like the old Marcus. Mostly. There were times when you could tell he was thinking about his knee, but as the game progressed, he got better.
He rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Welcome back, Mr. Lattimore.
There Are Major Problems on the Offensive Line
For whatever reason, the offensive line looked lost.
Out of all of the struggles for Week 1, this was the most pressing. Brandon Shell, someone who was pegged as a potential All-SEC talent and future elite tackle, got yanked.
The rest of the players looked slow. If they can't fix this issue, it could be a very long season.
Vanderbilt Is a Good Team
People have been talking about the job Coach Franklin has done with the Commodores, and they said that Vanderbilt could be better this year.
After watching them play, I think they could be the third-best team in the East.
Jordan Rodgers could be special, while they have a three-headed rushing attack that could be fantastic. Their defense was fast.
They looked good.
Passing Is an Issue... I Think
But I'm not sure.
I've scoured the film of this game multiple times. When Connor Shaw was in (I can't count the travesty that was Dylan Thompson), he only attempted 11 passes while completing seven. The receivers weren't running many different patterns. They ran a lot of shallow routes that ended in short completions or Shaw having to throw in traffic.
This didn't even look like the same system Steve Spurrier was running in practice. Not even close.
For now, I am giving the passing game an incomplete. There just wasn't much to go on.
The Defensive Backs Weren't as Bad as I Thought They'd Be
The biggest issue with the defensive backs was how they were approaching each scenario. They would go for big hits with no help behind them, whiffing for big gains or going for interceptions when they should have just de-cleated the wide receiver.
These aren't physical issues, these are mental mistakes. I was worried that the corners wouldn't be physically capable of matching up.
They are. Some solid coaching and experience will have these guys performing at a high level.
The Defensive Line Was Nasty
With five sacks and tons of pressure, the defensive line was as good as advertised. Five different players got sacks, and if Rodgers wasn't such a good runner, it would have been worse.
Stationary quarterbacks of the SEC, take note.