South Carolina vs. UCF: 10 Things We Learned from the Gamecocks' Win
It wasn't pretty, but South Carolina got the job done by defeating Central Florida 28-25.
The start was slow. Quarterback Connor Shaw suffered a game-ending injury. Backup quarterback Dylan Thompson stepped in.
The middle of the game was a clinic by running back Mike Davis.
The end was slow and staggered to the finish.
It's games like this one that teach us a lot about a team.
Here are 10 things we learned from the Gamecocks' win.
1. Mike Davis Is a Total Beast
When in doubt, trust in Mike Davis.
That is the motto that South Carolina will be living by this season.
After rushing for 167 yards on 26 carries and scoring three touchdowns, Davis looks like a superhero on the football field.
He is a total beast for the Gamecocks.
When the team struggled throughout the first half, South Carolina had abandoned the run game. Then, Spurrier said the team needed to get back to power-running game at the half. And the Gamecocks did.
Davis took over the game and carried his team to victory.
Keep feeding Davis the pigskin. He's that good.
2. Shaw Is Still Injury Prone
Last season, Shaw suffered a handful of injuries but didn't miss too much game time.
Against UCF, Shaw went down early with a shoulder sprain and will miss a couple of games.
On the tackle, Shaw twisted and landed awkwardly on his shoulder, which led to the injury.
Don't get me wrong, Shaw is a solid quarterback, but injuries are a big part of his career. Given his running style and tough-guy mentality, Shaw takes hits.
Hits make a quarterback more prone to injury.
And now the team turns to Dylan Thompson in Shaw's absence once again.
3. The Linebackers Are Struggling with Fundamentals
The whole team started slow against the Knights, but one of the main issues defensively was the play at the linebacker position.
I'm not talking about difficulties with the pass rush, coverage or breaking down plays.
I'm saying that the linebackers' problems early on were with the biggest fundamental of all: tackling.
Wrap up the ball carrier. Don't come in too high. Drive through the player.
The linebackers missed a bunch of tackles on UCF running back Storm Johnson, who is a gifted runner, but still, South Carolina needs to tackle better.
Taking guys down right away saves energy, prevents long drives and boosts the confidence of the defense.
So, remember the fundamentals!
4. Clowney Is Effective Even When He Doesn't Land the Sack
Jadeveon Clowney did not register a sack.
Everyone should freak out about "The Freak" not landing a sack, right?
Clowney played very well against UCF, and no one should be concerned.
He was manhandling linemen by powering his way right at them with a bulldog-like approach.
He pulled spins and swims and hurried UCF's Blake Bortles multiple times throughout the game.
Clowney landed some hits and more importantly, he created sack opportunities for his teammates.
Clowney doesn't need to land the sack to be successful. He opened up the game for his teammates to get to the quarterback.
There is no cause for concern. Clowney is effective.
5. South Carolina Should Stick to the Power-Run Game
Did I mention that Mike Davis is a total beast?
So why did South Carolina abandon the run game in the first half?
Thompson's presence and style of play? Maybe.
The Gamecocks were most effective when they handed the ball off to Davis and let him get angry.
Davis runs with true authority. His speed and power took over the game.
Moving forward without Shaw, Thompson will be the one to control the power-running game.
By giving the ball to Davis, South Carolina will have an effective ground game and also open up the play-action opportunities for Thompson.
South Carolina needs to do what South Carolina does best and that is giving the ball to Davis out of under-center formations.
6. South Carolina Cannot Start Slow
South Carolina started slow. Really slow.
Zero points in the first half.
It was ugly. The game fell into the hands of Central Florida, yet they could only get out to a 10-0 lead at the half.
Not to dock UCF, who is a worthy opponent, but South Carolina cannot afford to start this slow in SEC conference play.
If the Gamecocks start slow like this, it is going to be a tough stretch in the SEC for the team.
7. Tyler Hull Is a Good Punter
In a first half that was a major struggle offensively for the Gamecocks, one player stood out. And he plays a position that most people don't pay too much attention to.
South Carolina punter Tyler Hull averaged 47 yards per punt against UCF including a long 55 yards. He also booted two punts inside the 20.
Hull had everything going his way and looked like a very solid punter. That was until the botched snap and punt that fell into UCF's EJ Dunston's arms. Though, that was not Hull's fault. Blame the long snapper.
All in all, Hull looked good, and it's time to give the punter some credit.
8. This Team Is Resilient
South Carolina started slow, but it deserves some praise for pulling things together and getting the victory.
The middle of the game showed Spurrier's ability to coach and the team's confidence in themselves.
The Gamecocks really turned it around by getting back to what they do best and believing that they can win.
As a whole, South Carolina did not play very well and has a lot of work to do. But, close wins like this say a lot about a team.
Sometimes playing bad football and winning can be a very good thing for a team.
9. The Secondary Can Make Plays
Through the first few games of the season, the South Carolina secondary did not look so great.
Sure, the defense gave up a couple of huge passing plays at inopportune times to UCF's Rannell Hall and Breshad Perriman. But, let's look past those mistakes.
The secondary forced some interceptions.
On the trick play, Jimmy Legree was completely fooled and out of position. It was nice that the ball sat up so long and was across the field, but credit Legree for reading the play, making the adjustment and getting the interception.
Victor Hampton also made an impact.
The other big play was the penalized one on Brison Williams where he was ejected and then reinstated.
Williams hit was violent and clean. It was a textbook hit that rattles a wide receiver. It asserts a secondary's presence.
Plays like those helped South Carolina's secondary even though it did give up some big plays.
10. South Carolina Cannot Afford to Take the Foot Off of the Gas
So, South Carolina started slow.
Then the Gamecocks picked up their game.
But, they slowed down at the finish line.
Davis fumbled when the offensive line somehow forgot to block the two players right in the middle of the trenches.
Right after, the defense gave up the big play to Breshad Perriman and then the late touchdown to Rannell Hall.
UCF made things interesting. South Carolina should have pounded the football in before the Davis fumble.
When things start clicking, South Carolina cannot afford to slow down.