If you’re a South Carolina Gamecocks fan, there’s nothing else you can do except look at the positives.
At first glance, sure, it may be hard to find something to hang onto following Thursday’s 52-28 thrashing at the hands of SEC rival Texas A&M. However, once you weed through the plethora of points, the 680 yards of total offense and the seven touchdowns conceded, there is quite a bit of reason for optimism.
In fact, it’s enough to believe South Carolina will be back in College Football Playoff contention by the end of the month.
Coming into this season, one of the biggest question marks surrounding the Gamecocks was the offense. More specifically, how would senior Dylan Thompson handle the pressure under center?
After Thursday’s showing, it’s safe to say that the Boiling Springs, South Carolina, native will play a big role in the team's revitalization.
Thompson completed 20 of 40 passes for career highs of 366 yards and four touchdowns—albeit some of it when the game was already well in hand. He also showed great vision, working the ball around to 10 different receivers while registering a quarterback rating of 154.9—the second highest in his career.
That’s pretty good from a quarterback who entered with just 1,827 yards and 14 touchdowns to his name over three seasons.
But Thompson wasn’t the only bright spot in the passing attack. Senior wide receiver Nick Jones had a good day too.
After averaging a mere 207 yards and two touchdowns per year over his first three seasons in Columbia, Jones hauled in five passes for 113 yards and a pair of scores on Thursday. That included bringing in a 69-yard strike from Thompson.
Given that South Carolina was expected to be carried by its rushing attack, the play of Jones and Thompson was rather surprising. But it quickly became a necessity when the ground game struggled to get going—the Gamecocks finished with just 67 yards on 22 carries.
As good as he was on Thursday, don’t expect Thompson to focus on anything else but the bigger picture.
“It doesn’t matter how I thought I played,” he said, per The Post and Courier’s David Caraviello. “The scoreboard tells the story.”
Premature or not, the poor showing by South Carolina in its opener has some questioning whether head coach Steve Spurrier’s window for an SEC championship has finally closed.
With clashes against No. 12 Georgia and No. 24 Missouri coming up in September, the Gamecocks SEC title hopes—along with any national championship aspirations—will certainly be on the line. But if anything else, that kind of schedule should only fire up the team.
Since 2010, South Carolina hasn’t lost more than two games in a season. Furthermore, over the last five years, the team is an impressive 18-3 in the month of September.
Nobody said 2014 would be a smooth ride for the Gamecocks. But if anyone can rally the troops from such a hole, it’s Spurrier.
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of CFBStats.com.
Sebastian can be reached on Twitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.