The 7-3 score sure was ugly, but the Gamecocks will take it.
So many storylines, droogs, but let’s start with bragging rights:
I hate to say I told you so, but yours truly came up big when I wrote in my Season Picks column that the opening game would look like this: “The running game comes alive for the Cocks, and a big defensive play from a young Carolina defensive back seals the deal.”
The Cocks ran the ball 42 times, and highly touted true freshman cornerback Stephon Gilmore made the play of the game with three minutes left as he took away a sure touchdown pass from Jarvis Williams.
As they say on the streets, holler at your boy.
To the 16 Wolfpack fans who got together to paint their chests—one painstaking letter at a time—“W-I-L-S-O-N-F-O-R-H-E-I-S-M-A-N," welcome to the SEC.
Russell Wilson may just dominate the ACC again this year, but against South Carolina’s speed, Wilson looked slow, nervous, and completely taken out of his game. Cliff Matthews and Eric Norwood chased Wilson down time after time en route to six sacks.
Just imagine what it would have looked like if the Gamecocks weren’t missing two starting lineman—standout tackle Ladi Ajiboye and beastly end Clifton Geathers.
Wilson ended an embarrassing 12-for-23 for 74 yards and minus-17 rushing yards. Perhaps more importantly, he led his team to only three points. For those counting at home, NC State has been held out of the end zone in eight quarters against South Carolina.
And for those who touted that South Carolina’s defense is no longer the team it was last year, hopefully that misconception has been laid to rest after last night. These boys are fast, they hit hard, and they tackle extremely well.
On a negative note, the Gamecocks’ lack of depth took yet another turn for the worse when starting MLB Rodney Paulk left the game early with what appears to be a season-ending knee injury. His replacement, Shaq Wilson, played brilliantly, but doesn’t have the experience of Paulk—and this will show up next weekend against Georgia.
Offensively, Brian Maddox ran hard and fought for positive yardage, Jarvis Giles delivered some flash, both good and bad, and Patrick DiMarco looked like Tim Tebow from the fullback position, rolling over defenders and picking up big first downs on short yardage plays.
All that because of the improved offensive line play. A unit that was the joke of the SEC last year pushed around an experienced and very stout NC State front line. As Stephen Garcia said, “Coach [Eric] Wolford has just changed the entire attitude of the offensive line.”
Garcia wasn’t spectacular, but he saved his best for last, connecting on a beautiful 33-yard pass to Moe Brown—essentially ending the game.
Wide receiver Tori Gurley looks like a legit SEC receiver, and it will be interesting to watch his development as the year moves on. Whether or not the Gamecocks can get production out of their two other big targets, Alshon Jeffrey and Jason Barnes, just may dictate how well South Carolina plays this year.
The kicking game, as expected, was terrible, with a botched snap on the first field goal attempt and a missed chip shot of 27 yards. Mark it down now: Spencer Lanning will cost the Gamecocks at least one game this year.
Finally, the Head Ball Coach won yet another season opener, running his record to 19 in a row.
The 7-3 score certainly isn’t what he hoped for, but even Darth Visor should be happy to take a young team on the road in the first game of the year and come out on the winning end.
Now let’s just hope Stephen Garcia stays out of jail this weekend.