South Carolina’s game on Saturday against Vanderbilt was anything but pretty.
A silver lining was hard to find, but if there was one it would be called Alshon Jeffery, who is playing like anything but the true freshman that he is.
Yes, the Gamecocks proved they could bounce back after tough loss, yet again. Yes, they won what many considered to be a revenge game for the last two years that the Commodores have beaten the Gamecocks.
The night definitely wasn’t a total loss. However, Saturday night’s game did show some areas of concern for the Gamecocks.
Obviously, special teams could be an issue if they are going to revert back to how they played in the beginning of the season. Allowing a 99-yard kickoff return is unacceptable. Also, the ridiculous number of penalties accumulated by South Carolina is cause for concern.
The exact number, in case you are wondering was nine penalties for 77 yards. There really is no excuse for sloppy football, and if the Gamecocks don’t clean it up it’s going to cost them.
What was possibly even more alarming than any of that, though, was the lack of enthusiasm shown by the players on the field.
It certainly isn’t the players’ job to get the crowd pumped up and excited for the game, but it is the players’ job to get themselves pumped up.
In a game that should have been one of the most adrenaline-filled games of the season, it wasn’t until the last five minutes of the game that there was more than just a small spark of life in the Gamecocks. The term “small” is used very loosely here, as the small spark of life being referred to is Eric Norwood, who spent almost the entire game throwing up his arms in an effort to liven up the crowd and maybe even to some extent his teammates.
The crowd, a homecoming-size crowd, was more than willing to oblige Norwood’s request. The student section, in a sort of unorthodox move, kept requesting the song Sandstorm, to bring some new energy to themselves and their team.
In other home games, players can be seen dancing to the music before a kickoff or just simply throwing their arms up to the crowd acknowledging the electricity. So what was the problem Saturday night?
Obviously no one wants the players more focused on breaking out new dance moves on the football field than playing the game, but they could just give the fans some proof that they are in fact alive.
It wasn’t until the last five minutes of the game, with their backs against the wall, that other South Carolina players started to loosen up. Some of them even looked as though they enjoyed playing football.
It seems like it’s no coincidence that in the last five minutes of the game, the Gamecocks played arguably the best football of the entire game.
Again, no one wants to see a step show on the football field, at least not from the players while they should be focused on football. But as a player, you do what you have to do to remember why it is you started playing the sport in the first place and why you keep coming back to it.
Part of the thrill, at least in part, has to be that electricity that only football stadiums full of excited fans can generate.
So Gamecocks, turn around. This will only take a second. Then you can go right back to thinking about your job on the field.
Turn around and look at the thousands of people who came out to watch you play. Look at them in the stands waving their little white towels. Listen to them scream “Go, fight, win, kick ass!” at the top of their lungs before every kickoff and punt. Watch them dance like maniacs to Sandstorm.
Take it all in. Then, once you feel that spark inside you ignite, turn back around and look at the guy on the other side of that line who wants to put that fire out.
If at this point you aren’t ready to completely roll over anyone who gets in your way, it may be time to consider hanging up the jersey.
For those of you ready to roll, the Gamecock nation is right behind you.