Carolina 17 Vanderbilt 13: Rapid Reaction

Well, it wasn’t nearly as pretty as we’d hoped. But the Gamecocks were able to pull out a 17-13 victory over the Commodores last night in Nashville. The Gamecocks have a lot of things to improve upon, but thankfully the schedule softens a bit for the next few weeks. Here’s some quick thoughts on the game.

  1. Spurrier’s got a stash of clothes somewhere. Not sure if you were paying attention during the early part of the game when the rain was coming down, but Spurrier kept switching up his headwear. He started out in his trademark visor, but switched to a hat when the rain started to come down with a little more gusto. A few minutes later, he was back to the visor. Not that the hat is a bad look, but he just looks out of place unless he’s wearing a visor. Or slamming it to the ground in a moment of fury. He also changed to a second white visor at halftime. And also changed from a white shirt to a garnet one. Counting wardrobe changes might be more fun than visor throws or Lou Holtz halftime interview stutters.
  2. Connor Shaw needs to figure out what kind of quarterback he wants to be. For the early part of his career, Shaw generally looked timid in the pocket. He wasn’t willing to take a hit to deliver a strike under pressure. He bailed too early. When he ran, he was afraid to take a hit. But something clicked during the game against The Citadel last November. He reversed all of those trends. In a Garcia-esque moment during the Capital One Bowl, he even put his head down and took a hit on a scramble play. And then left the game for good with an injury, but that’s beside the point. Last night, he seemed to revert back to his old ways. I don’t know what caused his shoulder injury, but it didn’t seem like it should have been a big deal at all. Shaw needs to decide on the best style of play for him moving forward. That being said, kudos to the junior for showing a lot of toughness for coming back out and playing most of the rest of the way while clearly still in pain.
  3. Justice Cunningham’s fourth quarter catch changed the game. Nothing was going right for the Gamecocks in the second half. Vanderbilt was up 13-10 and things were looking pretty grim for Carolina. Then Shaw stood in the pocket and delivered an absolutely perfect strike to Justice Cunningham across the middle, who was hit just below the chin as the ball arrived. Cunningham’s helmet flew off, he hit the ground hard, but was somehow able to hold on to the ball. The catch visibly pumped up the team, and the offense was given an extra 15 yards for a personal foul penalty on the hit. Marcus Lattimore gave the Gamecocks a 17-13 advantage moments later with his second rushing touchdown. It was the key play of the game, and Cunningham deserves a ton of credit for holding on while taking a bone-crushing hit.
  4. The playcalling left something to be desired. It seems that at times during his career at South Carolina, Steve Spurrier has suffered an identity crises when calling the plays. It happened again last night when Connor Shaw temporarily left the game due to injury. With a world class running back and a backup quarterback in the game, what does he decide to do? All of a sudden go pass heavy. And even though the playcalling wasn’t necessarily the problem during most of the game, Spurrier just didn’t seem to be able to dial up the right plays to get the offense moving. But all in all, the Gamecocks did enough to win the game. And I can’t wait to see how this team improves over the course of the rest of the season.
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