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September 9, 2012
NO. 9 SOUTH CAROLINA 48, EAST CAROLINA 10
A CASE OF THE D.T. Yeah, I admit it. I was already writing the comparisons to Vic Penn and Mykal Goodman, with a little Dickie DeMasi thrown in for good measure. There was nothing for me to see last week that could have possibly had me think that Dylan Thompson was, in any way, shape or form, going to play well. As much as Thompson is respected for being a very devout Christian and a model citizen, that didn't mean that he was going to be able to effectively play quarterback; Shoot, I was talking with a TV personality before the game and we agreed that USC would survive on Saturday and against UAB next week, but if Connor Shaw wasn't good to go by the Missouri game, the season was over. Well, I shut up. Quickly. Thompson wasn't just serviceable or steady, he was really, really good. The first completion he had to Damiere Byrd seemed to give him the gumption he needed - confidence was the only thing that Steve Spurrier said that Thompson required - and even when the running game stalled, Thompson kept throwing. He mixed his receivers, he was really great at spinning out of sacks and he gave USC a very big sigh of relief looking forward. If Shaw can't go, Thompson is there, and his ability has now been proven. The only bad play he had is when he channeled his inner Garcia and took on a defender head-first on a run. That seemed to have solved any future concerns when he did with the ball what Garcia did with his career.
QUIET, PRINCE: Spurrier was adamant - if Shaw is healthy, he'll start against UAB. Thompson was adamant - Shaw is better than I am, and I'm perfectly happy being the backup. There is no quarterback controversy. Thompson holds the fort until Shaw returns.
THROW HIM IN: Spurrier wisely didn't try to run a Shaw playbook without Shaw in the game, letting Thompson throw and throw often - he didn't hand off to Marcus Lattimore until five plays into the contest. Thompson is not the best scrambler or runner, although he had some nice pickups, and Spurrier seemed to be thinking, "I've got to find out if this kid can handle it, or if I need to play a hurting player." He put in the throw, Thompson made them, and gave himself a tremendous shot of confidence.
IT WAS MY UNDERSTANDING THAT EVERYONE HAD HEARD: Hey, it may have taken a while, but Byrd has finally started to consistently make plays. Last week, it was a potential game-saving tackle. This week, it was getting his quarterback fully into the game. I don't think I'm alone when I say that the ball went up, I saw Byrd running and thought, "No way." He's got great speed, but he hasn't been the best pass-catcher I've ever seen. But Byrd settled under it, it dropped right in and he had a 53-yard completion. There was no absence of any ornithological variety on Saturday. The word
LAST NAME RHYMES: How about that Buster Anderson? Blocks his tail off, and is always available to curl behind the defense for a pass. After two touchdowns on Saturday, Anderson's career stats are an absurd 12 catches with five scores. He caught two touchdowns on Saturday. I'd say that USC is in very good shape at tight end for years to come.
WE HEAR YOU TALKIN': USC's receivers, just a few days after being ripped for not getting open at Vanderbilt, accumulated 397 yards and five touchdowns against East Carolina. Thompson said they came to his room on Saturday morning and told him that they would have his back, then they responded to it. Bruce Ellington continued to make me look foolish by catching four passes for 63 yards, and really helping Thompson out early. Guys like D.L. Moore and DeAngelo Smith, pigeonholed as spring superstars, produced. These are the kinds of things that deeply inspire confidence.
IT BE A LADY: Those same kinds of lucky plays keep favoring USC. Victor Hampton was completely toasted on a play and half-heartedly ran after the receiver, only to see the guy run into a pile and cough up the ball. Reginald Bowens recovered the fumble, USC ball. The Golden Horseshoe couldn't stay in Auburn forever, right?
STUD HOSS ECU was geared to stop the run, correctly figuring that if Lattimore was contained, Thompson wouldn't be able to beat it. That mis-fired, badly. Lattimore only had 13 carries for 40 yards, but Thompson was on fire. The concern here is that Lattimore doesn't seem to have his usual explosiveness, or ability to find the best way for positive yardage. Now, he is coming off knee surgery, so perhaps that's natural, but all we heard was that he was as good as he used to be. It just seems like he's not finding those other holes for the best runs. He did run well against Vanderbilt last week, and he would quite confidently be handed the ball to salt a game away. Still
SPECIAL?: You know, it's a broken record. USC is not good on special teams. The latest examples were on the coverage teams, where ECU fumbled and the Gamecocks stood around looking for it until the Pirates recovered, and the punting, which does accomplish one purpose - they kicks are so high they can't be returned. Not like Joe Robinson can fix everything in a few short months, so until there's significant improvement, it's just continuing to point out the shortcomings.
BLEACHERS Yeah, it was hot. Yeah, it was high noon. But you pay all that money for tickets, and then leave after halftime? Is hanging out in the parking lot that important? The stands looked pathetic after the half, and Spurrier pointed it out. I get it that the students had a miserable time in an extremely hot day, but there were a lot of empty seats in the upper decks as well. Nobody can help the temperature, and I realize the hypocrisy of me (in the air conditioning) calling you out. But it looked bad. All those who complain of USC never getting enough respect, look at the stadium in the fourth quarter. No wonder.
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