Second Thoughts: Mississippi State
Well, a win is a win.
That's exactly what happened on Saturday as the Gamecocks came away with a 34-16 victory over the Mississippi State Bulldogs. It wasn't the prettiest win for the Gamecocks this year as the offense had its struggles early but the South Carolina defense came to play and forced five turnovers and was able to pick up 20 points off of those turnovers.
This game ended up being described as a friend of mine as "boring." I hate to say it, but I agreed. There was never any doubt that South Carolina wouldn't win this game. Sure, it was close in the first half with a 17-10 score at halftime with Mississippi State getting the ball to start the second half, but you knew the talent would overcome and the Gamecocks would walk out of Williams-Brice with a victory.
It's funny to say that an 18-point SEC victory is a "boring" game but that's exactly what we saw on Saturday. There was some highlight performances from the Gamecocks but the main take away is it was another win in the SEC. The Gamecocks now sit at 5-2 with one game remaining and still have a shot at an SEC East division title. If that happens, we'll certainly look to a game like this and say, "maybe that wasn't so boring after all."
Anyways, let's dig a little deeper in this week's Second Thoughts on Mississippi State.
-- I fully expected the offense to play much better in this one. Mississippi State wasn't overpowering on defense and seemed to struggle against some of the better teams they played. However, the home crowd return wasn't enough as South Carolina failed to make anything happen of substance early in this one. The second quarter alone saw three Tyler Hull punts from the Gamecocks after scoring 17 points within the first 20 minutes of the game. Still, they were able to capitalize off the turnovers by Mississippi State and scored points when they needed to the most.
-- Mike Davis added another big game, even though he seemed to do it somewhat quietly. Davis basically carried the Gamecocks in the third with seven carries for 75 yards and two catches for 26 yards. He was unable to get in the end zone but had a 43-yard run in the third quarter and also had an acrobatic catch near the sideline. Here's that catch:
Davis was proud of this catch after the game and he should be. This shows just what a complete back Mike Davis is for South Carolina. He's a powerful runner with speed and agility, excels out of the backfield as a receiver and can even lay a nasty block like we saw him do against Missouri. If Davis can stay injury-free, he's got a chance to finish as one of the best players in South Carolina history. That's what kind of talent he has and he showed us that talent again on Saturday.
-- Connor Shaw had a ho-hum today to finish with four passing touchdowns. We didn't see much yardage through the air as Shaw finished with 147 yards on 10-of-20 passing. It's obvious the knee injury is still bothering him as he was credited with three rushes on Saturday, and one of those was a sack. Losing his mobility has forced him to become more of a passing quarterback and that takes away from Shaw's strengths. Maybe his injury is limiting this offense as the zone-read really isn't an option considering the main threat to run with the ball doesn't have the ability to. Still, Shaw managed the offense and was able to throw for four touchdowns and lead the Gamecocks to victory. It's another win under Shaw's watch and he's now one away from tying Todd Ellis at 24 wins in a career.
-- This defense had some pep in its step on Saturday. They were all over the field making some plays, knocking down passes and forcing some fumbles. It was great to see guys like Sharrod Golightly step up and play well considering some of his struggles he's had at the SPUR position. Here's one of Golightly's big plays from Saturday:
You could tell he wanted that score but was unable to come away with it. This play came on the opening series for Mississippi State in the second half. The Bulldogs were moving the ball downfield hoping to tie this game up but the fumble by Zak Prescott was recovered by Golightly and returned all the way to the 23-yard line. A few plays later, the Gamecocks scored. It was moments like these that were good to see considering how few turnovers South Carolina forced so far this season. Another impressive turnover was Skai Moore's off the tipped pass from Victor Hampton:
This freshman is a future leader on this defense and it was awesome to see him get his first interception like he did in the video above.
-- Victor Hampton. This guy has been a frustrating player at times considering his hot head and propensity to play out of position at times but he was basically perfect on Saturday. He made eight total tackles, had three pass breakups and forced a fumble and recovered it all in the same play. He basically ripped the ball away from the Mississippi State player and added to the turnover total for the Gamecocks.
Hampton was getting blocked on the play, but shed his blocker to go for the tackle on the Mississippi State receiver and was able to rip the ball away from him. Great play on a great day for Hampton. Let's hope there's more like this coming up soon for South Carolina.
-- Landon Ard deserves some praise. He's becoming more and more consistent on kickoffs and usually boots them through the end zone on the majority of his kickoffs. He nailed five of second kickoffs for touchbacks against MSU and didn't have a penalty either. Considering special teams has been an issue outside of Elliott Fry, it's good to see others not cause issues that hurt the Gamecocks chances at victory.
-- Just last week I questioned whether we would get any value out of Shaq Roland. Then this happened.
And this one.
So, as you can see, the value showed up on Saturday. We know he's got the talent. When he wants to play, he can play. The guy has star written all over him but he's not consistent. I don't need to see him catch touchdowns every single pass. That'd be great for sure but I'd be happy to see him consistent be a receiving threat for the Gamecocks. We need a deep threat with a jump-ball receiver like Roland and he fits the bill. Maybe, just maybe, this is the waking up that Roland needed to jump start his way towards a strong finish.
We got a win and picked up another winning season in the SEC. That's all that matters from Saturday's win. Well that and no big injuries for South Carolina. It's great to see how healthy South Carolina is heading into this upcoming bye week and they even get back some talent like running back Brandon Wilds. Shon Carson has played better the past two weeks but Wilds is a player that pushed Mike Davis for a starting job and is someone who can carry the load to spell Mike Davis. Considering some of the injuries that other SEC East teams have gone through, we're pretty fortunate to be where we are right now.
In two weeks, we'll see if South Carolina can exercise their demons against the Florida Gators. Last year, it was an embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Gators in The Swamp and I'm sure Steve Spurrier would love nothing more than some payback. Especially if it helps South Carolina get to 6-2 in the SEC and give them a better shot at the SEC East title.
It's always fun when the HBC takes on the Gators. Florida's season has gone downhill as of late so this matchup has lost a lot of its luster but it'll still be a lively matchup at Williams-Brice in a few weeks.
But before that happens, enjoy your bye week folks!