Saturday, September 8
The backup quarterback with 5 career pass attempts was making his first start. The star running back, expected to carry a heavy load, managed just 40 rushing yards.
Doomsday scenario? South Carolina instead turned it into a recipe for a blowout in a 48-10 romp over East Carolina.
Sitting in the hallway after the game, Marcus Lattimore stretched out his legs and scanned the box score.
"These are the kinds of games I like," he said with a smile.
And why wouldn't he? Dylan Thompson, looking poised and confident in relief of an injured Connor Shaw, threw for 330 yards - exceeding Shaw's career high of 311. A receiving corps that was maligned the week before spread out 20 catches among 9 wideouts. A swarming defense forced 5 turnovers, helping Carolina to its most points in a home opener since 1995. And the bruise that had kept Gamecock fans in suspense all week became a mere footnote.
Dylan Thompson (left) tied a school record with 330 passing yards in his 1st career start.
On a sweltering Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium, it turns out the Gamecocks had little to sweat about.
"Notes, Quotes, and Anecdotes" from a winning first game in Columbia:
Pitching and Catching: With his 330 yards, Thompson tied Blake Mitchell's school record for most passing yards by a Gamecock QB making his first career start. Mitchell chucked it for 330 yards against UCF in 2005.
When a backup comes in, coaches usually script short passes or timing patterns to boost his confidence. The opposite was true for Thompson - Spurrier had no hesitation in letting him air it out. Look at the length of his first six completions:
Dylan Thompson Pass Completions To Begin Game
Receiver Length of Gain
D. Byrd 53
B. Ellington 22
R. Anderson 17
B. Ellington 18
R. Anderson 7 (TD)
N. Jones 17
I asked Thompson about his mindset afterwards.
"Coach just told me he had confidence in me. For him to say that, it meant a lot. I'm strong in my faith. I had such a peace all week, to be honest with you. I wasn't nervous. I didn't come into the game nervous," Thompson said.
He still has a ways to go for his all-time record, though. He threw for 352 yards in a game as a senior at Boiling Springs HS.
Byrd Food: Thompson underthrew his first pass. He overthrew his second. But his third pass was a picture-perfect spiral to Damiere Byrd, hitting the sophomore in stride for a 53-yard gain.
Speed by Haribo: Damiere Byrd has an interesting pre-game superstition.
A long completion to Byrd shouldn't surprise anyone - Byrd earned All-SEC honors in indoor track, and is acknowledged as the Gamecocks' fastest player. But for someone of such abundant speed, Byrd has an odd superstition: he eats a pack of gummy bears before every game.
Won't Be Denied: Throughout preseason camp, Jimmy Legree insisted that cornerback was his natural position. The Beaufort, S.C., native played a mostly reserve role at safety in 2011. Through two games, few would argue with his self-scouting report. A week after posting a career-high 7 tackles against Vanderbilt, Legree racked up 5 tackles, 2 pass breakups, and an easy-does-it 34-yard interception return for a touchdown against ECU.
"I was thinking, 'That was my first career turnover. How could they take that away from me?' I was a little hot," he said.
Cornerback Jimmy Legree would make up for an overturned turnover.
Two plays later - and presumably still peeved - Legree lined up in soft coverage against East Carolina's top wideout, sophomore Justin Hardy (8 catches, 111 yards). Legree noticed that ECU ran the hitch route often on three-step drops.
"I told our safety [Brison Williams] before the play, 'Get over the top, because I'm going to jump this route,'" Legree told me.
Legree wound up with his first career turnover after all - and a touchdown to boot.
Special Indeed: It may get lost amidst the turnovers and offensive explosion, but South Carolina's special teams played brilliantly. A week ago, Vanderbilt had an average starting field position of its own 40-yard line. In 15 drives, ECU had an average starting field position of its own 20.
Average Starting Field Position
Vanderbilt OWN 40
East Carolina OWN 20
More Lattimore: Gotta love the following sequence on this drive in the third quarter.
1st and 10: Thompson sacked by Lattimore (ECU DE John).
2nd and 11: Lattimore 3-yard pass catch (USC RB Marcus).
For the record, Lattimore regained the line of scrimmage.... from Lattimore.
And Finally... Earlier this week, Steve Spurrier assured the faithful that "we're not as bad as maybe people think we are." Prophetic words that played out over 60 thorough minutes at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Join us next week as we begin our prep for UAB. Thanks for diving "Inside The Chart." -AD--