The Gamecocks scored on their first three drives, took a 17-0 lead and cruised to a 27-10 win. After such a quick start, some complained the offense didn’t continue to score at the same pace. There really isn’t too much to be concerned about coming out of this game.
First, Carolina didn’t come out and play ugly football like it has done in the past. The first few drives looked polished even if the entire offensive attack didn’t. USC ran the ball very well at times, and both Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds played extremely well. The passing game isn’t as polished as it will be, but it is ahead of where it was this time last season.
The defense played extremely well. Last season North Carolina averaged more than 40 points per game. The 10 points UNC scored was the fewest of any Larry Fedora team.
Let’s talk about Carolina’s star player. Clowney is out of shape and completely overhyped, right? He had almost no effect on the game and didn’t come close to tearing anyone’s head off. He must be all talk and no substance. If you agree with any of the preceding, you’ve either been listening to too many national pundits or you don’t know what you’re talking about.
Clowney didn’t make a game changing, Heisman winning play, and he won’t do that it most games he plays. That doesn’t mean he isn’t the most dominant defensive player in a generation. He did look tired. Perhaps it was because he had a stomach bug. Perhaps it was because it was 100 degrees and he was playing against an up tempo offense. He wasn’t the only tired one out there, and the entire team isn’t in bad shapre.
Speaking of the defense, the quality recruiting of the last few years is starting to become evident on the field. The defensive line depth was on display all night. Not only did Carolina keep North Carolina from scoring much but they did it while cycling through many players. The importance of defensive depth, especially up front, cannot be overstated.
Individually, Victor Hampton continued to showcase his abilities as one of the best corners in the country. T.J.Gurley played extremely well and led the team in tackling despite not starting. Freshman Skai Moore looked very athletic at line backer.
On offense the line appears to have a lot of potential. There were some missed blocks and some missed assignments, but this group has talent and should improve throughout the year. One question remains about depth. If this group doesn’t stay healthy, it could derail Carolina’s ambitions.
Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds both looked strong and fast. If Carolina will commit to being a run first team, which it got away from in the middle quarters, it should have fresh punishing running backs all game.
Connor Shaw looked healthy and played well, but he must take fewer hits. We had this problem with Garcia a few years ago, and he managed to adapt his game. Shaw will have to get his yards and get down or get out of bounds. If not, Dylan Thompson’s reps are going to go way, way up.
Special teams looked mostly good, but have some room for improvement. It’s still early, but freshman Elliot Fry kicked well. If he can make his extra points and make most everything from inside 40, we’ll be in good shape. The kickoffs, handled by Landon Ard, still need some work. The first kickoff was out of bounds, and the subsequent two were squibbed. A later kick did go deep into the end zone, but another only made it to the 5. When we play better teams, we don’t want to give them multiple return opportunities.
Punting was fair. Punt returning had highs and lows. For the most part Hampton did well, but he took some big hits, and he isn’t a person the defense can afford to have hurt on a return. If he continues to be the main return man, I’m fine with that, but I’d like to see him fair catch some more.
All in all, it was a good game, and there is plenty to be optimistic about. We’ll know more next week when the team takes to the road against Georgia.