Don’t look now college football world but the University of South Carolina is 2-0, ranked in the top 15, and it is the middle of September (read again carefully if that previous line didn’t sink in correctly). When I wake up in the morning I hear sandstorm, during breakfast my cereal forms the number 2001, and as I walk out the door I make sure to grab my heavy coat made of Gamecock pride. College football season is in full swing and Carolina fans have something to cheer for, something to brag about, and a lot to hope for.
Through the first two games fans and sportscasters alike, agree that the Gamecocks are for real and have been one of the most impressive teams. The offense is balanced, executing, and scoring. The defense is tackling, hitting hard, and intimidating opponents. The fans are louder, wilder, and more supportive than ever before, and the student section just won’t stop growing. Stephen Garcia has finally arrived in Columbia, and a young man named Marcus Lattimore has Georg Rogers and his Heisman Trophy watching and believing. The only negative to point out, there are 10 games left in the season. The season is 1/6 over which means we as fans need to stay grounded in reality and the players must do the same.
Going forward the Gamecocks must accomplish certain goals. The first goal: stay healthy. It is vital to the success of any sports team that your players remain healthy and in the game. The Gamecocks are deeper and more talented than any year in their history, but injuries can mount up and ruin a season quicker than Rick Pitino finds excitement at an Italian restaurant. Garcia, Lattimore, Jeffrey, and the offensive line have to stay healthy and equally as important, lucky. The second goal: remain level headed. Carolina has a history of reading their press clippings, even ones from The State (hard to believe, but I guess someone can rearrange that newspaper to make it coherent). If I was Steve Spurrier, this would be my talking point everyday of the week. Address the team, have the captains address the team, and stress focusing on the task at hand. Last week doesn’t matter this week, take one game at a time, and the rest will take care of itself. The press for the school and players from ESPN is fantastic, but the players must cling to the motivation that the rest of the country believes the team will fail when it matters most. Like stated earlier, we haven’t achieved anything. The third goal: tell the NCAA to quit wasting our time and hand down a final decision. This offseason mess needs to come to an end and we need to either cut our losses and move forward or reinstate the final pieces to the Garnet and Black jigsaw puzzle. The fourth goal: go to class. These players are in school for an education, and as we have seen before, discounting class and your education can take on a toll on the team in November, December, and January. These goals are easily achieved, and vital to the remaining 10 games.
As I have watched the first two games there have been only a few questions that have surfaced in my head relating to the success of this team going forward. The offensive play calling has been solid so far, and bailed out by pretty efficient execution. However, going forward teams are going to adapt to these repetitive play calls, and Spurrier must change up the offensive schemes to keep opposing teams on their toes. Predictability will hurt this team moving forward, and we must avoid it on offense. Stamina is another interesting question, and was pretty well answered on Saturday. The fourth quarter will decide a lot of our games this season, and on Saturday the players seemed to understand this and displayed a level of fitness I had never seen out of a Carolina team. The offensive line put the Bulldogs on a fluffy pink leash and walked them down the field to ensure victory. Stamina and fourth quarter resolve will win us the SEC; let’s hope that Georgia performance wasn’t a fluke. Marcus Lattimore is unbelievably good. Marcus Lattimore carried the ball 37 times on Saturday. Marcus Lattimore is a freshman. Fans, players, coaches, and Marcus must keep these first two games in perspective. The coaches need to protect him, and ensure his body has time to rest. If he has to carry the ball 37 times in every SEC game his future looks bleak. If we can keep him healthy, Atlanta on December 4th looks pretty nice. Last but not least, Garcia must maintain his current attitude. Garcia has finally become a leader and he manages the game to ensure a victory. He walks out onto that field knowing and performing like winning is all that matters. If his attitude continues to revolve around the team and winning football games then Columbia will be the center of something special, something never seen before.
Two games have come and gone in the 2010 season and the Gamecocks have notched two impressive victories. Marcus Lattimore has displayed more talent and heart in eight quarters than any gamecock running back has shown in three decades. The country is starting to take notice, Columbia and the University has Gamecock pride flowing through every street, five points is thriving, and Gamecock fans finally have realistic hope to cling to. This could be a special year, this could be “the year”, and as my good friend and Gamecock fan Austin Lam said, “2010 is that long awaited next year” for Carolina football.