South Carolina football: Has Spencer Rattler finally reached his potential?
This was the type of game everyone in South Carolina expected from Spencer Rattler. He may not be able to easily duplicate his stats, but Rattler had all of the anticipated factors that would lead to a spectacular showing covered.
For the record, Rattler’s numbers of 30-for-37, 438 yards and 6 touchdowns in his team’s 63-38 throttling of Tennessee on Saturday night was one for the USC record books. It certainly will be a difficult feat to replicate, as this was the statement game 2 years in the making. However, posting similar numbers can be easily anticipated.
Rattler’s steadying pocket presence and awareness and his ability to move through his progressions, lead receivers and adjust his throws when necessary will need to be consistent checkmarks for him to meet his new expectations.
He earned the respect of the media when it honored him with the Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week award, making him only the 6th South Carolina player to gain the honor. The last was defensive honoree Jaycee Horn in October 2020.
The South Carolina faithful now have seen their awaited quarterback messiah walk among them and perform the miracles they believed he could produce with the flick of his arm. His problems were apparently behind him.
Rattler even caught a pass in the 2nd quarter from a Wildcat formation led by receiver Dakereon Joyner. He also had his longest run from scrimmage — 7 yards — in the opening half of his overall 5-carry, 16-yard rushing performance.
More impressively, Rattler was nearly flawless in the 1st quarter, when he went 10-for-12 for 185 yards with 3 touchdowns. His yardage total was more in 1 quarter than he had overall in each of the games against Kentucky, Texas A&M and Missouri.
Granted, Rattler had running back MarShawn Lloyd pacing the offense in each of those games, and Rattler was effective in being a game manager instead of a playmaker. But there was no Lloyd for the 3rd consecutive game, and Rattler rose to the occasion. He may have finally answered his critics.
Against Tennessee, he had all the tools of the projected NFL Draft pick that was once envisioned for him. This time, there weren’t any flaws in registering one of the program’s biggest wins over the past 10 years, and the 1st time it bumped off a top-5 team since it beat No. 5 Missouri in 2013.
So was this Rattler’s awakening, his epiphany after so much inconsistency? He and his teammates will soon find out.
His 7-4 Gamecocks have their rival game at Clemson on Saturday, where the No. 7 and 10-1 Tigers have won 40 straight home games and have convincingly won the majority of the past seven meetings between the teams.
Tennessee’s pass rush against Rattler was virtually nonexistent, with 1 sack and 1 quarterback hurry. Rattler put on a clinic against a listless Vols defense behind — to its credit — a makeshift offensive line that has been in transition all season.
Remember, Rattler entered the game with 8 touchdowns, 9 interceptions and the lowest quarterback rating in the SEC. He had topped 200 yards passing in only 4 other games, and he had never thrown more than 2 touchdowns in any contest.
He showed some of his big-time playmaker potential when he produced 377 yards in a 44-30 loss to Arkansas. But there also were the mediocre musings against Missouri, Kentucky and Texas A&M, along with a 2-interception flop against Georgia.
Rattler will be looking at a Clemson defense that is ranked 6th in the ACC against the pass (214 per game) and 5th in sacks (32). The Tigers have intercepted 9 passes.
The junior quarterback and his team have enjoyed every moment of euphoria that has engulfed the program since Saturday night. Whether Rattler and his team have finally taken the next step is yet to be seen.
For their sake, they believe they can. The optimists don’t have any more doubts, while the Rattler doubters still lie in wait. A major step back at Clemson would be devastating to him and the program.
“This is a game we’ve all been waiting for … we knew this game and the next one can change the narrative of the program forever,” Rattler said after the Tennessee victory. “And tonight, that was one of the best wins ever in college football history.”
Rattler will get the chance to further redesign the program and solidify his presence Saturday afternoon.