South Carolina football: As hard as this team fights, upsetting Clemson wouldn't be a shock
Turns out, Shane Beamer’s constant messages of love and family have resulted in a bowl-game appearance that almost no one saw coming. It has now cracked open the belief that the triumphant return of those magical 11-win season is actually a possibility again.
Beamer’s team has pulled off 2 comebacks of 14 points this season, against Auburn and East Carolina, and 3 more of at least 4 points, meaning that all but 1 of the 6 wins came in at least somewhat dramatic fashion.
Put another way, the stadium affectionally known as WillyB has been the site of 4 straight home wins with 3 starting quarterbacks with 2 of those victories as SEC underdogs.
The Gamecocks have had every reason to pack it in, starting with the roster attrition as Beamer took over, and then the flurry of quarterback injuries, not to mention a right tackle and wide receiver lost since the start of the season. But given the comebacks, there never seems to be any panic in the Gamecocks as they’ve proven to be one of the more resilient teams around.
To his credit, Beamer has taken the Sam Pittman mold of supporting players, and taking a moribund situation, and exceeding expectations almost out of the gate. For a coach who was criticized at his hiring for not having coordinator experience, Beamer has thrust himself into the SEC Coach of the Year conversation by leaning on his coordinators and letting the love and family message percolate and digest through the program.
It has catapulted the Gamecocks ahead of schedule after multiple low points in the middle of the season punctuated by blowout losses to Tennessee and Texas A&M. Suddenly, the Gamecocks can add some gravy to this season with another win this week over that team from the Upstate, which would upgrade their bowl position.
Clemson appears at its most vulnerable position in several years, and although it is coming off perhaps its most complete victory over Wake Forest, the Gamecocks are in a prime position being in a night game at Williams-Brice Stadium.
This is a good matchup for the Gamecocks, especially on defense in a variety of ways starting with the defensive front against a sub-par Clemson offensive line. One of the Gamecocks’ strengths is that defensive line led by Kingsley Enagbare and Jabari Ellis, who played well last week. Not to mention that Clemson QB DJ Uiagalelei is battling knee and finger injuries, and like the team overall, has struggled for most of the season save for last week.
For all the criticism offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield received earlier in the season, he has made quite a turn as a play-caller, and it was never more evident than when he called predominantly 2 plays in the second half, and Auburn simply couldn’t stop them.
ZaQuandre White had one of his best games of the season primarily because the offensive line had its best game, certainly outside of the Florida game. His 168 all-purpose yards showed the potential of why he was the No. 1 running back coming out of fall camp.
Both Satterfield and the offensive line have proven to be the most improved pieces of the team, as they began the season as 2 of the more disappointing at their positions in the SEC. It worked for 75 yards on 20 carries and helped grind clock when SC needed it most. The Gamecocks had 15 plays in the 4th quarter outside of kneel-downs, and 9 of those were running plays. They called the same running play 8 of those 9 times.
Part of the overall picture is that QB Jason Brown has proven to be much more mobile than Zeb Noland, and more effective than Luke Doty, and his play allows the offensive line to grade higher because he gets the ball out quicker, and Satterfield to put him in better positions.
What this turnaround has delivered is the belief that the Gamecocks can at least keep it within the 11-point spread this week, and an upset would not be a surprise. Entering the bowl game and next season, this resilient program has cleared the way for a brighter future.