Cockamamie on College Football’s Opening Night – A Incoherent Stream of Thoughts as Provided by South Carolina v. Vanderbilt
August 31, 2012
Given that I’m a huge college football fan – yep, I’m one of those guys that considers the opening day of college football each year a legitimate reason to call out sick and was once known for working every holiday I could just so I could take an extended vacation in order to )forget spending time with the first wife) watch every bowl game played between mid-December and early January – I couldn’t resist the urge to sit down with my laptop, enter into a vegetative (is beer considered a vegetable?) of pigskin mindlessness and release for readers of JockSpin.com a very incohesive stream of thought breaking down what many will argue is a marquee match up between the University of South Carolina and Vanderbilt University.
To make things a little more interesting for me – do authors really care about their audiences any way? – I thought I’d share my thoughts during the first half, but stop there, and try to predict what might occur moving into the final two quarters.
Hopefully this proves an entertaining exercise for both myself and, well, JockSpin.com’s readership.
If not, I’m sure I’ll hear about it sometime tomorrow.
At least I’ll have enjoyed plenty of chips, salsa and beer along the way …
Start of random stream of consciousness:
- SEC honks have to love the fact that their beloved conference gets to set the scene for the 2012 season (really, my friend Katie will tell me, is there any other football outside of SEC football?); meanwhile, my beloved Pac-12 is relegated to forgettable contests against teams like Rice and Northern Colorado … well, at least until 10:15 – Cougars v. Mormons – err, Washington State v. Brigham Young …
- I wrote this on my facebook, but feel it bears pointing out again: Can you tell Mitt Romney isn’t from the South? I get the Republican National Convention was pushed back because of Hurricane Isaac, but giving your acceptance speech as the the party’s candidate for President on the same night as a) the open of college football and b) an SEC headliner – isn’t that political suicide?
- I know it’s still a bit early – well, four minutes early, but those stands at Vanderbilt don’t look nearly as full as you’d think. Come on, Vandy – I know you’re the Harvard of the South, but it’s the start of the fall semester; surely you don’t have to hit the books that hard yet!
- Wonder how many of these fans have noticed that Vanderbilt is sporting a new look – well, stadium-wise – new turf, new lights, new Jumbotron, etc.
Then again, it’s SEC football – somehow, I don’t think anyone cares.
- How about South Carolina starting 2012 in the Top Ten for the first time in school history? Really?!
- Jackass Male Perspective Alert – ESPN’s Samantha Steele certainly helps to highlight the beauty of Vanderbilt’s sidelines, don’t you think?
- And … here’s the kickoff; right on cue, here also is your prerequisite SEC team downpour …
- Zac Stacy starting at running back for the Commodores, backed by Wesley Tate, who is the younger brother of former Notre Dame wideout Golden Tate …
Vanderbilt’s offense seems to be a squad full of younger brothers of former collegiate stars – don’t forget that Jordan Rodgers – yep, the sibling of Green Bay Packers quarterback, Aaron Rodgers – spearheads James Franklin’s offense under center.
Sad that a good colleague of mine referred to Vanderbilt’s quarterback as Jordan Palmer – remember him, he of UTEP fame? Probably not. I can barely remember his older brother, Carson, and his alleged time in the NFL.
- Rodgers nets Vanderbilt’s first first-down of 2012.
- Yikes, SEC officials, rocking new wireless headsets intended to allow communication between referees without huddling together, are confused on what down it is … on the first series of the game!
- Gutsy call on fourth down to throw the ball by Vanderbilt – it doesn’t work, but why ESPN’s commentators seem so critical of the decision, I’m not so sure. This is South Carolina, after all – one of the best defenses in the nation.
- Gamecocks’ offense on the field for the first time, with tailback Marcus Lattimore returning for the first time since injuring his knee last season … and, OH, it’s a fumble by Lattimore. Cue plenty of talk about Lattimore being too concerned about his knee to focus on the fundamentals.
- Stacy gains solid yardage on first down, but, whoa, does Jadevon Clowney more than make up for it on second, crunching Stacy in the Vanderbilt backfield for a loss.
- Clowney back in the backfield again as Rodgers scrambles on third down – flushed to his right, hoping to outrun Clowney – err, nope, sorry Jordan, not going to happen. Fourth down and a punt – Ace Sanders takes it near his team’s own goal line and immediately taken down.
- Going to be interesting to see how head coach Steve Spurrier responds to the fumbling away of the ball by Lattimore on the first offensive play from scrimmage for the Gamecocks; know he wants to try and get Shaw comfortable under center before letting him loose throwing the ball, but this might be the perfect time to take a shot downfield.
- Vandy’s defense so far playing more aggressive than I thought they would – or could.
- God, does Connor Shaw look young … how far removed from high school is he?
- False start on first down … Spurrier has to be getting ready to throw that visor of his …
- Nevermind that previous comment about Shaw looking young – that’s ONLY with his helmet on …
- A nice scramble by Shaw on first down shows why he’s a dangerous dual threat … plenty of time to throw on second and – GOOD HEAVENS – Vanderbilt’s safety picks the pass; that makes three offensive plays for South Carolina and two turnovers. Not the type of start you’d expect out of a Top 10 team …
- Tate is looking like a poor man’s DeAnthony Thomas for Vanderbilt – the kid definitely can scoot …
- South Carolina successful in keeping the Commodores under wraps inside the 10, and on third down – BOOM – Shaq Wilson picks an air ball of sorts from Rodgers thrown out to the left and returns it 37 yards the opposite way.
- Shaw under center with a little more room to breathe than the last offensive drive, makes an option read on first down, keeps it, winding up the middle of the field for 20 yards.
- Lattimore back on the field and – poof! – cuts right, breaks through the line of scrimmage and scampers 29 yards for his first score of 2012! Touched only one time, and that was deep in the secondary.
Now that is what I have to believe the majority of us believed South Carolina would do, both on offense and defense.
- A pair of squandered opportunities for Vanderbilt on their first two offensive possessions. Rodgers needs to settle down, but Commodores’ wide receivers aren’t helping matters any.
- Love the story presented by ESPN commentators prior to kickoff that Franklin was seen getting in the faces of his placekickers for not approaching the game with enough intensity.
- Quick three and out for Vanderbilt on their third offensive possession …
- An advertisement for Alabama and Michigan on Saturday night – how amazing would it be if the Wolverines could figure a way to down the Crimson Tide. UM as a prominent national program again? It just seems right, doesn’t it?
- If Brady Hoke pulls an upset of Alabama off, what do you think i t would mean in terms of inspiration for Bill O’Brien and Penn State?
- More importantly, what kind of fodder would that provide fans of the Auburn War Eagles – err, Tigers?
- Shaw looks calm and confident after that last score – two passes in a row after a short run up the middle by Lattimore to start this drive – one to Damiere Byrd, the second to Ace Sanders.
- Shaw has now run the ball three times, averaged over 10 yards per attempt.
- Interesting stat – South Carolina’s offensive line, on average, is two inches taller and 39 pounds heavier than Vanderbilt’s defensive line; think that won’t become a problem in the third and fourth quarter?
- End of first quarter – and a hilarious Man v. Mountain Goat commercial from AT&T Cellular leaves me wanting to check out an HTC One X.
- Washington State v. BYU follows this game – how excited am I!
That anyone should be excited about a Cougars football game seems weird … but, c’mon, it’s the return of Mike Leach to college football (wonder how Craig James feels about that …).
- Shaw and Lattimore have now combined for over 90 yards rushing on just 11 attempts. Turning into a two-man show.
- Andre Howe of Vanderbilt just showed everyone what a perfect pass break up looks like – and saves USC going up 13-0 on a nice pass from Shaw to the left corner of the end zone.
- Some issues with center – quarterback exchange for South Carolina; officials are reviewing whether or not Shaw’s knee went down on third down – critical only because the Gamecocks were lining up to go for a touchdown on 4th and 3.
Video evidence not indisputable; South Carolina retains ball on two or three-yard line.
Spurrier opts for a field goal rather than trying to punch the ball into the end zone – USC now up 10-0.
- Yikes, Vanderbilt nearly turns over the ball on the ensuing kickoff – ESPN not overstating it when saying that would have been disastrous.
- Jordan Matthews – GOOD LORD – goes Beast Mode, beautiful pass reception from Rodgers and 78-yards later, the Commodores trail only by 3! Rodgers helping to show why Vanderbilt led the SEC last year in plays of 40-yards or better on offense.
- Matthews is 6-3, 205 pounds, listed as a wideout? Totally figured him for a tight end.
- Suddenly, Rodgers looking like a SEC starting quarterback – now 4-of-7 passing for 104 yards; of course, still has that interception from the first quarter going against him.
- HA – quick check-in at ESPN studios, and, who’d believe it, there’s UCLA’s rookie quarterback Brett Hundley rushing for a touchdown on the inaugural carry of his collegiate football carrier. Tell me that won’t energize the Bruins faithful – even if it DID come against Rice.
- Vanderbilt’s free safety Kenny Ladler is having a heck of a first half – one interception and now adds a sack of Shaw to his numbers.
- Rodger scrambles ALL over the place on first down, rolls right, then throws an ugly pass across his body, but, well, doesn’t matter, Josh Grady pulls it in, yet another impressive gain – this time, 39 yards.
- Third down, inside the 10-yard line, Rodgers has an easy throw for six-points but gets a little ahead of himself, throws the ball too hot. Commodores will have to settle for a field goal.
Hard to believe this game is tied up after the offensive explosion shown by South Carolina in the first quarter.
- Story of the second quarter – 28 total offensive yards for South Carolina in this period compared to Vanderbilt’s 114.
- Commodores stepping up the defensive tempo with five minutes left in the half – force a 4th and 1, and, um, Spurrier going for it with USC on its own 49-yard line.
Rough exchange, ugly play – but, well, a run by Lattimore gets the first.
- OH OH – on first down, another predictable run by Shaw, but – well – not so good of an ending – looks like Shaw might have hurt his shoulder – he’s in quite a bit of pain. Now, Dylan Thompson under center.
This could get ugly.
- Meanwhile, Utah’s Jordan Wynn looking no worse for wear – then again, he’s facing Northern California.
- Geez – maybe I didn’t give that UCF / Akron contest enough love – UCF up 35-0 at halftime!
- But McNeese up 7-6 over MTSU near halftime? Hmm …
- Whoops, nearly missed another impressive gain through the air from Rodgers to Matthews.
-Vanderbilt pushing for the lead with 30 seconds left before halftime.
- Ouch, 49-yard attempt by the Commodores is good, but negated thanks to a false start. That hurts.
- Offense will take the ball one more time to run out the clock – much ado about nothing, I’m afraid, though the ball is knocked out of Rodgers’ hands for a fumble.
Halftime and I’m out of beer and chips. And my wife isn’t home. Guess I have to get up. Sigh.
Thoughts to this point and beyond:
Vanderbilt seems intent on showing its SEC brethren it’s approaching its 2012 season with a much different – and aggressive – attitude. The Commodores offense game out firing – well, at least in theory – but couldn’t turn that into points early on – errors proved costly, especially an interception inside the red zone on Vanderbilt’s second offensive possession. Still, by the second quarter, Rodgers and the rest of the Commodore’s offense had settled down, and began benefitting from the big play making ability the starter under center brings to the game with his arm. Jordan Matthews looks like a beast out at wide receiver for James Franklin’s squad and doesn’t seem to be meeting much resistance from a vaunted South Carolina defensive unit. Should Rodgers and Matthews continue to have their way in the passing game, look out.
Meanwhile, South Carolina looked as if it might simply steamroll over Vanderbilt on the legs of Connor Shaw and Marcus Lattimore, but appear to have suffered a major blow with what looks like a shoulder injury to the former, their starter at quarterback. Shaw isn’t the best thrower, per se, but his dual threat abilities make him extremely dangerous; without Shaw piloting the Gamecocks’ offense, Vanderbilt ought to be able to key in on Lattimore and the USC ground game and keep back up Dylan Thompson under wraps. That could spell disaster in the second half of this evening’s contest