Gamecocks all along making improvements’ now coming to light
Nov. 22, 2021
Gamecocks going bowling. Saturday’s with a 21-17 win over Auburn made the Gamecocks 6-5 and bowl eligible for the first time since 2018. It also marked the first time in history that South Carolina has beaten Auburn in back-to-back meetings. Here are key areas that have made the season more successful them most thought and are now just coming to light to see:
SOUTH CAROLINA’S SECONDARY IMPROVENET
The Gamecocks lost both Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu from last year’s secondary. Gamecocks are now second in the SEC in passing defense. DB Jaylan Foster has been a transformation at safety and a legitimate All-American candidate. Cam Smith who went down with a knee injury Saturday is still one of the better cover corners in the league. Carlins Platel, Marcellas Dial and Darius Rush, too, have had their moments. Saturday, Rush recorded a pair of pass breakups, as did Platel. Dial shined in spurts as well. South Carolina’s defense felt like it might have issues in the preseason. Eleven games in and it’s a group that continues to keep the Gamecocks in games.
WR JOSH VANN HAS FULL FILLED HIS POTENTIAL
Vann responded by showing off his skills starting with his performances against East Carolina 127 yards vs. Georgia 128 yards. Then he went silent for five consecutive games in which he recorded just 45 yards or less. Vann finished, yes just 37 yards on Saturday, but his 7-yard touchdown reception gave the Gamecocks a lead they wouldn’t give up. He’s now recorded 15 catches for 210 yards and three touchdowns over his last three contests. Heading into Saturday’s date with Clemson, Vann remains South Carolina’s best big-play threat. If his form continues as it has the last three weeks, the Gamecocks offense should find plenty of points.
ZAQUANDRE WHITE THE RUNNIN BACK
Kevin Harris might’ve led the Southeastern Conference in rushing in 2020, but ZaQuandre White is on another level at the moment. White entered the game averaging 7.4 yards per touch on his last 31 carries. Saturday, he picked up right where he left off; finishing the night with 99 yards rushing on 16 carries. He also added another 69 yards and a touchdown on three receptions. South Carolina’s running game has been a mess most of the season, but the way White is running right now inspires confidence the Gamecocks can figure it out late in the season.
3RD STRING STARTING QB JASON BROWN A GAME MANAGER
Saturday was not a night where the QB stole the spot light for a Gamecock starting quarterback. After a dip in his play at Missouri, Jason Brown was largely accurate and precise against Auburn. Brown completed 10 of 15 throws for 157 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. The former St. Francis (Pennsylvania) star told reporters he simply didn’t see safety Donovan Kaufman over the top when Brown fired a pass right into Kaufman’s hands.
Brown has been best when the Gamecocks just simply need him to be consistent compared to a home run hitter. The run game got going again on Saturday night, and it opened lanes for Brown in the passing game. If the Gamecocks can keep that flow, it’ll have a chance at an upset when Clemson comes to town next week.
SHANE BEAMER SHOWING SOME MAGIC IN YEAR 1
Coach Beamer choked up during his postgame press conference Saturday. For a man not often lost for words, it was an endearing moment in a up and down season. Beamer has spent months preaching a vision for the program and he insisted the Gamecocks were fighting to win this year. It largely fell on deaf ears particularly around SEC circles, where media members picked the Gamecocks to finish second-to-last in the SEC East. Whatever Beamer is doing, it has worked. The Gamecocks have six wins with a game to go and reached the six-win bowl eligibility threshold for the first time in three years.
It’s hard to overstate how impressive the job Beamer has done this fall is with a team many predicted to have a bottom-of-the-barrel finish in the league. Saturday, South Carolina’s first-year head coach put an exclamation point on what has been a season filled with overachieving moments.