Fast & Furious Monday Morning Observations

By Rixon Lane

25 thoughts and takeaways from South Carolina's 17-13 win over North Carolina:

1. In at least one segue to commercial, ESPN used this helmet as South Carolina's secondary logo...

...never again. 


2. In the first quarter, the Gamecocks sent out a defensive line of Cedrick Cooper, Marquavius Lewis, Dante Sawyer and Boosie Whitlow. Three newcomers and a converted linebacker. This speaks to what South Carolina was dealing with on the defensive line last season.


3. Connor Mitch did not complete a forward pass until the 2nd quarter. After starting 0-for-5, Steve Spurrier dialed up a tight end screen and a swing pass for Mitch's first two completions before he connected with Pharoh Cooper for the Gamecocks' opening touchdown. 


4. South Carolina's defense was torched between the 20s in the first quarter. They played much better in the redzone, but against teams that aren't afraid to pound the ball when they get near the goal line, they may struggle. 


5. Sean Kelly made one of the best opening impressions in the history of South Carolina punters. His first three snaps featured a 0-yard return, a successful run on 4th down, and a ball downed at the UNC 9-yard line. He later pinned the Heels inside their own five in the 3rd quarter. 


6. South Carolina played a fair amount of zone coverage with cornerbacks giving 8-10 yards of space off the line of scrimmage. North Carolina wideouts had free releases for the majority of the night and it led to some easy completions. 


7. Gamecock fans do not believe in "neutral sites." South Carolina travels very well, especially to contests held in North Carolina. The Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight matchups for the women's basketball team were dominated by Gamecock fans and Thursday wasn't any different. By the way, did you notice ESPN never did any live shots from Chapel Hill?


8. Brandon Wilds looks ready to assume the starting tailback position. Wilds has been extremely effective when he's healthy and he showed why coaches and fans love him on Thursday night. Bruising north-and-south runner and capable pass-catcher. 


9. Deebo Samuel was never used in the running game. After hearing for over a year about the explosiveness of the redshirt freshman, the only designed run play to a wide receiver not named Pharoh Cooper was a jet sweep to Carlton Heard that was thrown off due to an early snap. 


10. Connor Mitch was not afraid to tuck the ball and pick up yards with his legs. Mitch seemed skittish in the opening minutes and scrambled when he probably shouldn't have but, as the game progressed, he was calmer in the pocket and delivered some nice runs.


11. A lot of North Carolina's defensive players cramped up during the course of the game and the cramps seemed to come when South Carolina's offense got into rhythm. Granted, so did several Gamecocks. The game was at 6:00 in the south in early September, but the Gamecock offense was not moving at a blistering pace. 


12. Steve Spurrier's "timeout" motion looks an awful lot like clapping.


13. Shon Carson was not back to return kickoffs. I have made it clear over the years that I am no fan of Shon Carson, kick returner. Although it really didn't matter due to the number of touchbacks, this should become a permanent thing for South Carolina. Kudos to him for the game-winning touchdown run on his first carry of his senior year. Home run threat out of the backfield. 


14. For some reason, ESPN unveiled a graphic that showed how many times Pharoh Cooper had touched the football from the running back position. There are many spots where South Carolina needs Cooper to excel, but running back is not one of them. 


15. North Carolina's kicker had ridiculous hair. That haircut is only acceptable if you are Samoan or a safety. Not when you're a placekicker from Virginia. Get it together, Nick Weiler. 


16. Perry Orth looked very composed. Yes, his playing time was limited and no, I'm not advocating for Orth to become the starter, but South Carolina needs to have someone they can bring in off the bench if Mitch gets hurt. 


17. David Williams won't get many reps if he doesn't catch the ball better. Williams had two drops in the first half. The first was on a ball thrown behind him, but the second came when South Carolina was trying to run the two-minute drill to end the first half. 


18. If Elliott Fry does not finish his career as the most accurate placekicker in Gamecock history, it will be because Steve Spurrier insists on having him try 50+ yard field goals to end halves. Fry has missed from 54, 58, 58 and 57 yards in his career. 


19. South Carolina's defense managed four sacks. After recording just 14 all of last season, it is a good sign that the front four had some success against one of the nation's most experienced offensive line and facing an offense that gets the ball out quickly on pass plays. 

20. Larry Fedora pulled a Steve Spurrier to open the second half. Going for it on 4th down from his own 31 with a three-point lead after saying how frustrated he was with his offense's performance less than five minutes earlier. 

21. South Carolina's special teams were fantastic. Yes, you read that correctly. From Kelly's run to the punt coverage to Fry's made field goal to Landon Ard's kickoffs, the Gamecocks were as sound on special teams as they've been in a long time. 

22. The Gamecocks have struggles with wide receivers named after animals with the last name "Howard." Tennessee's Pig Howard has run, caught and thrown a touchdown against South Carolina and Bug Howard had six catches for 114 yards and a touchdown on Thursday night. 

23. He gets lost in the shadow of Skai Moore, but Jonathan Walton played a solid game. Walton and Moore should be a great combination at linebacker. 

24. South Carolina has a lot of work to do on offense and defense. Not sure that the win on Thursday changes any of the expectations for this team. 

25. Always better to start 1-0 as opposed to 0-1. South Carolina could have lost another 4th quarter lead, but didn't. Don't know how much confidence that gives this team moving forward, but have to assume it helps.