Photo courtesy of Gamecocks Athletics
Gamecock Shi Smith runs after a catch in the loss to Tennessee. The former Union County player caught 10 passes for 140 yards in Game One of the 2020 Football Season.
Photo courtesy of Gamecocks Athletics
Gamecock Parker White hit two field goals for the Gamecocks in the 31-27 loss to the Vols. White hit from 35 and 45 yards and was a bright spot for the Gamecocks in Game One of the 2020 Football Season.
COLUMBIA — It took us a little longer to get here, but the 2020 Gamecock Football Season finally arrived this past Saturday. While this year has seen a lot of things change and be “different,” some things remain the same. One of those things that has remained the same is the Gamecocks’ ability to lose games in crazy ways.
The Gamecocks’ opening drive of the season showed much promise, going 75 yards in 11 plays and scoring a touchdown. The 15,009 Gamecock fans were at a fever-pitch after the first drive and sounded like a crowd at least double that size. After Tennessee gave the ball back to Carolina after a fourth down stop, the Gamecocks had a chance to extend the lead but instead went three and out after a drive that had a net of negative three yards. The Gamecocks would pin the Vols back at the ten yard-line on the punt.
On the ensuing possession, the Volunteers would mount a successful 90-yard drive in only seven plays ending with a one-yard touchdown run by quarterback Jarrett Guarantano to tie the game at 7.
Gamecock Quarterback Colin Hill made his first major mistake of the game with 13:22 to go in the first half when he threw a costly interception that was returned for a touchdown by the Vols’ Henry To’o To’o. The pass appeared to go straight through the hands of the Gamecocks Star Receiver Shi Smith, the senior out of Union County High School. The score by Tennessee would be the last score of the first half as the Vols took a 14-7 lead to the break.
After the half the Volunteers came out like a team possessed. The Vols ran down the field with great ease going 74 yards in only six plays and only two minutes and 32 seconds to extend their lead over the Gamecocks to 21-7. The Gamecocks were not going to go quietly as they were able to put together a quick four play 75-yard drive that was capped by a 29-yard touchdown strike from Hill to Smith. Tennessee’s next possession ended in a missed field goal and the Gamecocks were able to drive down and tie the game. This drive, a 10-play 71-yard drive, ended with Hill fighting his way into the end zone from one yard out, and the game was tied 21-21.
Tennessee would regain the lead on the next drive going 65 yards in eight plays and kicking a 27-yard field goal to make it 24-21. Parker White would tie the game back at 24 10:48 to go in the game with a 35-yard field goal. The tie game would be short-lived when Tennessee was able to drive 75 yards in four plays and one minute and 13 seconds and Guarantano added another touchdown pass to put the Volunteers out front. The teams would trade punts before the Gamecocks got the ball back with just over seven minutes to go in the game. The Gamecocks drove down the field but the drive stalled after a pass on second down went off the hands of tight end Nick Muse. The Gamecocks would settle for a field goal and call on their defense to get a stop, giving the Vols back the ball with just 3:16 left to go in the game.
The defense would rise to the occasion and forced a Tennessee punt with around 1:30 left in the game. However, the punt would hit the leg of Gamecock defender Cam Smith and would be recovered by Tennessee, who would take a couple knees and escape with the win.
Overall, I thought Colin Hill played well for the Gamecocks. Hill ended the night 25-39 for 290 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. I saw a player who stayed calm and poised under pressure. I watched him go throw his progressions and make good decisions with the football. Not a bad debut for the graduate transfer from Colorado State and former Dorman Cavalier.
The line has some work to do as far as protecting their signal caller, and he doesn’t have a lot of help from skilled position players, but all in all I think he had a great game.
A real bright spot for the Gamecocks was Shi Smith. Shi caught 10 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown. He is definitely the Gamecocks go to guy on the offensive side of the ball. I am concerned about how many times he was targeted during the game and worry about his durability if the Gamecocks can’t find someone to help him out. Leggette and Muse will have to step up and help out the senior Smith if this offense is going to be successful.
Israel Mukuamu suffered a groin injury during the game and was replaced on the field by RedshirtFreshman Cam Smith. Smith had rough night in the Secondary and if Mukuamu is going to miss a significant amount of time Smith is going to be called on to step up and make big plays. A potential injury to Mukuamu is devastating to this Gamecock defense, as he is expected to be a leader and a star on that side of the ball for South Carolina.
GameTwo of the 2020 season for South Carolina will see the Gamecocks take on the 1-0 Florida Gators, who knocked off Ole Miss in week one in impressive fashion. The Gamecocks will have their hands full trying to hang with the third ranked team in the country in the Swamp.
Tyler Shugart is the host of “Bump and Run” from 7-9 a.m. on Fox Sports 1400 AM 98.3 FM in Spartanburg. He can be reached at [email protected]