Shane Beamer finally got his first signature win as the South Carolina head coach. His team beat up on the Florida Gators this past Saturday, with a 40-17 victory. Beamer’s Gamecocks now sit at 5-4 with three contests remaining. The win itself was huge considering how the team had been playing in 2021, but the way they achieved it was more impressive. This was the most complete performance by a South Carolina football team in years. They played near their best in all three phases for the first time all season.
Shane Beamer’s Gamecocks Look To Build On Momentum
South Carolina had scuffled its way to a 4-4 record leading into the bye week. Fresh off a beating from Texas A&M this team needed to regroup and find a way to make some palpable progress. They did just that in front of the home crowd at Williams-Brice Stadium. It is the kind of win that can define Beamer’s Gamecocks and his first season in charge. This team is now just one win away from bowl eligibility after only winning six games in the previous two campaigns. After putting together a complete performance against the Gators, the next step is bringing that same focus and execution on the road to face Missouri this Saturday. A loss and all the momentum built thus far will start to fade again. A victory and the Gamecocks would be bowl eligible with two home games remaining.
Most of the headlines from this weekend were about Jason Brown and his first start at quarterback. He played very well, but that wasn’t the biggest takeaway for the long-term success of Beamer’s Gamecocks. The fact that they finally played a clean game void of the mental mistakes, penalties, and turnovers that had plagued them most of the season is a big deal. South Carolina has shown flashes on both sides of the ball that they perform at a high level. However, before Saturday, those flashes were fleeting because of the miscues. If this team can continue to show consistent focus and execution on top of the effort they had been showing, this program will indeed be heading in the right direction.
Third Time’s The Charm
Speaking of the starting quarterback, Brown led the mistake free football for South Carolina versus the Gators. He is the third signal caller to start for the garnet and black in 2021. He has a chance to cement himself in that role over the next few weeks. The transfer from St. Francis was cool, calm, and collected this past weekend. He showed excellence presence and awareness in the pocket. Not only did he escape the pocket to connect on some big throws to Josh Vann, but he also made the correct decisions all night long. When he avoided pressure, he found open receivers but also threw the ball away when necessary.
The lack of negative plays was almost as important as the big plays he provided. South Carolina spent far too much of this season behind the chains. They avoided those situations for the most part on Saturday. Now he will take on his first road test. If Brown can take care of the ball and connect when the plays are there, this team could build some major momentum during the season’s final month.
Ground And Pound
The best thing Brown had going for him in his first SEC start was an extremely productive rushing attack. Kevin Harris and Zaquandre White both ran for over 100 yards. Harris finally looks 100% after recovering from offseason back surgery. He was back to the guy that had 1138 yards in 2020. He hit the hole hard, and looked tot punish defenders at the end of runs. White has rushed the ball with a ferocity all season, and he got his second 100-yard game of the year. Marshawn Lloyd also chipped in with a solid night, including a 40 yard run. All three backs broke free for an explosive play on the ground.
The offensive line had by far its best showing. Beamer’s Gamecocks utilized the pulling guards to great effect. Vershon Lee and Jonathon Gwynn were often out in front of the tailbacks paving the way a lot. Missouri has the worst rushing defense in the SEC. South Carolina will look to build on the performance against the Gators this week, and they have the perfect opponent to do so. If they can get both White and Harris going in the other Columbia, they should be able to head home with their sixth victory and bowl eligibility in hand.
No Steps Back
The Gamecocks finally put together a complete game this season and it earned them their biggest win in 2021. The next step for Beamer’s program is to replicate a good performance two weeks in a row. There is a positive buzz around this team, sitting just one win away from bowl eligibility. They cannot afford to waste the energy and momentum by laying an egg at Missouri. Coming off the bye, the Tigers looked like the most likely chance for a win based on how South Carolina had played in the first eight weeks. Now this becomes more of a must win because of how good this team looked while pummeling the Gators.
If they can continue the offensive improvements shown last week, along with the solid defense they have played all season, victory should be attainable. That would mean coming home with six wins secured, and full and rowdy Williams-Brice to get behind them for the final two contests. Beating Florida was a great step forward. Now this South Carolina team needs to prove that this performance wasn’t a fluke, and avoid faltering after tasting some success.