I woke up Sunday morning and immediately checked my phone.
When I realized that yes, we really did upset the #3 team in the nation, and no, it was not some insane fever dream or some complications from the altitude sickness I endured after recently hiking the Rocky Mountains, I was ecstatic.
It’s still hard to believe right?
People know that I am realistic enough, but sometimes optimistic to a fault.
I just cannot force myself to ever admit that we won’t win a game, no matter how high the chips are stacked against us.
It is the reason that I do not make wagers on games, and also why I never publicly release my score predictions (since I just cannot bring myself to pick anyone other than the Gamecocks).
This week, however, my optimism was rewarded big time, but even so, I was still in shock when what I knew could happen, actually did happen.
Before the season I wrote an article about all the reasons that we could be a better team than most expected.
The UNC game made me question that pre-season analysis, and frankly, it made me look stupid. But in the last two games, the team that I hoped to see from the start of the season showed up, and boy was it fun to watch!
The rest of the schedule is still tough, and there’s no room for error at all, but no matter what happens in the games to come, this week, we deserve to celebrate and be a little cocky.
Here’s the good and bad from Saturday’s massive upset of UGA.
Israel Mukuamu made a HUGE statement in the secondary
This past Friday, I mentioned in my article that the Gamecocks needed someone else besides Jaycee Horn to step up in the secondary.
I mentioned that Mukuamu and Jammie Robinson could be likely candidates with the potential for a big game.
Both of those guys have the skill set to be dominant, but up until this point, they hadn’t had breakout type of performances.
Against Georgia, all of that changed for big #24.
Mukuamu quickly became Jake Fromm’s kryptonite, absolutely dominating in coverage.
The 6’4” corner picked Fromm off 3 times, with one of them leading to a touchdown, and effectively bringing all of the momentum over to Carolina’s side of the ball.
His 11 tackles on the day helped to set himself up for national defensive player of the week honors, and when partnered with Jaycee Horn on the other side, the two corners are starting to make a case for being best in the conference, and possibly even best in the country.
If Mukuamu is even half as productive in the games to come, the secondary woes that plagued the team early in the season, could actually become a strength of the team.
The defense is only getting better
The turnaround on the defensive side of the ball is nothing short of unbelievable.
Just a few weeks ago, this same team looked completely lost, and missed tackles left and right, which seemed to destroy any hopes of having a decent season.
Then suddenly, everything clicked.
The defense got it together, played inspired, and most importantly, lived up to their potential in back-to-back games.
Holding Georgia, and Jake Fromm, to 17 total points is elite.
Forcing 4 total turnovers is insane. Only missing 5 total tackles against the type of talent that Georgia has is unbelievable.
With this performance, and the outstanding play of Javon Kinlaw, DJ Wonnum, and Ernest Jones, expectations have been adjusted.
Carolina is changing the national narrative, and they are proving that they can compete with anyone.
If the success continues next week against a motivated Florida, I’d be so bold as to say that with a defense like this, the rest of the schedule may be tough, but certainly not impossible navigate through.
Really good quarterback play
Just as we predicted, Hilinski did not look anything at all like he did against Mizzou. Those road game woes are over, and the kid looked like an absolute beast out there.
Even when he was playing hurt, he stood strong and delivered quality throw after quality throw.
He led his team with fire, and protected the ball, giving them a lead, and doing it in style (thanks to an amazing catch by Bryan Edwards).
When he eventually went out of the game, many questioned whether or not Joyner could hold onto the lead and complete the upset.
Although he looked shaky at first, he settled down, looked confident, and did all the right things to hang on.
For a guy coming off injury and had very little preparation to play in this game, he delivered, and that is something that fans should show immense gratitude for.
Joyner is a special talent, and although we hope that Hilinski will be back for Florida (as coach has indicated), if Joyner were to get the start, I think we will be in very capable hands.
I hate having to include something bad here.
These guys deserve our praise and appreciation for what happened. From coaching, to rushing, to passing, to defensive production, to protection on the line, and even special teams, every phase of the game helped contribute to a historic win on the road.
We are proud of the toughness and grit to finish a hard fought game.
With that being said, the only criticism I will offer here is this:
We had all the momentum in the world. Our freshman QB looked like a rock star out there, and despite showing signs of injury, his play never suffered.
When he took that last hit— that upon second glance was proven to not be malicious— every Carolina fan held their breath, and some are still holding it.
We know that Joyner is more than capable, and he has certainly proven himself, but if Hilinski can’t go Saturday, and if, even worse, he was to be out for a prolonged length of time, the quarterback depth chart begins to look terrifying.
Not only does lack of depth at the position make everyone nervous anytime a defender gets to the quarterback, but more importantly, it changes play calling in an attempt to protect Joyner.
The issue with that is that Joyner’s strength is in being a dual threat guy.
If he’s forced to play conservative, it takes away what truly makes him great.
Let’s all hope that Hilinski is able to return to action, and let’s pray that the injury bug has finally left us alone.
The staff deserves credit for this one.
They’ve endure an immense amount of criticism this season, and rightfully so.
However, we cannot ignore the fact that they are working their tails off to turn this season around.
If they keep pushing forward, and as long as the team does not become complacent over the next few weeks, believe it or not, we are still in the hunt for winning the East.
We have to control what we can control, win our schedule, and see how things shake out with Georgia, but regardless, somehow we are still in the thick of things.
Even if the rest of the season were to fall flat, our guys out there fought hard to give us something to cheer for, and I’m incredibly thankful for that.