There are several things I expected in South Carolina's season opener that did happen.
I expected the Gamecocks to handle the North Carolina Tar Heels fairly easily, and they did, with the 27-10 victory.
I expected a number of players to really step up their games, and they did. Sophomore running back Mike Davis was spectacular in his first starting role with 115 yards on 12 carries, including a brilliant 75-yard touchdown run that displayed speed that many didn't expect to see. Davis' counterpart, Brandon Wilds, showed a toughness running the ball (64 yards, 12 carries) that was really impressive.
No one expected Dylan Thompson to come off the bench for one play and throw a 29-yard touchdown pass to walk-on Kane Whitehurst, but that's what happened.
I'm not sure anyone expected a walk-on freshman placekicker to earn the job in the first place, but Elliott Fry did, and he had a perfect night, with 39- and 26-yard field goals and 3-for-3 on extra points.
I expected the defense to struggle at times with UNC's very fast-paced offense, and they did. There is not a coach in the country, if told that his defense would allow an opponent to run 79 plays, who wouldn't believe his team was in danger of losing the game.
I also expected the defense to have a few “bow-their-necks” kind of moments and they did, especially on the Tar Heels’ last possession, when with a first-and-goal at USC's 2 yard line, they couldn't score.
I expected the ESPN announcers to criticize Jadeveon Clowney if he didn't have 15 tackles and five sacks, and they did. What the announcers and the media didn't know until post game is that J.D. had battled a stomach virus all Wednesday night, and that all he had for a pregame meal was a banana and a few grapes. On the hottest day of the summer, even a healthy, well-conditioned athlete, would not be at his best.
Now, let me tell you who I was really proud of on this opening night. I'm proud of the approximately 5,000 members of the Gamecock Nation, who stood patiently in the tunnels during the one hour and 44-minute rain delay, so they could return to their seats for the final eight minutes and 20 seconds. It is those fans who truly showed how much this year's team means to them.
I'm also proud of the 100 or so USC students who stayed until the end. I expected every one of them to be in Five Points to watch the final minutes.
And kudos to the Carolina band, who waited in the end zone until play was set to resume, and were in the stands to play the USC Alma Mater when the game finally ended.
Overall, the game wasn't pretty, but it was game number one in the win column and you can't win them all if you don't win the first one. North Carolina came into the game prepared and determined to score 35 points or more, but in the end the Gamecocks proved who the real “Carolina” is.
I think the Gamecocks displayed the heart and character that we all have come to expect from a Steve Spurrier-coached team.
Now it's on to Georgia to see if the Gamecocks can beat the Bulldogs for an inconceivable fourth time in a row.
It's a great time to be a Gamecock.