Josh Kendall

South Carolina’s MVPs, superlatives through season’s first half

‘It’s about the team’ Michael Scarnecchia on his role with the Gamecocks

South Carolina beat Missouri 37-35 at Williams-Brice Stadium Saturday Oct. 6, 2018, in Columbia, SC.
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South Carolina beat Missouri 37-35 at Williams-Brice Stadium Saturday Oct. 6, 2018, in Columbia, SC.

South Carolina is 3-3 overall and 2-3 in the SEC midway through the season. Here are the players and plays and games that have stood out through the first six games.

Offensive MVP

The fact it’s difficult to find a worthy candidate for this is a big reason the Gamecocks are struggling this season. The obvious preseason choices haven’t played to their full potential yet, leaving the one player who probably wouldn’t have been anybody’s preseason choice as the midpoint offensive MVP. Sophomore place-kicker Parker White, who had a disastrous season as a true freshman, is8-of-9 on field goals this year. His only miss was a 38-yarder against Kentucky that didn’t have a significant impact on the game. Against Missouri, White made kicks of 42, 42 and 33 yards. All three took South Carolina from trailing to leading, including the game-winner in the final seconds. If there was a Comeback Player of the Year on this list, White would win that, too.

Defensive MVP

Again, there’s no obvious choice, but junior middle linebacker T.J. Brunson has been the steady presence he was expected to be. Brunson leads the team with 35 tackles,including 26 solo stops. He’s third on the team in tackles-for-loss with 3.5.South Carolina’s run defense hasn’t been good this year, and that doesn’t reflect well in general on the middle linebacker, but Brunson appears to be doing his share

Play of the Year

Another indicator of the oddity of this season is that the most significant play came from two players who weren’t expected to be significant contributors this season. When senior quarterback Michael Scarnecchia found Kyle Markway for a 27-yard gain in the fourth quarter against Missouri, it was the third catch of Markway’s career, the only start of Scarnecchia’s career, and the biggest play of the season because it moved the Gamecocks into field goal range for White.Imagining the complexion of South Carolina’s season if the Gamecocks had lost this game illustrates how big this play was.

 
 

Game of the Year

Hands down,the Missouri game. The storylines are almost too many to mention. Scarnecchia was making his first career start and threw for 249 yards and three touchdowns.The downpour in the third quarter was the worst most South Carolina players had ever played through. A lightning delay made the game last five hours and 13minutes. The Tigers got a go-ahead, 57-yard field goal with 1:18 left and lost.The teams combined for 19 penalties. The momentum of the game turned when a Missouri touchdown was overturned and that drive then ended with the Tigers facing a fourth-and-33 from the South Carolina 34-yard line.

Stat of the Year

There are several negative statistics that illustrate what’s going on this season, but we’ll stick to the positives here. The best thing South Carolina has done this year is third down defense. The Gamecocks are second in the SEC and fifth in the nation in third down defense. Their opponents have only converted 18-of-73 third down attempts (24.7 percent). The lowest percentage South Carolina has allowed for a season in the last 10 years is 35.3 percent.

Freshman of the Year

Defensive back Jaycee Horn is tied for the team lead in pass breakups with five and is fifth on the team in tackles with 26. He has started since the season-opener at nickel and often replaces Keisean Nixon at cornerback during games. Horn has been one the bright spots throughout the Gamecocks struggles.

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