South Carolina made yet another change at quarterback on Saturday night, as the inconsistencies at the position continued. Graduate transfer Zeb Noland came off the bench late in the third quarter, playing for the first time since the Texas A&M game on Oct. 23.
“It was the series right before I went in, they asked me if I was good to go. I just said 'Yeah, let me get a little bit warmed up,' because it was chilly (outside),” Noland said postgame.
Noland took over for redshirt senior Jason Brown who had his worst game so far in a Gamecock jersey: He completed only eight of his 19 pass attempts and threw two interceptions.
This performance came right after Brown had his best-extended outing as a Gamecock when he completed 66.7% of his passes for three touchdowns against Auburn last week. Brown only passed for 67 yards against Clemson, 30 of which came from a completion to long-time teammate, redshirt senior wide receiver EJ Jenkins in the second quarter.
“We just had to play better, and obviously that starts with me,” Brown said postgame, “I had a miscommunication with Jaheim on the first interception, and then the second one we were trying to take a shot deep to Josh. On that, I tried to give him a 50/50 ball, and hindsight 20/20, I probably should’ve just threw it out of bounds.”
This is not the first time Brown has played inconsistently. In both the Florida and Auburn games, Brown seemed spot on with his throws; however, he looked lost during the Missouri game (barely completing half of his passes) and struggled to get off many good throws on Saturday night.
The Gamecocks have struggled all season to put back-to-back weeks of good offensive play together, but it did not help that Clemson is ranked No. 9 in the nation in total defense.
“They played lights out defensively. There’s a reason they held Georgia to 3 points in the very first game, other than a punt return for a touchdown,” head coach Shane Beamer said postgame.
When Noland came in fans could see a clear and obvious difference in the Gamecock offense, just like when he took over for sophomore Luke Doty in the Vanderbilt game.
Noland began the evening strong, completing five of his first six passes. However, then the inconsistencies happened again. He went on to finish the evening completing only six of his next 16 passes and capping a 50% passing night.
For South Carolina to win its bowl game, the team is going to have to figure out a recipe for consistency under center. That being said, if Brown can replicate his performances from the Auburn or Florida games, the Gamecocks could be bringing a trophy back to Columbia.
“We just got to be more consistent," Beamer said.