Posted on: November 26, 2011 11:17 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
SOUTH CAROLINA WON. For the first time since 1968-1970, South Carolina claimed their third straight victory in the in-state rivalry with Clemson thanks to a convincing 34-13 win. Sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw put together arguably the most complete performance of his young career, completing 14 of 20 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns through the air while adding 108 yards rushing and a touchdown on the ground.
HOW SOUTH CAROLINA WON: South Carolina started the game offensively by taking body shots at Clemson's defense. Draws, dives, and zone reads accounted for a majority of the early play calls, with Spurrier sparingly allowing Shaw to take a shot downfield. But Shaw began to open up Clemson's defense with his ability to scramble from the pocket. Defensively the Gamecocks took NC State's example and emphasized pressure on Tajh Boyd. The difference for South Carolina was the ability to get into Boyd's face almost exclusively with their defensive front. Melvin Ingram, Jadeveon Clowney, and the rest of the defensive line had a superb game limiting the Tigers' rushing attack and forcing Boyd into errant throws.
WHEN SOUTH CAROLINA WON: The Gamecocks' defense opened the fourth quarter holding Clemson's offense to a field goal after Ingram sacked Boyd for a 9-yard loss on 3rd down inside the 15. The South Carolina offense followed with a 14 play drive that ate up over seven minutes of game clock before ending in a field goal. When Clemson got the ball back, down 27-13, Tajh Boyd threw two incomplete passes before his third was picked off by DeVonte Holloman and returned to the Clemson 19. Two plays later Alshon Jeffery is hauling in a touchdown pass and the game is in the books. After a back and forth third quarter, it was that series of events that ended all hope for the young Tigers' squad.
WHAT SOUTH CAROLINA WON: For the second time in school history, and the first time under Steve Spurrier, South Carolina hit the 10-win mark. The achievement adds to the list of 2011 honors that include the first 6-2 SEC finish in school history, and the first 5-0 finish against division opponents. The absence of an SEC Championship Game bid does sting, but you have to be impressed with the Gamecocks' finish considering the obstacles they have overcome.
WHAT CLEMSON LOST: Any shot at momentum heading into the ACC Championship Game. The Tigers didn't need to win either of their final two contests to earn a BCS bowl bid, but their back-to-back losses against NC State and South Carolina have shown revealed weaknesses that went under the radar during the 8-0 start. While Clemson is reeling after their third loss in four games, Virginia Tech is playing their best ball of the season. The Hokies have won seven straight games since losing 23-3 to Clemson at home in early October. The Tigers can expect Virginia Tech's best shot on Saturday in the ACC Championship Game, and South Carolina gave the Hokies a great gameplan in the win.
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Posted on: November 11, 2011 1:07 pm
Edited on: November 11, 2011 1:09 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery finished the 2010 season as the nation's fifth-leading receiver with 1,517 yards. He was consistent, finishing with 85 or more yards in 11 of his team's 14 games. He was explosive, averaging more yards per-reception (17.2) than any other receiver in the FBS with more than 70 catches, and Jeffery had 88 of them.
2011 has just a bit different. Jeffery is currently outside the nation's top 100 receivers with 487 yards. He has been inconsistent, finishing with 35 or fewer yards in five of his team's nine games and not once cracking the 100-yard barrier. He has not been explosive, averaging just over 13.5 yards per reception.
Things have been particularly dire for Jeffery over the past three games. Jeffery looked to be ready for a second-half resurgence after Connor Shaw took over as the Gamecocks' quarterback vs. Kentucky on Oct. 8, catching 6 balls for 95 yards and two touchdowns against the Wildcats.
But the stretch since then has instead been the most ineffectual of Jeffery's career--vs. Mississippi State, Tennessee and Arkansas Jeffery caught 11 passes for a total of 60 yards, or fewer yards than he had in all but two individual games last season. Not one of those 11 receptions covered so much as 10 yards. Jeffery's most productive game in that span -- 24 yards vs. MSU -- ranks as the ninth-most productive receiving game on his own team over those three games.
For a player of Jeffery's talents, this kind of lack of production is baffling at best and a seeming flat-out impossibility at worst. So it's no wonder he's expecting things to get better this week vs. Florida.
“He has not seen a lot of true bump-and-run, me-and-you,” Gamecock receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. said Thursday. “He thinks he’s going to have an opportunity.”
For the Gamecocks' sake, he'd better. It's no coincidence that during Jeffery's three-game downturn from what had already been a season-long downturn, Carolina has averaged all of 16 offensive points per-game* and 271 total yards--or one yard less than what the 118th-ranked Memphis offense averages a contest.
Of course, there's plenty going wrong with the Carolina offense that's not Jeffery's fault. Shaw has been wobbly at best, indecisive and erratic at worst. With no Marcus Lattimore, the running game has had all the explosiveness of a box of matches left out in the rain. Aside from the occasional burst from Bruce Ellington, no complementary playmaker has emerged to keep opposing defenses from sending regular over-the-top help Jeffery's way. And after reyling so heavily on Lattimore the past season-and-a-half, Steve Spurrier seems to have lost something of his old playcalling ingenuity and spark.
But since Carolina can't solve all those problems at once, they'll have to start with solving the biggest one of them all: finding a way to get their best offensive player and only legitimate big-play threat the ball somehow. If not, the noon kickoff (on CBS!) means the Gators will have the Gamecocks SEC East hopes done and dusted before Georgia even takes the field.
Posted on: October 25, 2011 1:57 pm
Edited on: October 25, 2011 1:57 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
SOUTH CAROLINA WILL WIN IF: They can manage any kind of running game in the absence of Marcus Lattimore. The only fully healthy tailback on the Gamecock roster is freshman Brandon Wilds, who started the season on the fifth string. Wilds looked competent against Mississippi State in emergency duty but will no doubt need help--most likely from Bruce Ellington in Wildcat sets and from Connor Shaw himself on the zone read option and other quarterback keepers. (Though not known for mobility, Shaw has totaled 70 yards rushing in his two starts--and that's after removing sack yardage.) Shaw looked more than a little uneasy in the pocket against the Bulldogs and that was with Lattimore around; if Steve Spurrier can't find some sort of offensive balance, it seems unlikely Shaw's ready to quarterback the Gamecocks to a road SEC win singlehandedly.
TENNESSEE WILL WIN IF: Justin Worley is ready. Derek Dooley proved once again this week he isn't scared of rolling the dice, naming the true freshman the Vols' starting quarterback even after the veteran Matt Simms showed some command of the offense against Alabama. If Worley can hack it, the Vols will have a lot going for them: the backing of the Neyland Stadium home crowd, a previously moribund running game that inexplicably found its footing against LSU and Alabama behind tailback Tauren Poole, the abundant question marks on the Carolina offense, and a defense that for all its second-half woes did keep the Tide entirely in check for a half. But none of that will matter if Worley completes more passes the ball-hawking Gamecock secondary (fifth in the FBS with 14 picks) than he does to his own receivers, and a Carolina pass rush featuring Melvin Ingram and Jadeveon Clowney won't make things easy on him.
THE X-FACTOR: Neyland. It's been a house of horrors for opponents in the past -- particularly ones quarterbacked by, say, a sophomore making just his second road start without his All-American running back security blanket -- but the recent downturn in the Vols' fortunes has left a lot of unhappy customers in the crowd, dulling UT's formerly fearsome holme-field advantage. If Dooley's team can get out to a fast start and engage the orange masses, Shaw may not be able to get the boulder rolling back in the other direction. If a slow start brings out the boo-birds, though, it's Worley who might wind up wishing he was somewhere very different.
Posted on: October 16, 2011 2:25 pm
Edited on: October 16, 2011 3:18 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
The South Carolina Gamecocks got the news they didn't want to hear on Sunday morning: running back Marcus Lattimore is done for the season.
This news comes via CBSSports.com RapidReporter Josh Kendall, and Steve Spurrier told reporters that Lattimore suffered ligament and cartilage damage in his knee.
Lattimore was injured in the second half of South Carolina's win on Saturday as he was blocking for Bruce Ellington and had a defender roll up on the back of his leg. The injury was initially diagnosed as a sprained knee, but considering the latest news that he'll be missing the rest of the season, the injury is a lot more severe than a sprain.
As for what this means for the Gamecocks, obviously it's not good news. There are very few running backs in college football as talented as Lattimore, and he's not the type of player that can just be replaced. South Carolina isn't very deep at the position to begin with, so the running game is going to suffer in Lattimore's absence, as will South Carolina as a whole.
Lattimore was replaced by Brandon Wilds on Saturday, and he'll likely be seeing a lot more carries in the coming weeks.
Posted on: October 15, 2011 4:43 pm
Edited on: October 16, 2011 12:05 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Heisman candidate Marcus Lattimore left the game for South Carolina late in the second half of their win over Mississippi State. And he may not return for some time.
The initial diagnosis from the locker room is that Lattimore has suffered a left knee sprain. Steve Spurrier told reporters after the game that Lattimore's injury "could be serious" and that the sophomore "could be out a while." Lattimore is scheduled for an MRI either Saturday night or Sunday morning once the team returns to Columbia.
Via the Twitter feed of CBSSports.com Gamecock RapidReporter Josh Kendall, here's Lattimore leaving the State road team's locker room:
Lattimore was injured on a 2nd-and-4 snap on the Gamecocks' game-winning touchdown drive. Bruce Ellington took a snap as the quarterback in the Wildcat formation, with Lattimore used as a blocker on the right side of the field. As Ellington ran by, a Bulldog fell and rolled into the back of Lattimore's leg.
Lattimore was immediately taken to the trainers' table and surrounded by teammates and his mother. He eventually left the field on crutches.
Freshman Brandon Wilds was used as the Gamecocks' replacement tailback following Lattimore's injury. He finished with 8 yards on five carries.
Lattimore scored the Gamecocks' first touchdown of the game but had largely struggled against the Bulldogs, gaining only 39 yards on 17 carries to that point.
Posted on: October 3, 2011 1:02 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Dramatic as it may have been, no one would call Auburn's 16-13 victory over South Carolina Saturday a classic. Both teams committed game-altering mistakes by the bushel, and on the game's final play it seemed that sloppiness had extended to the officiating crew. Via Mocksession.com, here's what the end of that play looked like:
Yes, that's Gamecock Bruce Ellington clearly down past the first-down marker with 2 seconds still to play. But by the time officials signaled for the clock to stop, those two seconds had elapsed, Auburn's players spilled onto the field, and the game was ruled over. Steve Spurrier was left confused and less-than-happy:
Though the SEC office has been willing in recent years to admit when its officials have made mistakes, in this case it has backed up the crew on the field. The Twitter feed of conference official Chuck Dunlap had this to say Saturday night:
To be fair to the official, between making the judgment that Ellington was down, the signal to the timekeeper for the clock to stop, and the clock actually being stopped, there's easily two seconds' worth of potential human error involved. We're not going to argue with Dunlap that "proper procedure" wasn't followed.
But we've also seen that procedure happen much more quickly than it was in this instance. We don't blame Spurrier or the Gamecocks at all for feeling like they should have been given the opportunity for one more play. They should have.
But that's also the risk any team runs when throwing over the middle with no timeouts and the clock down to its final seconds, and that one extra play would have had to have been a low-percentage Hail Mary if it was anything at all. Allowing for at least one second to run off between Ellington hitting the turf and the clock stopping, either a spike or sprinting the field goal team on for a 47-yarder don't seem like realistic options. And herding both teams off the field for a replay review to add that one second back on the clock -- giving Carolina a chance to properly set up for their field goal try, a chance they'd done nothing to actually earn -- wouldn't be remotely fair to Auburn.
The bottom line? The Gamecocks and their fans have a right to complain. But they shouldn't confuse that right with the belief that the officials had more to do with the outcome than Stephen Garcia's decision to check down to Ellington to begin with.
Posted on: October 1, 2011 8:11 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2011 8:23 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
WHY AUBURN WON: Because as terrible as Trotter was, Garcia was arguably even worse. The senior completed just 9 of his 22 passes for all of 160 yards, with one touchdown and two typically ugly interceptions. Remove a second-quarter 50-yard scoring bomb to an otherwise-quiet Alshon Jeffery and Garcia averaged all of 5.2 yards per-attempt against what few will debate is one of the SEC's most flammable secondaries.
With Garcia struggling, Auburn was allowed to tee off on Lattimore, holding the All-American to a pedestrian 3.9 yards per-carry on just 17 attempts. As for that latter number, Carolina fans will no doubt wonder why Lattimore wasn't fed the ball more often, particularly with the Gamecocks facing 1st-and-10 on their own 30 in the fourth quarter, up 13-9. Spurrier called for passes on both first and second down, with the result an incompletion and a sack. Carolina would have the field flipped on them following Auburn's next punt, starting at their own 12, and the Tigers would go on to start their ensuing possession on their own 43. Result: the game-winning touchdown drive.
To be fair to Auburn, though, they've made a habit of corralling Lattimore even when Garcia is playing well. (And to be fair to Spurrier, a first down handoff to Lattimore on that possession that began at the 12 lost two yards.) After three career games against the Tigers, Lattimore still has only 183 combined rushing yards--no doubt the biggest reason Auburn has gone 3-0 in those meetings.
WHEN AUBURN WON: Not until the Gamecocks' final desperation drive ended with Bruce Ellington being tackled in-bounds at the Auburn 30 and time expiring. But should it have? The gain was good enough for a first down and Ellington appeared to be tackled with 2 seconds left on the clock. But with the whistle blowing late, the officials elected not to put any time back on the clock for a last-gasp try. Gamecock fans will no doubt howl, though running the field goal unit on for a successful 47-yard try with no timeouts -- as would have happened if the play had been whistled correctly -- would have been quite the accomplishment.
WHAT AUBURN WON: Somehow, some way, Auburn's 11th straight game decided by a single possession. At 4-1 and 2-0 in the SEC, the Tigers have all but wrapped up a bowl berth -- not a given when the season began -- and could even crack the polls next week. The 13 points for Carolina is also a vindication for embattled defensive coordinator Ted Roof, whose unit had come under serious fire after their lackluster start to the season.
WHAT SOUTH CAROLINA LOST: With the Gamecocks' upcoming schedule (at Tennessee, at Arkansas, vs. Florida), any realistic hopes of wedging their way into the national title picture is almost certainly gone. Losing to a double-digit underdog at home won't do anything for their SEC East hopes, either; even after the win in Georgia, their margin-for-error in the divisional race is now eliminated. Oh, and Spurrier can only hold off the quarterback controversy for so long with Garcia playing like this. We think that's it.
THAT WAS CRAZY: No play more epitomized the often Keystone Cop-style display from both teams than the hideous interception thrown by Trotter into double coverage to Gamecock corner C.C. Whitlock (just three plays after Garcia's own wounded duck pick) ... only for Whitlock to get the ball stripped by Lutzenkirchen during the return, handing it right back to the Tigers. The drive would end, naturally, in a horrible lofted pass by Trotter to the back of Carolina's end zone, which was picked off by ... C.C. Whitlock.
Posted on: March 24, 2011 6:43 pm
Edited on: March 24, 2011 6:46 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Every now and again, you'll see even the best college football players dabble in offseason basketball, as those who remember Julius Peppers snaring rebounds for the Tar Heels or Matt Jones running the floor for the Razorbacks will recall.
But for obvious reasons -- season overlap, the risk of career-ending injury, etc. -- examples of players transitioning from the hardcourt to the gridiron are few and far between. Examples of really good basketball players doing so are virtually unheard of. So take note of what's happening at South Carolina, because you won't see it again anytime soon:
Bruce Ellington is making a move to play football for the Gamecocks.
That's right: so powerful is the pull of SEC football that its teams can recruit the best athletes off their schools' own basketball teams. Steve Spurrier confirmed this afternoon that Ellington's move was official; he'll play "somewhere on offense" for the Gamecocks.
How much of an impact will he make? At 5'9" and 200 pounds, the former high school quarterback is expected to be a slot reciver-slash-scatback. Given his role in leading Berkeley High School to a 2009 state football championship, if he can shake the rust off, it's certainly not out of the question for him to become a contributor. (He'll get a late start, though; NCAA rules regarding two-sport athletes will prevent him from taking part in spring practice.)
But however large a role he plays for Spurrier's Gamecocks, it's almost certain to be dwarfed by his role for Horn's. As good as this news might be for the football team, if Ellington turns his back on basketball for good, it's that much worse for the SC hoops team.