Quick Hits: No. 7 South Carolina 31, Missouri 10
Breaking down Connor Shaw's big day and South Carolina's easy win against Missouri.
SOUTH CAROLINA WON. The SEC's welcome to Missouri has been anything but kind. The Gamecocks dominated the Tigers in all three phases of the latter's SEC road debut, taking a 14-0 second-quarter lead and never looking back. Connor Shaw showed no ill effects of his shoulder injury, completing his final 20 passes and finishing with more touchdown passes (2) than incompletions (1). Marcus Lattimore likewise looked every bit his old self with 145 total yards and two touchdowns, and the Gamecocks hounded James Franklin into a miserable 92-yard passing, six-yard rushing performance.
WHY SOUTH CAROLINA WON. Because, injured or not, Shaw is simply a different quarterback at home. The junior threw for three yards more per attempt in Williams-Brice Stadium than on the road in 2011 (8.5 to 5.2), with a 7-to-1 home touchdown-to-interception ratio and a 2-to-4 mark away from home. Not surprisingly, after the UAB win last week, the Gamecocks were a perfect 4-0 in Shaw's home starts -- and now they're 5-0, having watched Shaw masterfully operate Steve Spurrier's offense to the easy victory. Shaw checked down (to Lattimore, particularly) when he needed to check down; he looked downfield for the two touchdowns when he needed to look downfield; he tucked and ran (for 39 yards) when he needed to run. With the exception of two failed rushing attempts on third-and fourth-and-1 from the Mizzou 1-yard line in the first half, Shaw was perfect.
And on a day when the Gamecocks defense allowed fewer than 150 yards through three quarters, that was more than enough.
WHEN SOUTH CAROLINA WON. Down 14-0, Missouri looked like it might make a game of it late in the second quarter, driving from its 20 to a first-and-goal on the South Carolina 3. But Franklin took a three-yard loss on first down, the Tigers settled for a field goal, and a 50-yard kickoff return by Bruce Ellington gave the momentum right back to the Gamecocks. Four plays later, Shaw found Ace Sanders from 23 yards out for a 21-3 lead, and the second half was reduced to little but window dressing.
WHAT SOUTH CAROLINA WON. A 2-0 SEC record, a deserved role as the East co-favorite alongside Georgia, and a continued presence in the national championship race. If Shaw and Lattimore -- not to mention a secondary that has been a purported weak spot -- can continue playing at the level that they did Saturday, the Gamecocks might stay there quite a while.
WHAT MISSOURI LOST. Any illusions that the Tigers might be legitimate East contenders in their first season in the league. With heavyweights like Alabama and Florida still on the schedule, the Tigers must readjust their sights to simply making a quality New Year's bowl game.
THAT WAS CRAZY. Have you watched Ace Sanders' first-half punt return? If not, go back to the top of this post.
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