Southern Miss. Golden Eagles at South Carolina Gamecocks Post-Game: Gauging the Importance of the Win

Hi, folks. Everyone around our program is feeling pretty good right now about the win. Why all of the excitement? The key is definitely how well the offense played last night. If memory serves, this was the first time we've hit 40 points since the Liberty Bowl in 2006. We've had some very average-to-bad offenses since then, and Gamecock Nation has been wondering if Steve Spurrier would ever produce another team that could live up to the pedigree Spurrier brought with him from his Fun-n-Gun days at Florida. It seems this may actually be the team. Granted, the outburst came against a Southern Miss. team that has fielded some notoriously swiss-cheese defenses under Larry Fedora, but I'll remind you that we haven't been able to run up the points like that against any opponent over the past few years, including FCS and Sun Belt cupcakes. Anytime you ring up totals like that, you're doing something right. What we saw last night isn't necessarily a good predictor of how well the offense will play against a Georgia or an Alabama, but it was indicative of progress.

There were a handful of takeways for our team that should be mentioned. They are as follows:

QB play was very solid from both Stephen Garcia and Connor Shaw. Both threw a couple of slightly bad passes--I'm thinking particularly of the one where Garcia didn't lead Alshon Jeffery quite enough on a long ball over the middle and the one where Shaw threw a ball behind Marcus Lattimore on a wheel route. Both should have been touchdowns, particularly the one by Shaw, which was a pretty easy pass on a play that opened up really well otherwise. But both also made some very good passes--Shaw's TD to D.L. Moore stands out, as does that bomb where Garcia hooked up with Jeffery while throwing out of the endzone. And both made good decisions, particularly Garcia. If you can believe it, Garcia was not sacked and threw no interceptions. I know; shocking.

One last thing here: I think that Shaw has earned the right to continue to get a little playing time, and I actually like the change of pace he brings--he seems to be a shiftier runner than Garcia, and that combined with not being a slouch throwing the ball means that continuing to play him will give opposing defenses an extra wrinkle to prepare for. But Garcia solidified his hold on the starting spot with his performance. He wasn't perfect, but he was good--probably the best we've seen out of a QB under Spurrier here.

Marcus Lattimore is going to be the starting runningback this year. Lattimore strikes me as a more effective version of Kenny Miles--he hits the hole hard, runs with authority, and, more so than Miles, he catches and blocks well. It was a real shame that Shaw underthrew that ball on the wheel route, because I think that would have been a good chance to see what Lattimore can do for us in the passing game. I also liked that he was able to get some yards even when the run blocking wasn't totally there, which was good considering our perpetual line woes.

Continue reading after the jump.

The offensive line looked OK to me. The run blocking was decent and they did a good job protecting the QB when USM didn't bring pressure. That's progress, I guess. However, they had trouble working with blitzes, and I would expect the confident DCs in the SEC to exploit that. I wouldn't call their performance indicative of a huge improvement over last season, but they were playing without Jarriel King, which should be taken into account.

The receivers looked solid. Alshon looked like Alshon, and I think it's time to recognize that we may have gotten a real steal with this Ace Sanders kid. One thing to note about the receivers is that there was a lot of contact going on between them and the DBs. It'll be interesting to see how the officials respond to that against UGA next week.

Spurrier appears to be opening up the playbook a bit this year. We saw a lot of different formations, from the power-running I to the spread. You have to think that Spurrier is trying to psyche out UGA and Todd Grantham here. It'll be interesting to see what the HBC brings out next week. One of his old tricks at Florida was to show a lot of different looks in the warm up games prior to Tennessee, only to try something completely different against the Vols. You have to think he's sandbagging that way again right now. One thing is for sure: Spurrier appears to have legitimate confidence that this offense can do a number of things for him. The weapons are finally in place, and this should be a fun season to watch, if nothing else.

The defense looked OK, but it was hard to get a good sense of what we're dealing with this year. Ellis Johnson didn't show many of his cards last night, and you have to think he'll be more aggressive next week against the Dawgs. I'm also curious to see what we do with A.J. Green. We clearly played to take DeAndre Brown out of the game last night, usually to good effect. You have to think that if we do that against Green, UGA will be able to do more to make us pay than USM did. But I would also think that Johnson knows that and will plan accordingly. Last night, he was aware that Brown was the potential gamechanger and that taking him out of the picture would cripple USM; he knows that won't be true against UGA, even if Green requires a gameplan unto himself. Lastly here, I really hope Shaw Wilson returns for UGA. We need him.

That's a wrap for this one. Enjoy the weekend of football. I would pay close attention to what Aaron Murray looks like.

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