Beyond the Cocks' Score

Kevin C. Cox - Getty Images

Mining for golden nuggets in the Gamecocks' box score and the other results from around the SEC.

Georgia 7, South Carolina 35

South Carolina's 35-7 and 31-10 dominations of its best two opponents to date, Georgia and Missouri, is oddly reminiscent of the manner in which LSU and Alabama ripped through the non-Alabama and -LSU portions of their 2011 schedules. At the midway point of the 2012 season, South Carolina's defense has proven that it will absolutely ruin your life (the high-powered Georgia offense only gained 149 yards until a 75-yard TD drive in the game's final minutes) and its offense is efficient enough (6.35 ypp on the season, 6.4 against Georgia) to take advantage of short fields while hitting a few explosive plays per game (4th in the SEC with 8 plays of 40+ yards). Though the aesthetics are markedly different (USC's spread-to-run vs. Alabama's pro-style ground 'n pound), the similarity in the outcomes are undeniable. Like it or not, Steve Spurrier seems to have Sabanized his program. [projectile vomits]

Now, on to the individual performances...

Marcus Lattimore is often billed as the centerpiece of our offense, but I'm not certain that is still the case. Connor Shaw gained 100 yards with his legs on 13 carreies (7.69 ypc) and threw the ball sparingly but to great effect (13.72 yards per attempt, including 2 TDs). If we're nitpicking, the balls to Damiere Byrd and D.L. Moore were underthrown and probably would have gone for 6 if Shaw had put the requisite zip on them. There was also one throw to Buster Anderson on a 10-or-so yard out route that got tipped by a Georgia defender. The only blemish that shows up in the box score is the 11 yard coverage sack, during which Shaw had plenty of opportunity to hurl the ball out of bounds. I highlight these minor faults to illustrate that, as good as he has been, there is still room for improvement. I don't think Connor has quite hit his ceiling as a college QB. If he's able to approach that sometime this season or at the beginning of next, he could be a legitimate Heisman contender going into 2013.

Speaking of Lattimore, his 109 rushing yards against Georgia moved his career total to 2,564 yards and propelled him past Jay Lynn Hodgin (1972-74) for sole possession of seventh place in career rushing among Gamecocks. If Marcus can manage 26 yards against LSU next week, he'll pass Johnnie Wright (1978-81) for sixth place.

Oh hey there, Shawn Elliott's offensive line. I see you out there grinding to the tune of 230 rushing yards (exactly doubling Georgia's output) and not even being responsible for Georgia's only quarterback sack in this game. I moved down to the student section before the game ended and saw Coach Elliott challenge D.J. Swearinger's single-game #turnt record when he started running, red-faced and full of excitement, toward the band after the clock hit triple zeros. With Corey Robinson taking control of the left tackle position in a solid performance against Georgia, it appears as though this unit is finally starting to gel.

Lorenzo Ward put together a pretty ballsy gameplan that was predicated on the assumption that the defensive front would get to Aaron Murray quickly enough to allow the Gamecocks to play man coverage and Cover 1 for the majority of the night. South Carolina only recorded 2 sacks but affected the quarterback on what seemed like every single pass attempt, resulting in a career-worst performance (11-for-31, 109 yards) for the former Heisman candidate. Murray had a few opportunities to take shots downfield, but he was foiled time after time by great coverage from Jimmy Legree and Victor Hampton.

Arkansas 24, Auburn 7

Weighed down by eight Arkansas sacks and three interceptions of Auburn quarterbacks, Scott Loeffler's Tiger offense was only able to muster seven points and 4.8 yards per play against a Razorback defense that entered and exited this game as the worst unit in the SEC (6.12 ypp). The Tigers offense, transitioning from Gus Malzahn's version of the spread to a pro-style offense under Loeffler, is now only 0.05 yards per play better on the season than the Kentucky Wildcats, who are last in the league (4.91). Auburn averaged 7.37 yards per play in its 2010 BCS Championship season. On an unrelated note, I'm looking forward to Gary Danielsen's next rant about how the spread is dead.

Knile Davis (3.16 ypc in 2012), who carried the ball only 3 times for -4 yards in the win, seems to have taken a back seat to Dennis Johnson (5.59 ypc), who carried the ball 17 for 76 yards and 2 touchdowns. Despite breaking his ankle two months before Lattimore tore his ACL, Marcus seems to have bounced back much more quickly. So keep Mr. Davis in mind while we're nit-picking about whether Marcus Lattimore is at 80, 90, or 100%.

Mississippi State 27, Kentucky 14

The Wildcats showed me something in their strong first half against the Gamecocks, leading me to believe that they were a young team that was starting to show signs of improvement as the season wore on, but this Saturday's result is further evidence that the Wildcats were One Half Wonders against South Carolina. It's hard to score very many points when you only average 3.1 yards per play. The Wildcats didn't score very many points.

If there's a silver lining to be found for Joker Phillips, it's that highly regarded true freshman threw 5 completions in 6 attempts for 76 yards and one touchdown. Towles exited the game at halftime with a sprained ankle.

LSU 6, Florida 14

Mike Gillislee was the standout performer in the Gators' upset of the Tigers, carrying the ball 34 times for 146 yards and 2 TDs. Gillislee's 4.29 yards per carry is quite good against a strong LSU front seven that has yielded only 2.77 yards per rush in 2012. Gillislee's effort notwithstanding, Florida's offense was not particularly impressive overall. Jeff Driskel was sacked 5 times and only averaged 3.8 yards per pass attempt. Where Florida really made a difference was in their run defense, only allowing 1.7 yards per rush against a very deep group of LSU running backs.

This matchup was of particular interest to Gamecock fans since the Tigers and Gators are South Carolina's next two opponents. Anything can happen in Baton Rouge, but it's hard to imagine LSU having much more offensive success than they did against the Gators, which is to say it is hard to imagine them having any success at all.

Vanderbilt 19, Missouri 15

Missouri outgained the Commodores 395 to 295 but still managed to lose. With this game taking place at the same time as South Carolina's, I have no idea how that came to pass, but I imagine Corbin Berkstresser's line of 9 completions on 30 attempts for 189 yards in relief of James Franklin was a contributing factor.

Texas A&M 30, Ole Miss 27

No real insight leaps from the box score other than that Ole Miss seems better than expected and Johnny Manziel is still a freshman and is still really, really good (320 yards of total offense). Aren't you glad the Gamecocks are dropping Arkansas as a permanent opponent?

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