After a first-half characterized by sloppy defense, the Gamecocks came out of the gates quickly in the second half to convincingly defeat The Citadel by a score of 41-20. The most positive aspect of the game for Carolina was the reignition of the passing game. Connor Shaw had a very solid game today, throwing for over 200 yards on 16-18 passing. He also gained over 80 yards on his feet, including a breathtaking 60-yard run at the end of the half. It was his passing, though, that really impressed me. He finally got Alshon Jeffery involved, hitting Jeffery five times for over 80 yards, including a circus TD reception that brought back memories of some of the highlight-reel Jeffery we loved from the last two years. He also made some nice passes to Ace Sanders and Rory Anderson. The Gamecocks, though, weren't all passing; it was a very balanced attack today, with Brandon Wilds and Kenny Miles, along with Shaw, both having nice games on the ground. The offensive line, after some brief struggles early in the game, played well for most of the afternoon, although it did have some unfortunate penalties.
All of that said, this game didn't go as I had hoped. I really wanted us to go into the half with a big lead and the possibility to get the backups in and avoid injuries to our starters. Largely due to the defense's inability to stop The Citadel's triple-option attack until the late stages of the game, that didn't happen, and we went into the half with only a TD lead. Disaster struck in the second half when several defensive players suffered various injuries. Jadeveon Clowney and DeVonte Holloman both took shots to the head and may have concussions, and DeMario Jeffery suffered what looked to be a bad ankle sprain. Jeffery is probably out for Clemson; Clowney and Holloman will need to be evaluated this week. None of that is good, and it would be disastrous to be without both Clowney and Holloman against one of the most dangerous offense's we'll face all season. Clowney, particularly; I really think we need his pass-rushing ability to disrupt Tajh Boyd.
A few additional thoughts after the jump.
--I know their minds were probably on Clemson, but our defense appeared to have learned very little from the Navy game. They were out of position most of the afternoon, continually allowing The Citadel to make nice gains on key downs. Frustrating.
--I was impressed by the play of both runningbacks today. Wilds continued to play at the level we've seen him at since he stepped in for Marcus Lattimore. I also liked the play of Miles, though; Kenny made some nice cuts and seems to have improved his field vision since last year. Miles also blocks extremely well; he laid a pretty nice block on Shaw's long TD run.
--Very impressed with Shaw. Still needs to learn to keep his poise in the pocket, but he showed again today, as he did in the Kentucky game, that he can make the tough throws when he stands his ground and launches. The kid has a good arm and puts the ball where it needs to be. He just needs to learn to improve his decision making. He took off running early a couple of times in the first half, and he yet again took a sack when he could have gotten rid of the ball. He's also, BTW, gotta be one of the fastest QBs around. He left some guys in the dust on that TD run.
--Another questionable day for the zebras. Multiple holding calls negated nice gains for the Gamecocks, yet not a single holding or block in the back on The Citadel's chaotic blocking schemes.
That's a wrap on this one. What did you think of our performance in this game?