Each week, Garnet Report’s Zach Crowl recaps the Gamecock’s last outing, analyzes the positives and negatives to take from the game, and reveals what to be excited about for next week’s matchup. Stay tuned every Monday to hear Zach’s take on the game.
By: Zach Crowl
This past Saturday marked one of the most complete Gamecock performances since the Kentucky game of 2011. South Carolina put on a true spectacle this weekend, finding holes everywhere in East Carolina’s defense. With both Connor Shaw and his leadership missing, there were questions about how well the ‘Cocks would adapt to the adversity. They answered with a touchdown within the first five offensive plays and never looked back. Fifty-eight minutes later the Gamecock’s had their second win of the season after posting 48 points and only allowing ten. Both the offense and the defense played spectacularly, but as all Carolina fans know, there is always room for improvement.
Room to Improve
Keeping a Consistent Rushing Game
Compared to week one, South Carolina’s rushing attack did not impress against East Carolina’s defense. Heisman candidate Marcus Lattimore was held to only forty yards on thirteen carries and one touchdown. The rushing corps as a whole gathered 131 yards, a considerable drop from last week’s 205 yards. It seemed that East Carolina’s defense had Spurrier’s number when it came to running plays, loading the box with seven or eight players for the majority of the game.
Containing the Short Routes
The Gamecocks had a tough time preventing those pesky over-the-middle slant completions from ECU quarterback Rio Johnson’s three-step drop back. One of the key factors was that the Lorenzo Ward’s defensive line had a tough time getting to Johnson. With little pressure, the Pirates were able to amass 333 pass yards, showing a true weakness in an athletic Carolina defense.
Shaw Missing Out
Quarterback Connor Shaw missed out on a prime opportunity to boost his passing confidence this weekend. ECU’s outmatched secondary and overall poor defense would have been perfect for sharpening Shaw’s skills as a pocket passer. Fortunately, next week brings the same opportunity and if Connor Shaw can get healthy enough this week to practice, he will get a chance to showcase his talent.
No Worries at Quarterback
After last week, Dylan Thompson may have had Gamecock fans a little worried about ECU when he was announced as the starter. Thompson looked unnerved, unready, and even untalented in a weak performance against Vanderbilt. However, Dylan Thompson came out with a mission against ECU and silenced the critics. Completing 21 of 37 passes with 330 passing yards and three touchdowns was more than enough proof that the Gamecock’s have an exceptional backup that is ready to take the lead when his number is called.
Anytime a defense causes five turnovers a win is all but guaranteed. The Gamecock’s defense looked hungry out there on Saturday and refused to show any mercy. From the bone crushing hits to the four interceptions and one fumble recovery, the defense never seemed to lose their tenacity. This crew will be a force to be reckoned with when South Carolina heads into conference play.
Inexperienced Players Impressed
Tune up games are meant to give seldom-used players a chance to show their stuff. Against ECU, these young guys did not disappoint. Several freshmen and sophomores made impacts in the receiving game. Sophomores Rory Anderson and Damiere Byrd combined for 171 yards and two touchdowns. Even highly-touted true freshman Shaq Roland saw some action, tallying 25 yards on two catches. The future looks bright for Carolina, as most of these players will take over starting roles later in their careers.
What to Expect Next Week
Expect a little bit of deja vu in week three for South Carolina. The University of Alabama at Birmingham is far from being a powerhouse and Spurrier won’t have any problem preparing the team to run over another outmatched opponent. It may be a little early to say whether or not Shaw will be starting against UAB, but it would be nice for him to have a little practice before facing Missouri. The defense will look to tighten up and the rushing attack will likely have a field day against the Blazer’s defense. The Gamecocks cannot become too comfortable as they still have some work to do, but UAB does not pose enough of a threat to cause any concern this coming week.