View from the Upper Deck: USC 31, Mizzou 10

1. Game Ball:  Connor Shaw

“Connor … got off to a slow start; he missed his first one, I think.”  These were Coach Spurrier’s words, spoken through a huge grin, about Connor Shaw’s performance in yesterday’s 31-10 drubbing of Mizzou. Connor did miss his first pass of the game.  He then proceeded to connect on his next 20 passes, spreading the ball around to nine different receivers. On the day, Connor was 20-21 for 249 yards and two touchdowns with another 45 yards coming on 12 carries. His day could have been even bigger had his 80 yard touchdown run in the first quarter not been called back due to a questionable clipping call. There is no doubt the Flowery Branch, GA native put all possibilities of a quarterback controversies to rest, turning in a near perfect performance despite a hairline fracture in his throwing shoulder.

2. O-Line shakeup effective; Offense continues to flourish

Shawn Elliot made some moves in the offensive line before the game Saturday,and boy, did they pay off. Pass protection was much better all day with only one sack allowed. The run blocking still doesn’t seem to be where the coaches want it, as Carolina averaged only 3.7 yards per carry, but there was definitely a lot more space than previous weeks.

Offensively, South Carolina racked up 396 yards of total offense with a very balanced attack. That number probably would have been higher had the special teams not played so well (more on that later). After the slow first quarter, the Gamecocks seemed to move the ball at will against a Missouri defense that was determined to not give up a deep pass, running a cover-2 scheme most of the day. Keep in mind, if not for two fumbles inside Missouri’s 30-yard line, a penalty nullifying an 80-yard TD run, and a failed fourth down at the goal line, Carolina could have potentially dropped over 50 points on Missouri.

3.  No Jungle Boi, no problem

Gamecock fans were worried how our defense would fare against a potent Missouri attack, especially without D.J. Swearinger (Jungle Boi) patrolling the boundary. T.J. Gurley got the start and proved defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward right in his prediction that there would be little to no drop off. South Carolina gave up only 255 yards of offense to the Tigers of Missouri.  The area of concern all year has been the secondary, which gave up far too many yards against ECU and UAB. Mizzou only managed 146 yards through the air. That stat gets even better when you take into account that the starters only gave up 92 yards to James Franklin. Without a doubt, the Gamecocks delivered their most complete performance of the season so far.

4. Bonus Special Teams Section!

I was so excited when I realized I would be able to dedicate an entire section of my recap to special teams.  Longtime Gamecock fans will remember how much of a sore spot special teams has been in the past.  That was not the case yesterday, as the Gamecocks had 106 yards on six punt returns and 58 yards on two kick returns.  Ace Sanders simply lit it up today, finding the holes in the punt coverage and regularly giving his offense fantastic field position all day.  I will contend that his 49 yard return, which included five broken tackles and one of the most incredible jukes I have had the privilege of witnessing, was the most exciting special teams play in Gamecock history, perhaps even eclipsing Raynard Brown’s 99-yard kickoff return against Florida State in 1984.

5. Quick Hits

  • Marcus Lattimore became South Carolina’s all time rushing touchdown leader with his 32nd and 33rd rushing touchdowns, breaking George Rogers’ and Harold Green’s previous record of 31.  This feat becomes even more incredible when remembering Marcus hasn’t played in two full seasons worth of games yet.  Expect him to push his records to nearly unreachable levels.  
  • Connor Shaw said he and the team felt disrespected by some pundits who were picking Missouri to pull of the upset.  The Gamecocks sure made a statement to the nation that they deserve their top 10 ranking.  
  • South Carolina has moved up to the number 6 spot in the AP poll, their highest ranking since the 2007 season.  
  • I might rename this section in honor of Ace Sanders.  After my first article in which I called out his weak performances in the Quick Hits, he has stepped up and become a big play maker for our Gamecocks.  I’m open to suggestions for new names involving the word Ace.