The South Carolina Gamecocks had a rough but tough victory versus the Vanderbilt Commodores to open their 2012 campaign. It wasn't exactly the type of game that the fans and players were expecting, and the 17-13 win had its equal share of highlights and lowlights.
Of course, it's only the first game, but there are some takeaways that must be taken into account from the season opener.
Here are four things we learned about Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks:
1. The front seven is extremely aggressive
On one of the first few plays of the game, Jadeveon Clowney stunted left as Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers rolled right. Clowney read the play, as Rodgers played right into his hand for a sack. Clowney helped lead a defense that accumulated 11 TFL's and five sacks against Vanderbilt's offensive line.
Linebacker Shaq Wilson also showed up big, intercepting a pass for 37 yards to stop a burgeoning scoring drive.
This is a great sign for the Gamecocks, as a strong defensive front is the key foundation for a great team.
2. Marcus Lattimore is back but may need a few more games to catch up
Marcus Lattimore may have doubted himself after his first carry—which resulted in a fumble—but washed it out of his system after his 29-yard touchdown run.
Lattimore showed signs of a healthy knee a good bit during the game; he made cuts when he needed and showed off his power game as well. A few times, however, he seemed a step slow beating a defender to the outside. It wasn't often, but with a few more games under his belt, he should be fine.
It was his game action in 10 months after a torn ACL last October, and with a stat line of 23 carries, 109 yards and two touchdowns, it was a great welcome back for Lattimore.
3. No trust in the receiving game yet
Ace Sanders caught two passes for 13 yards, while Bruce Ellington tallied zero receptions. Although Connor Shaw completed seven passes on 11 attempts, Steve Spurrier appears to not have full confidence in his receiving corps at the moment.
The Gamecocks have several receivers under six feet, so a deep-ball threat on offense is thus far lacking. Spurrier went with what he had, featuring a ground attack to provide wear-and-tear to the opposing defense's front seven.
4. Connor Shaw can be a legit duel-threat QB, so long as he stays healthy
Speaking of wearing and tearing, Marcus Lattimore and Connor Shaw combined for 201 rushing yards in the win versus Vandy. Although Shaw got banged up a bit and headed to the locker room with a shoulder injury, Shaw showcased speed and guts and ran through and around Vanderbilt’s defense.
But Shaw must stay healthy, as the Gamecocks offense appeared somewhat out of sorts without him. Sliding feet first should be a good starting point.
The Gamecocks next face East Carolina at home September 8.