In their final tune-up game before the heart of their SEC schedule begins, South Carolina pushed through some early offensive miscues and dominated on the defensive side of the ball to blow out UAB 49-6 and earn Steve Spurrier his 200th victory as an NCAA head coach.
Connor Shaw started the game for the Gamecocks after sitting out of their game last week against East Carolina but showed a lot of rust early on in his first two drives, registering only 2-of-4 passing while taking a couple sacks and throwing a woeful interception that was way off target.
The Blazers, to their credit, sustained a couple of long drives in the first quarter behind some timely completions by junior quarterback Jonathan Perry and dominated the time of possession 10:54 to 4:01 for South Carolina.
But, a timely 65-yard fumble picked up by D.J. Swearinger completely erased the momentum UAB was building and gave the Gamecocks their first score of the game and a 7-3 lead while only mustering 29 yards of offense.
But, the Gamecock offense rebounded on their first drive of the second quarter, and Shaw found his groove, completing three of four passes, including a 16-yard touchdown to Ace Sanders which put South Carolina up 14-3.
And the Gamecocks never looked back.
Shaw finished the game 9-of-15 for 106 yards with one touchdown and one interception, showing marked improvement as the game went on along with a more conservative running style to protect his injured shoulder.
But, he was pulled from the game after the first half after taking a big hit in the pocket after delivering a 20-yard pass to Bruce Ellington that set up a Lattimore touchdown to close out the first half for the Gamecocks.
Dylan Thompson stepped in for Shaw in the second half, picking up where he left off from his impressive debut against East Carolina, notching 177 yards including a 94-yard strike to Damiere Byrd in the third quarter for one of his two passing touchdowns.
Depending on how Shaw's shoulder feels throughout the week heading into next weekend against Missouri, Thompson might get the call to lead the offense against the Tigers. In the last two games, Thompson has also started slow with his own erratic passing but has also proven to have the deep-throw threat that can put six on the board quickly for the Gamecocks.
Marcus Lattimore, who was quiet from a statistical standpoint last week, was a much bigger part of the Gamecock offense, registering 85 yards on the ground along with one touchdown, which put him at 34 for his career and the Gamecocks all-time leader for rushing touchdowns. When Shaw struggled early, it was Lattimore's ability to extend plays that kept the offense on the field throughout the game.
But, the story of this game was South Carolina's ability to hold on defense when UAB threatened to put big points on the board and ultimately held the Blazers to only 267 total yards and no offensive touchdowns.
Ultimately, both sides of the ball are going to have to step up their game against a Missouri team who held serve with Georgia for three quarters before bowing out in the fourth last week.
If the games against the Pirates and the Blazers proved anything, it has showed South Carolina's ability to get a lead and hold a lead, but the task against the Tigers will certainly not be as easy next week in Columbia.