Missouri vs. South Carolina: Post Game Grades from the Gamecocks' Win vs. Tigers
Connor Shaw was brilliant and led South Carolina to a 31-10 win over the Missouri Tigers. Shaw didn't miss a pass in his last 20 attempts and the defense was stifling throughout.
The win moves the Gamecocks to 4-0 on the season (2-0 in SEC play) and drops Missouri to 2-2.
This was the Tigers first ever road game as a member of the SEC, and South Carolina gave their new conference mates a rude hello.
Here are complete grades and postgame analysis for the Gamecocks' victory.
Heading into the game Connor Shaw was nursing an injured shoulder, but he sure didn't look like it was an issue on the field.
Shaw was nearly perfect in the game, he went 20-of-21 for 252 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and didn't miss a pass over the last three quarters.
But, what really separated this performance for the senior was his decision making. Shaw worked through his reads well instead of scrambling the instant his first option wasn't there. He did pull it down to run at times, but when he did it was done smartly and without risking his well being.
Shaw was just spectacular, and this was easily one of the best performance of his career. If he continues to play like this South Carolina will be a legitimate contender to Alabama and LSU in the SEC.
Running Backs: A
Usually it's up to the running game to carry the load for the Gamecocks, but Shaw took care of that on Saturday. However, Marcus Lattimore still managed to perform well in a supporting role.
The all-world junior was great once again against the Tigers, rushing for 85 yards and pair of touchdowns while also contributing 60 yards receiving, numbers that led the team in both categories. He didn't break off any earth-shattering touchdown runs, but he was steady and kept the chains moving for the Gamecocks.
He was also the perfect safety blanket for Shaw, as Lattimore was always available in the flat if Shaw couldn't find anyone down field.
Backup tailback Kenny Mills fumbled the ball once, but overall, it was a great game in the running back room.
Wide Receivers: B+
When a quarterback has a record day the wide outs have to be doing something right, and the Gamecock receivers were doing their part in the win.
No one had a spectacular game receiving yardage wise, but lots of players were able to get involved and everyone was great after the catch in space.
Ace Sanders emerged as a potential down-field threat on his 23-yard touchdown reception, and the rest of the group was quick to turn the ball up field after short slants.
The wide outs don't get an "A" though, the leading receiver in the game was a running back and a tight end caught one of the two touchdown passes. However, overall it was a solid game for the group.
Tight Ends: A
If Lattimore was Shaw's safety blanket then the tight ends were his go-to targets.
Justice Cunningham was the team's second-leading receiver with four catches for 41 yards, and his backup, Rory Anderson caught Shaw's final touchdown pass in the fourth.
The tight ends also provided some insurance blocking, assisting a suspect o-line in pass protection and on the goal line.
Neither Cunningham nor Anderson will garner high praise from fans, but their contributions should not be overlooked.
Offensive Line: C+
This was the one offensive group that had a poor day.
Sure, the offense busted out for 31 points and the quarterback had a amazing day, but it was all in spite of the offensive line.
Heading into the season the o-line was a question mark, and that still remains. Early in the game the line wasn't giving Shaw enough time to throw, and on the goal line the group often failed to penetrate, which was the cause of the Gamecocks failed scoring attempt to begin the second quarter.
After that the offense moved to quicker throws and runs to the outside, which hid some of the line's woes. The group did get better as the game wore on, but it still wasn't a great showing.
The offensive line could be this team's biggest obstacle to overcome moving forward.
Defensive Line: A+
The defensive line had none of the issues that plagued their teammates on the other side of the ball—they dominated.
The front four caused havoc for James Franklin all day, and he could never quite get comfortable in the pocket because of the Gamecock pressure. As a unit the front four combined for three sacks, and there were plenty of quarterback hurries that were just as effective.
Jadeveon Clowney was a force and Chaz Sutton was just as good on the other side with his two tackles for loss.
The group was just great, and should keep the Gamecocks in games no matter how talented the opponent.
The linebacking core was also very good in the game. It helped hold the Missouri rushing attack to only 109 yards, and the linebackers also did a good job staying in their lanes to contain the Tigers up-tempo attack.
Franklin had a tough time finding much room to dump the ball off over the middle, and the linebackers did a solid job containing him to the pocket.
The linebackers didn't force any tackles for a loss, but in this defense they're not asked to. That's the job of the d-line.
But, the linebackers did what they needed to do, keep the middle of the field in check, and make sure five and six-yard gains don't turn into long touchdowns.
Defensive Backs: B+
Missouri's only touchdown of the game came on a pass, but that's slightly misleading for the Gamecock defense.
That play came with less than two minutes remaining in the game, and the South Carolina backups were already on the field.
In actuality, the secondary did an excellent job of containing a potentially dangerous Missouri passing attack. Franklin was held to only 92 yards passing, and he failed to throw a touchdown. Missouri didn't complete a pass of over 25 yards, and the only completions that were really allowed were of the dump off variety.
Perhaps most impressively, the secondary looked just fine without the services of star safety
Special Teams: A
Shaw was brilliant and the defense was stifling, but it was the special teams that was the real spark.
Ace Sanders' 45-yard run in the second quarter completely flipped the momentum of the game, and it was his lighting bug-like returns that seemed to spark his teammates throughout. The kickoff return unit finally got on the board too—heading into the game South Carolina had yet to return a kickoff—with a 50-yard return.
Adam Yates contributed as well, capping off the Gamecocks' scoring on the day with a 38-yard field goal.
The South Carolina special teams unit was brilliant, and really swung the game for the Gamecocks in the second quarter.
Steve Spurrier had one really questionable series when he called two straight quarterback runs to the outside on the Missouri goal line, but overall, the coaching was solid.
The offense was in sync and the play calling was balanced between the pass and the run. Shaw was never put into a bad spot returning from injury, as Spurrier eased him back into action with a number of short throws early on. In the second half the Gamecocks pounded the ball smartly working the clock and taking advantage of their sizable lead.
On the other side of the ball the play calling was also great. The Gamecocks attacked the Tigers with their front seven, and Missouri couldn't handle the pressure.
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