North Carolina vs. South Carolina: Gamecocks Aren't Pretty, but Always Effective

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North Carolina vs. South Carolina: Gamecocks Aren't Pretty, but Always Effective
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
South Carolina RB Mike Davis

How will the South Carolina offense change now that the Gamecocks have gone a full offseason without Marcus Lattimore?

As the Talking Heads would say, "Same as it ever was."

The Gamecocks were slow, methodical and sometimes even boring in their 27-10 opening-night win over the North Carolina Tar Heels at Williams-Brice Stadium on Thursday night.

Running back Mike Davis led all rushers with 115 yards and one touchdown, while Brandon Wilds added 64 yards and quarterback Connor Shaw gained 43. All three had 12 carries each.

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
South Carolina QB Connor Shaw

Was it pretty? No.

In fact, save for Davis' 75-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and Shaq Roland's 65-yard touchdown catch in the first, the game was largely a snoozefest.

Twelve years ago, head coach Steve Spurrier would have been upset with the lack of explosive plays. Now, it draws a smile.

One play after North Carolina kicked a field goal to cut the South Carolina lead to 10 points, Davis showed his home run speed on a long touchdown run that put the Gamecocks up 27-10. He proved to be the home run threat on Thursday, whereas Wilds was solid between the tackles with 5.3 yards per carry.

You saw at times, though, that both primary running backs are versatile enough to comprise a healthy one-two punch for the Gamecocks.

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
South Carolina QB Connor Shaw (right)

Shaw still hasn't learned to slide, which may haunt him as the season progresses, but he has consistently proved that he's capable of handling things himself when his number is called.

Is he flashy like Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel? No, but he's just as effective.

The win over the Tar Heels makes Shaw 18-3 as a starting quarterback. With back-to-back 11-win seasons, he's been at the helm during one of the golden eras of South Carolina football. You can't argue with that kind of success, even if he does put himself in harm's way from time to time.

Methodical ground-and-pound isn't just South Carolina football now. It's Spurrier football.

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier

Slinging it around the field isn't necessary, especially with a veteran offensive line, a versatile running game and a quarterback who's smart with the football.

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Did the defense look worn down at times? Yes. That's part of North Carolina's plan, and it'll do that to a lot of opponents this year.

Nevertheless, the Gamecock defense also tightened up and held the Tar Heels to a field goal after a 17-play, 7:09 drive in the third quarter. The Gamecocks allowed only 293 yards to a team that eclipsed the 400-yard mark in every game last season.

This was with ESPN's broadcast team reporting that star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was suffering from a virus.

That'll work short-term and long-term.

The Gamecocks won't get any style points, but with the benefit of the doubt earned by the SEC over the last seven years, they don't need them.

It's a tough, hard-nosed football team that controls the line of scrimmage on offense, controls the clock and doesn't take a ton of risks.

It worked with Lattimore, and it works without him. Why mess with success?

 

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