South Carolina-SC State: Gamecock Defense, Run-Game Dominate Bulldogs

Joseph AlbersonAnalyst ISeptember 17, 2007

IconSouth Carolina (3-0, 1-0) defeated SC State (1-2, 1-0) Saturday 38-3 due entirely to an impressive defense and an excellent rushing attack.

The Gamecocks, ranked #12 in the AP poll, were able to hold the Bulldogs to 264 yards of total offense, while limiting the dual threat ability of Cleveland McCoy to 120 total yards - 58 of those rushing yards.  USC intercepted three Bulldog passes, one returned for a touchdown by Nathan Pepper to give the Gamecocks the 7-3 lead in the first quarter.  The Gamecock defense also extended its streak of allowing no TDs to 10 consecutive quarters.

The rushing attack was led by Cory Boyd and Mike Davis who both combined for 237 yards with 1 TD (Boyd’s 4th rushing TD of the season).  In total, the USC offense amassed 408 yards of total offense.

The major inconsistency with the Gamecock offense remains the quarterback position.  Blake Mitchell and Tommy Beecher combined for 6 turnovers - 3 of those being Mitchell interceptions.

Despite the turnovers, Mitchell still turned in an average performance by completing 66% of his passes for 147 yards and 3 TDs.  To compete in the SEC this year, Mitchell needs to improve greatly in managing the game with fewer turnovers and let the rushing attack shine.

One bright spot at the receiver position was a 34 yard pass from Mitchell to freshman Jason Barnes.  Barnes displayed Sidney Rice-like leaping ability – over the defender and twisting – to come down with the longest pass of the night.  Ironically, Barnes wears number 4 for the Gamecocks.

South Carolina will head to Baton Rouge this weekend to take on #2 LSU in a showdown of top-15 teams.

LSU is led by a dominating defense that has only allowed 90 total yards rushing this season in their three games.  LSU is also ranked in the top 15 in the nation in scoring - averaging over 40 points per game - including a 48-7 victory over then ranked #9 Virginia Tech.

Defensively, USC matches up well with the Tigers.  LSU is ranked 16th nationally in passing yardage, an area where USC is very strong in defending, only allowing 344 passing yards the entire season.

Three keys to victory:

1)  Mitchell must play consistently and manage the game with no turnovers.  The Mitchell of the SC State game is not the same QB of the end of last year who went on a tear averaging over 250 yards passing and 2-3 TDs per game.  If he shows up, USC will compete.

2)  The Gamecock defense has to hold the Tiger offense to under 20 points, limit the big and explosive plays, and get off the field to allow the Gamecock offense to control the clock.

3)  The USC offense must strike quickly to try and diminish the LSU crowd as a factor.  Look for Spurrier to completely open up the offense and unleash everything he has on the LSU defense.  South Carolina has not ran a “gadget play” yet this year, so look for Spurrier to pull out all the stops in his commitment to win the SEC this year.

If the Gamecocks accomplish these three things, they have a legitimate shot at beating the Tigers.  If Mitchell does not improve with the opening up of the offense and the defense is unable to limit the impressive LSU offense, LSU will win big.

Even with a loss here, the hopes of an SEC title are not completely unfeasible.  South Carolina can still win the East, if they can repeat the performances of the past two years against a very dominating Florida, and look forward to a rematch against the Tigers of LSU in the SEC title game.