South Carolina Football: All Important Second Half Begins Now

DJ BatchlerCorrespondent IOctober 24, 2010

COLUMBIA, SC - OCTOBER 9: Wide receiver Tori Gurley #81 of the South Carolina Gamecocks stretches for a gain against the Alabama Crimson Tide October 9, 2010 at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks have become famous for the second half of the season collapses. They can't let it happen again can they? With this much talent, and leaders emerging on the team one has to think the Gamecocks can steer the ship in the right direction for the rest of this season.

Tori Gurley told his team, and the media last week that his team needs to study their game plan and playbook like a bible. He responded to his comments with a 13 reception, 109 yard and one touchdown performance. He did his job. He was joined by Alshon Jeffery who caught nine passes for 158 yards with an all important 72-yard touchdown catch to seal the game.

Marcus Lattimore was noticeable in his absence in the first half. He seemed ready to play on the sideline, but Spurrier wanted to keep Lattimore healthy. He then benched the games starting running back Kenny Miles and gave Brian Maddox the carries. Maddox responded with 146 yards on the ground.

The Gamecocks only put up 21 points, despite the two 100 yard receivers, and a 100 yard rusher. Three players over 100 yards was the first time the Gamecocks have accomplished that feat. A 21 point performance wasn't the showing the Gamecocks wanted, but a win is what they needed.

The Gamecocks still lead the SEC East, and control their own destiny, which is the most you can ask for after their two losses, which were both in conference, and on the road. Stephen Garcia didn't play his best game, but he rebounded in the second half to the lead South Carolina to victory.

Can the second half of the season mirror the second half of the Vanderbilt game? The Gamecocks host Tennessee this Saturday, and in two weeks Arkansas comes to town. After those two games South Carolina travels to Florida, then home against Troy, followed by arch-rival Clemson in a season finale non-conference showdown.

With three SEC games left the playthe Gamecocks can win all three.

Winning two out of the three still gives the Gamecocks a strong chance of securing a trip to Atlanta to play for their first SEC Championship. With only one of those SEC games on the road, things appear to lean in the favor of Spurrier and the Gamecocks.

There are no guarantees, and the way the Gamecocks have played over the last two weeks, more specifically the second half of the Kentucky game, and first half of the Vanderbilt game, the old familiar questions have started swirling around.

The most important question revolves around Marcus Lattimore, who has shown in his absence that he is the MVP of the 2010 Gamecocks. If Lattimore is 100 percent for the Tennessee game and beyond, can Spurrier keep his game plan balanced. Lattimore needs several touches, in both the run and pass game to make the Gamecocks a legitimate threat.

Lattimore, in six out of a possible seven games has scored twelve touchdowns, which is an average of two a game. That average has him on pace to break the SEC Freshman touchdown record by two touchdowns. That speaks to just how impressive Marcus Lattimore is, and his importance to the Gamecocks.

 The Gamecocks owe Tennessee after being embarrassed on a wet field on Halloween last season when first half turnovers put the game out of reach early. The old cliche "one game at a time" has never rang more true for South Carolina than it does right now.

Being atop the SEC East also can't get into the heads of the Gamecocks. I've quoted Tori Gurley before, and have said that he is becoming a leader of this team. His most recent quote continues to prove the theory, "we're kind of conscious (of being in first) but we still have to go out and play the games."

Gurley is growing up fast on the field, and is showing his maturity off of it. Along with Alshon Jeffery and Marcus Lattimore, Gurley answering his performance against Vanderbilt with another good game against Tennessee would likely put South Carolina in a good position to win, if not seal the game.

Stephen Garcia also needs to stay level headed, limit his mistakes, and continue hitting his targets. Garcia has thrown for 300 yards in his last two games, and in the last month, dating to September 25th at Auburn. He threw for 235 yards, 201 against Alabama, 382 against Kentucky and 355 against Vanderbilt. He has also compiled 10 touchdowns and four interceptions in that span.

Also, for the season Garcia maintains a two-to-one touchdown to interception ratio, with twelve passing touchdowns and six interceptions, to go with two rushing touchdowns. Against Southern Mississippi and Georgia he didn't throw for any touchdowns, but also didn't throw any interceptions. With 1,681 yards on the season, he is completing a career best 72 percent of his passes.

If the team's defense can execute, and hold opponents out of the endzone, the offense led by Garcia, Gurley, Jeffery, Lattimore and now Maddox can win the rest of their games the Gamecocks can have a ten win season without question.

Auburn or Alabama are going to be in Atlanta waiting on the Champion from the East.

In an unlikely situation, the Gamecocks and resurgent Georgia Bulldogs seem primed to be the team from the East. The Gamecocks have the tie-breaker over Georgia if they were to lose only one more SEC game. The Head Ball Coach needs to keep his team focused and ready, with the help of his leaders on the field.

Can it be done? Yes, without question. Will it be done? Only time will tell.


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