Game balls: Stephen Garcia. In his most extensive action, the quarterback accounted for 217 yards and two touchdowns: a 13-yard pass and a 5-yard run. Garcia ran 18 times for 86 yards in the best rushing performance by a USC quarterback since Corey Jenkins’ 101-yard performance against Georgia in 2002.
Clifton Geathers. In his first start, the sophomore defensive end finished with five tackles, including one for loss, and a pressure. Though the Gamecocks never sacked UAB quarterback Joe Webb, Geathers helped keep the heat on the 6-4, 220-pounder.
Ryan Succop. The Hickory, N.C., native gets a game ball for the second consecutive week. Succop set a career high by becoming the first USC kicker to hit four field goals since Steve Florio in 1997. Succop moved into second place on the all-time lists for points (202) and field goals (39).
What went right: The Gamecocks’ defense continues to smother foes. USC, which held the Blazers to 207 yards, jumped to No. 1 in the country in total defense (221.4 yards per game). The 67 rushing yards allowed were the third fewest in Steve Spurrier’s four seasons.
What went wrong: USC continues to struggle with its downfield passing game. The Gamecocks had several balls just out of the receivers’ reach and saw a 28-yard touchdown catch called back on an offensive pass interference call against Jason Barnes.
Key stat: The Gamecocks might not be picking yards in big chunks, but they moved the ball in their nonconference games. USC punted a total of two times against Wofford and UAB, while averaging 27 first downs.
Injury update: Walk-on cornerback Mike Newton will miss several weeks with a left knee injury. Spurrier said Newton, who plays special teams, might have a torn ligament. Left tackle Jarriel King, who missed the second half vs. UAB with a concussion, should be OK.
The buzz: USC ranks 116th among 119 teams nationally in sacks allowed, but fans should not be so quick to point the finger at offensive line coach John Hunt. Spurrier said three of the sacks or pressures against UAB resulted from poor protection by the tight ends, a group known more for their receiving skills than blocking prowess.
Extra points: With three catches for 46 yards, Barnes has earned another start, according to Spurrier. Fellow second-year receiver Matt Clements (two catches for 26 yards) could join Barnes in the starting lineup at Mississippi. ææ.æ.æ. Spurrier would like to get Bobby Wallace (six carries for 51 yards) more work at tailback. But with Mike Davis back from suspension, and Brian Maddox and Eric Baker in the mix, Spurrier said it will be tough to play all four.
Next up: USC is catching Mississippi following the first big win of the Houston Nutt era. The Rebels (3-2) blocked an extra point and later stuffed Tim Tebow on a fourth-down run to stunned then-No. 4 Florida 31-30 at the Swamp. The Rebs are ninth in total defense (328.8 yards allowed a game) under former USC coordinator Tyrone Nix.
- Joseph Person