David Cloninger

All things Gamecocks, especially basketball and football

Cloninger Soundoff: Banner night for the offense

09/15/2013 12:41 AM

09/15/2013 3:17 AM

So much for running the ball, grinding clock and playing ball control.

There was nothing wrong with South Carolina’s offense against Georgia, but with the Gamecocks’ defense flagging, USC knew it had to give the D as much time as possible to rest and adjust this week. When the defense forced a three-and-out on the Commodores’ first drive, including a long-awaited sack from Chaz Sutton, USC could have gone vanilla and split carries between Connor Shaw and Mike Davis.

Nah.

Shaw opened it quickly with a 12-yard touchdown strike to Nick Jones after mixing the run and pass on his first drive. He hit Busta Anderson and Bruce Ellington in quick succession on his next, then handed off to Davis for a 4-yard scoring burst. On the Gamecocks’ third possession, Dylan Thompson entered and completed all five of his attempts before calling his own number for a touchdown.

USC has been spreading the ball around, never concentrating on one receiver, and Saturday was Ellington’s time to shine. He had seven catches at halftime, including a long touchdown, and Anderson got into the act after dropping the first pass thrown to him.

The Gamecocks are becoming the passing, throw-it-around team that many envisioned when Steve Spurrier took over the program before the 2005 season. Having an elite running back such as Davis helps, because it’s the hole card in the poker game. If the Gamecocks can make opponents think that USC will just hand off, the passing game will continue to flourish. With Shaw’s running ability, USC is unpredictable.

USC took what it was given — screen passes to backs and receivers in space against linebackers ill-equipped to handle them. The Gamecocks scored their fifth touchdown when Shaw was rushed, and he flipped to Brandon Wilds, who promptly turned it into a 33-yard score.

The wide receivers played with attitude, too. Damiere Byrd, who caught one pass, went down on special teams and knocked some poor Commodore out of his shoes.

USC ended with 359 passing yards, and 10 receivers caught passes (including Thompson, who caught his own deflected pass). Jones, Ellington and Wilds (on a pass) scored. The offense had another banner night.

Another one might be needed in two weeks — next opponent UCF surprisingly beat Penn State on Saturday.

 

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