There was no letdown here, which was exactly what South Carolina needed.
After four games of shaky offense and 10 games of not knowing which offense or defense would show up on Saturday, the No. 12 Gamecocks plowed under Coastal Carolina in a dominant performance on Saturday. It was 42-0 USC with nearly eight minutes to play — in the second quarter.
The relief was obvious. This was the offense that had been so fine in the first part of the season. Connor Shaw was running like he never sprained his knee, and dialing passes that looked night-and-day from his attempts last week. Even without Mike Davis, and Brandon Wilds the third option at tailback, the Gamecocks’ rushing game was producing. The Gamecocks took a big lead and never stepped off the gas, churning out points like Krispy Kreme doughnuts at “Hot Now” time.
With Clemson coming in next week, USC needed to win and look great doing it. Saturday was an even better scenario. The Gamecocks displayed several options for the Tigers’ defense to scout.
Pharoh Cooper was a threat running the ball at Wildcat quarterback and catching at receiver, or from the backfield. Davis will be fine next week, but Wilds looked strong and Jamari Smith saw his number called for his most extensive action of the season. Most receivers got to play, and most were targeted. Dylan Thompson again looked great throwing the deep pass and Shaw was back to his old self.
What made the Gamecocks’ offense lethal in the first part of the season was its unpredictability. Play the pass, and Shaw or Davis could burn the defensive front with their legs; play the run, and watch Shaw throw to the graceful gazelle known as Damiere Byrd, or the looming juggernaut that is Shaq Roland. USC was pushed away from that (although it still won games) and was settling into the winning-ugly category.
Now it appears to be at full strength. USC did whatever it wanted to do. About to play a Clemson team that will put up points and is much stronger defensively, the Gamecocks look their best heading into the rivalry game.