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LSU recap: Game balls to the Cooks, buzz

Game balls

Jared Cook: The 6-foot-5 tight end exploited mismatches against LSU’s linebackers and safeties, particularly on drag routes. Cook had a game-high five catches for 74 yards to remain the Gamecocks’ leading receiver.

Emanuel Cook: All he does is make tackles. USC’s “Hit Man” matched his career high with 11, including eight solo takedowns.

Eric Norwood: The junior linebacker had 1.5 tackles for loss and needs one more to tie Andrew Provence’s career record of 35. Norwood finished with eight tackles and had a pass breakup.

What went right

The defense allowed zero points following three turnovers, although LSU drove to the USC 1 while running out the clock after a Stephen Garcia interception. Though he was sacked six times, Garcia escaped the rush on several plays and hit Kenny McKinley for a 41-yards pass on one.

What went wrong

Garcia was slow to recognize and react to blitzes, and the linemen, tight ends and backs did a poor job of blocking it. The Gamecocks were 1-of-9 on third down and matched a season low with 16 first downs. USC again lost the turnover battle. While they did not cost the Gamecocks points, the turnovers hurt USC’s field position.

Injury report

Left guard Jamon Meredith twisted his left ankle in the first quarter and did not return. Cornerbacks Captain Munnerlyn and Carlos Thomas missed time in the third quarter while receiving treatment for cramps on a cool night. Thomas said he and Munnerlyn should have done a better job of prehydrating.

Extra points

The second-quarter run on which the umpire helped tackle Garcia near the goal line received big play on Internet video-sharing sights Sunday, but Spurrier did not fault the official. “He was trying to get out of the way. Stephen sort of cut back right into him. Sometimes that will happen,” Spurrier said. ...

The Gamecocks gave up a season-high 363 yards, dropping them from third to sixth nationally in total defense (256.1 yards a game). USC is fourth in the country in pass defense. ...

For the first time this season, USC backs did not catch a pass. Steve Spurrier said coaches thought the backs would have four to five receptions against LSU.

The buzz

With three conference losses, the Gamecocks likely will go another season without an SEC title. Though mathematically alive, Spurrier said there has been little talk of the conference race since USC dropped back-to-back division games against Vanderbilt and Georgia in September.

“We’re geared to win as many games as we can and have as big a season as possible. And really we’ve been doing that since we lost to Georgia,” he said. “You lose two within your division, you’re out of that.”

Scouting report

Tennessee’s 34-3 victory against Mississippi State should quiet calls for Phillip Fulmer’s head - at least for a week. “Not dead yet,” Fulmer quipped after the game, according to The (Nashville) Tennessean. Fulmer, who has a $6 million buyout, can do much for his job security by leading the Vols to an upset of No. 2 Alabama.

— Joseph Person

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