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Gamecocks secondary begins to grow up

COLUMBIA, SC  THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2009  Photo by Gerry Melendez---South Carolina sophomore linebacker No. 16 Shaq Wilson and South Carolina senior strong safety No. 24 Darian Stewart can't find the handle on a potential interception in the first quarter at Williams Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009. Gerry Melendez/gmelendez@thestate.com
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COLUMBIA, SC THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2009 Photo by Gerry Melendez---South Carolina sophomore linebacker No. 16 Shaq Wilson and South Carolina senior strong safety No. 24 Darian Stewart can't find the handle on a potential interception in the first quarter at Williams Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009. Gerry Melendez/gmelendez@thestate.com sc ms

On paper, it was a matchup that spelled trouble for South Carolina: Its young secondary going against Mississippi star quarterback Jevan Snead.

Through a mix of game planning, help from other positions and some growing up, USC ended up with the advantage.

Snead had a nightmare night, going 7 of 21 for 107 yards. He spent the night being pressured by USC's front four or not being able to find an open receiver.

South Carolina used a lot of zone coverages, which appeared to confuse Snead. The pressure from the front four got most, but not all, of the credit.

"A couple times the coverage got him to hold it a little bit," USC assistant head coach for defense Ellis Johnson said.

USC's starts true freshman Stephon Gilmore and sophomore Akeem Auguste at cornerback. 'Spur' Alonzo Winfield, a sophomore, was benched last week. Safeties Darian Stewart (a senior) and Chris Culliver (junior) provide the experience.

The unit struggled two weeks ago at Georgia in a 41-37 loss and had trouble in the first half last week against Florida Atlantic.

But Thursday they made Snead look subpar.

"One thing we talked about all week, man, we needed to get better at practice," Stewart said. "This week of preparation was real good for us and we were able to shut down their receivers tonight."

Auguste helped hold Shay Hodge, the Rebels' top receiver, to one catch. Gilmore, defending the short field, did not see many balls thrown his way.

"Akeem played a lot last year, behind Captain (Munnerlyn) and Carlos (Thomas) and guys like that," Culliver said. "Stephon stepped up a lot. I kind of expected that from him, for him to be one of the top DBs in the nation."

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