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O-line provides boost to offense

University of South Carolina QB #5 Stephen Garcia is hoisted into the air after delivering the final touchdown pass against Clemson University in the second half at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday. South Carolina won 34-17.
University of South Carolina QB #5 Stephen Garcia is hoisted into the air after delivering the final touchdown pass against Clemson University in the second half at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday. South Carolina won 34-17.

Eric Wolford soaked it in, literally. The USC offensive line coach had just been doused with a Gatorade bath from his players.

This season did not produce the instant turnaround of the offensive line some expected from the first-year coach, who was hired after last season to fix the struggling unit.

But Saturday, in the biggest game of the season, his unit finished strong.

The run-blocking was outstanding and allowed the Gamecocks to average 3.8 yards per carry.

The pass-blocking was solid, too, giving up only one sack.

"It was phenomenal blocking," quarterback Stephen Garcia said.

Coach Steve Spurrier was more subdued in his praise, calling the line's performance "OK." But considering his statements after previous games, that was praise enough.

Entering the week, South Carolina ranked last in the SEC in rushing yards per game and first in sacks allowed.

"Our whole effort was to just do everything we've been coached to do all year long," junior tackle Jarriel King said.

King, a starter who played sparingly, credited the unit's lone seniors for the performance; Garrett Anderson started at left guard and Lemuel Jeanpierre at center.

"Try to put it all together for one last game - well, not one last game - but we told ourselves we're going to sell out for our seniors," King said.

The run-blocking was what USC could hang its hat on.

In the fourth quarter, when Clemson knew USC would run the ball, the Gamecocks still were able to do so.

The only sack, late in the first half, came on a cornerback blitz.

"Stephen got sort of held up a little bit and had the guy come up a little late on him," Spurrier said. "We've taken way too many sacks, and that's what really killed our rushing yards (this season). But today we only had one sack and were able to run for 223 yards, which is pretty good for us."

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