South Carolina’s coaches had two main gripes heading into Saturday night’s game against Furman — an inconsistent passing game and a pedestrian pass rush.
The No. 13 Gamecocks appear to have one of those fixed after a 38-19 victory against the Paladins at Williams-Brice Stadium. Either way, the time for tune-ups is through. South Carolina begins a string of seven consecutive SEC games this week at No. 16 Auburn.
“We’re happy to beat Furman,” USC coach Steve Spurrier said. “They probably outplayed us, outhit us, probably out-toughed us a little bit. We still do a lot of stupid things. We will try to correct them if we can. We’ll get back to work, and see who we can line up when we go play Auburn.”
The Gamecocks moved to 3-0 for the second time since 2001. Furman fell to 1-1.
South Carolina’s passing game showed its potential and revealed its flaws at the same time Saturday. Alshon Jeffery led a balanced attack with five catches for 97 yards, and five Gamecocks caught more than one pass. However, two Stephen Garcia interceptions, the second of which was juggled 3 yards by Furman defensive end Shawn Boone for a touchdown in the third quarter, put a blemish on the positives.
“Pretty sad some of the things that happened, but, hopefully, it happened in a game when we had a decent lead, and we can prevent those things in the future,” Spurrier said. Backup quarterback “Connor Shaw played beautifully. He completed four of five. Maybe we need to let him play a little more at times.”
Garcia finished 13-of-20 for 150 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Both he and Spurrier said poor offensive line play had a lot to do with the inconsistent play.
“Our offensive line had a lot of missed assignments and sort of got run over,” Spurrier said. “They didn’t play near as well as they have the first couple games.”
On Garcia’s second interception, offensive tackle Jarriel King was supposed to cut block Boone, Garcia said.
“I’m looking down the field, and I can’t see if the guy is on the ground or not,” Garcia said. “I turn to throw it toward (Bryce) Sherman, and the guy is standing right there. There is really nothing I can do. We can’t play like that and beat Auburn at Auburn. We just have to play better.”
South Carolina’s defense mauled Furman starting quarterback Cody Worley, sacking him seven times. The Gamecocks, who gave up 325 yards, were not credited with a sack of Furman backup Chris Forcier but did knock Forcier out of the game with an elbow injury. Junior Travian Robertson had three sacks.
South Carolina’s first-team defense gave up its first touchdown of the season with 11:59 left in the game when Paladin tailback Tersoo Uhaa took a pitch right and then threw to Adam Mims for a 72-yard touchdown to pull the Paladins within 12 points at 31-19. Mims finished with 202 yards receiving.
“The 72-yard pass you give up late in the ballgame, it sort of reflects on a lack of preparation and focus,” assistant head coach for defense Ellis Johnson said. “That’s not what you want to see. When the ball game was obviously over tonight, we made some of our worst plays, just careless stuff. You are not going to achieve any kind of greatness or major goals anytime you do that.”
Furman kept the game interesting in the second half thanks to Mims’ catch and Boone’s interception. The Paladins still had life with seven minutes left when they were at the South Carolina 30. However, cornerback Stephon Gilmore collected an overthrown pass from Worley and raced 80 yards for a touchdown with 6:38 left.
“You just have to give Furman credit; they are a pretty good team,” Spurrier said. “We are glad the game is over. We don’t (want) to play them again for another 25 years.”
USC - Tori Gurley 15-yd TD from Stephen Garcia
USC - Marcus Lattimore 4-yd TD run
Furman - Ray Early 37-yard field goal
Furman - Ray Early 37-yard field goal
USC - Brian Maddox 9-yard TD run
USC - D.L. Moore 6-yd TD from Stephen Garcia
Furman - Shawn Boone 3-yard INT return for TD
USC - Spencer Lanning 51-yd FG
Furman - Adam Mims 72-yd TD from Tersoo Uhaa
USC - Stephon Gilmore 80-yd INT return for TD