NO. 12 SOUTH CAROLINA 24, WOFFORD 7
GOLD-PLATED: Say what you want about D.J. Swearinger - the detailed additions to himself to make him appear more menacing (like the gold grill he sports on his teeth during games, despite him wearing a mouthpiece in front of them most of the time), the sometimes-absurd histrionics, the knowledge that even though it may not be wise, he's going to talk a lot of junk - but that man comes to play and plays every snap like his hair's on fire. He had another 12 tackles on Saturday, again leading the team, and was in the middle of two huge turnovers. The Gamecocks were trying to make a 7-0 lead last in the second quarter but Wofford finally began moving the ball. Will Gay tried to take a pitch and couldn't handle the ball, and Swearinger, who was arriving toting his usual steel-cracking mentality, not only knocked Gay down but he twisted his body sideways to get the ball, absorbing a late hit across his shoulders as he cradled it. Then in the third quarter, USC trying to keep the score tied at 7, Wofford was churning downfield. The Terriers tried to sweep the end with Octavius Harden, Swearinger saw him coming and belted him, also taking him down with a corkscrew finish to jar the ball loose. Brison Williams pounced and USC had another turnover. Afterward, Swearinger said he wanted to get a fumble because he hadn't had one all year. If that's all it takes, Gamecock Nation is hoping that he really wants a win next week (Spoiler alert: He really does).
THE BIG FELLA: The talk's been on all season, and not just around Columbia - NFL Draft analysts have been talking about just where Devin Taylor has been this year. Taylor has disrupted some plays, but has been quiet on the stat sheets, and his pro stock has dropped due to it. On Saturday, it was on the upswing. Taylor had eight tackles, 1.5 for loss, and had two huge plays. The Gamecocks were up 10-7 with far too much time to play in the fourth quarter, and the Terriers had been running through their defense in the manner of a bulldozer vs. an orchid, when they faced a fourth-and-1 at their 34-yard-line. Everyone knew they would go for it, because that's what they do, and they did. Everyone also knew that it would most likely be fullback Eric Breitenstein, a burly runner who looks like he'll be slaying redwoods in California this time next year, who would try for the crucial yard. He did, and ran forward, and met a mouthful of Taylor and Quin Smith, who dropped him for no gain. Then when Wofford was threatening to make the supposed 24-7 game-over into a 24-14 hold-on-just-a-sec, Taylor again stood up. The Terriers rushed three straight times from the USC 7, but only got to the 4. They had to go for it, and James Lawson rolled out looking for a block - The Pride of Beaufort (outside of Frogmore Stew) charged through, rolled him up and took him down. Taylor, the one they call "Don't Say Nuthin,'" celebrated with an audible swallow.
THE DREAM: Who's got it better than Akeem Auguste right now? A week ago, he finally nabbed his first interception in five years. This week, a ball popped loose in front of him, he picked it up and saw the best thing a defender can see when holding a ball - a wall of blockers to the left, the sideline to the right and empty field in front. Auguste ran untouched into the end zone, on a play where he could have walked on his hands and scored, and got another monkey off his back. Asked what he plans to do next week, he only said, "Wait and see."
THE MAN WHO WILL BE KING: Rex Enright's name was always staring at Steve Spurrier from the Northeast ramp of Williams-Brice Stadium, giving Spurrier something to look at as he coached. He's nearly done looking. Most likely, Saturday was the last time that Spurrier will have to look and see Enright's name on that ramp because the next time he's on the sideline, it should be his name up there. Spurrier only tied Enright's career wins mark of 64 on Saturday, but he has two games left to try and get the 65th and if he does it, he'll do it in eight years (it took Enright 15, spread over two stints). Spurrier wanted the record and he got it - he wants an SEC title as well. That's what the other winningest coach at two SEC schools (some old boy named after a furry mammal) did so, so well.
WE'RE HERE: USC's defense was ready for the challenge of the triple option. The Gamecocks held Wofford to three-and-outs on its first three possessions. It eventually bent, because that's what that offense does to a defense, but the turnovers kept it from breaking. It's certainly not the defense's fault that the offense was doing its impression of every Jimmy Buffett album every recorded throughout most of the game.
ROCK: All the seniors who were recognized on Saturday have each contributed, but I realized that in the past four years, I've never pointed out anything but high snaps for one of them. So, to T.J. Johnson, well done. Fine player, fine person, and one of the Gamecocks' best-ever offensive linemen. He redshirted his first year to follow the SEC Rulebook on Offensive Linemen, but after that, he has started every game that he's played (51). Always there, always in the middle, always steady. He's going to be quite an act to follow.
COME QUITE A WAY: Before Spurrier came along, USC had two seasons in over 100 years where it won nine or more games. The Gamecocks have won at least nine in each of the past three seasons, meaning the senior class has averaged nine wins per season for its career. Damn Mayans.
ONE MORE TIME: As soon as the clock hit zeroes, the countdown began. Seven days. A distance of 130.77 miles. Meeting No. 110.
Here. We. Go.
RIGHT THIS WAY, SIR: So Connor Shaw didn't play very well, and much of that was his own fault. But, I will say, it's hard to throw when you're getting pressured. It didn't happen much, but it did happen - Brandon Shell and Corey Robinson were getting run right around. That's an FCS defensive end, running around an SEC tackle. Um …
I GOT IT!: On a few plays, USC ran option. One time it worked, the others it didn't. Maybe it's just me, but I think it didn't work because USC WAS RUNNING OPTION AGAINST A DEFENSE THAT SEES THE OPTION EVERY DAY. Is that too strongly worded?
MIKE D, WHATCHA GOT FOR ME: I really think that Mike Davis is going to be a great back (and man, what a story it will make if he shows up next week and runs all over that team up there), but he's got to start tucking that ball in. Every time I see him, the ball is straying away from his body, instead of being tucked high and tight in the shoulder, five fingers gripping it on the end. His fumble ended another USC drive and he barely saw the field again. Can't have it.
WHITE FLAG: USC got the ball back in a 7-7 game before halftime, with the ball in the second half. There were 32 seconds remaining. USC ran a straight I-formation run. I realize the half had been terrible, and the way Shaw was throwing, it didn't make sense to risk a Hail Mary, but come on, now. Got to at least try.
CONNOR: He said he was staying in the pocket as long as he could. He was often contradicting what his coach said. While he says the pain in his foot is tolerable, he was limping out of the press room like he had an axe head buried in his calf. He'll play against Clemson, and he'll play hurt, and that is admirable. What he has to do, though, is find some way in a short week of practice to figure out why his passing is suddenly suspect. He was sailing them, under-throwing them, and that's when he actually let the ball go. Most of the time, he was staring at one receiver, counting to two and then running. That led to the big problems, such as trying to throw a cross-body pass to an open receiver while running to the right and seeing the receiver on the left. Johnny Unitas couldn't have made that throw. Clemson is highly susceptible to the pass, especially over the middle of the field, and Shaw can exploit that. He just has to throw the ball.
REALLY?: The announced attendance for the game was 76,000-plus. I assume that was give or take 10,000. The attendance on Saturday was once again apathetic, with big holes of aluminum in the upper decks and the student section with bare corners. That is pathetic. All of the "most loyal fans in the nation" that showed up when the team was 1-21 is now not showing up, for a team that has the chance to win 31 games over three years? I know that there are several factors at work here that weren't back then - a sinking economy, for one, and raised gameday expenses as another - but for people not to show up because it's a noon or 1 p.m. kickoff, or because it was Wofford, is ridiculous. I constantly hear people moan and complain about how USC is disrespected by everyone across the nation - think that the rest of the nation sees how fair-weather the fans are and comes to that conclusion?
And another point that I must bring up - Spurrier begged the fans and then the students to come out for the last two games. Some listened, some didn't, as the stadium can attest. Spurrier has often picked fights and gotten his boxers in a bunch over some rather trivial things in the past. Are fans willing to risk him throwing up his hands and saying the hell with it before he's ready, if attendance continues to be spotty?