Grading the Gamecocks: Week 1

One of the most anticipated seasons in South Carolina football history started Saturday night against East Carolina in Charlotte, N.C.

The Gamecocks were plagued by turnovers in the first half and trailed 17-0 at one point, but rallied for a 56-37 victory.

Here's how they graded out:

OFFENSE: Steve Spurrier's tinkering with the quarterback spot didn't work. Connor Shaw got the start based on his work in preseason drills, but he didn't help his cause by losing a fumble on an early drive and not generating any points. He threw a couple of nice deep balls, but they were slightly underthrown or they might have been highlight-reel touchdowns. Stephen Garcia came on in the second quarter and led the Gamecocks to six touchdown drives in a little over two full quarters of work. "Somebody on the sideline told me that you can't win it with one drive," Garcia said after the game. "Just take it one drive at a time, one drive at a time, and that was my mentality in the second half." Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery were solid as usual. Garcia rushed for two scores and threw for another, while Lattimore rushed for three scores. GRADE: B+

DEFENSE: Most folks thought South Carolina could score a lot of points, but they didn't anticipate the Gamecocks giving up 37 points to East Carolina. Give credit to athletic quarterback Dominique Davis, who made a lot of nice plays in throwing for four touchdowns and 260 yards. South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore was unimpressive at corner, but fortunately Antonio Allen and C.C. Whitlock were stellar. Allen forced two fumbles and ran back one for a score. Spurrier singled out Whitlock for a game ball. Still, an old problem seemed to persist for South Carolina, at least in the first half: too much arm tackling and not wrapping up. D.J. Swearinger got burned on the goal line before half when he tried to bring down an opponent with a shoulder bump. On the line, freshman Jadeveon Clowney had a solid first game. The top recruit had seven tackles but no fodder for his highlight reel, but give him time. GRADE: C-

SPECIAL TEAMS: This was the Gamecocks' best area. Basketball transfer Bruce Ellington gave the kickoff returns a boost with his speed, and Ace Sanders was dazzling with his speed and athleticism in returning a punt 68 yards for a touchdown. The kicking game was OK, punter Joey Scribner-Howard clanked one off his foot to hurt his average, but Jay Wooten was perfect on his PATs and didn't try any field goals. GRADE: A-

COACHING: Spurrier insisted after the game that his decision to start Shaw was the right one. But everyone at Bank of America Stadium saw that the Gamecocks are a much different, and better, team when Garcia is under center. Spurrier made his point with Garcia, who has had plenty of run-ins during his time in Columbia, and hopefully that will be the end of that discussion. "We didn't play very well obviously," Spurrier said. "We need to tighten up and play a lot better next week." No kidding. South Carolina fans will remember this game as a lopsided win, but it really shouldn't have been that close. Playing QB roulette could have been costly. GRADE: C-

OVERALL: To their credit, the Gamecocks made a nice recovery after falling into a pretty deep hole. It's a cliche, but true: turnovers have to be eliminated. The best teams win the turnover battle and don't fall behind by 17 against inferior opponents. The Gamecocks have athletes all over the field, on both sides of the ball, and are exciting to watch. But if they make similar mistakes at Georgia, look out. A wounded, angry bunch of Bulldogs could take a bite out of the Gamecocks and derail their plans to win the SEC East. GRADE: C+

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j-campbell
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j-campbell 09/04/11 - 02:56 pm
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As I said in a post to

As I said in a post to another article on this game, Spurrier did NOT make the right decision on his choice for starting QB, and that was evident beginning with the first offensive series. Shaw was not sharp; it appeared that he may have been a little over-anxious. Given the hype surrounding the beginning of this season, which of the two QBs should have been more mentally ready for the responsibility of starting -- one who had done so for 28 straight games, or one who had never done so. I think if the roles had been reversed and Shaw had entered the game from the bench, he would have performed much better.

As for Gilmore, he played much better from the left CB slot than hew did from the right side. I hope that observation isn't lost on the coaches. And Clowney did have a solid first collegiate game -- nothing flashy, but solid, and that's all he needed to do as he adjusts to play at this level.

Regarding your observation on tackling, the failure to lock up and actually tackle drives me absolutely CRAZY both on the college and high school level. I think the modern move on both levels toward avoiding hard fought practice scrimmages in order to avoid injuries hurts the defenses. You cannot adequately teach proper tackling with a practice dummy. And don't get me started on the shoulder-bump technique. High school kids should be banned from watching the NFL. :) They see these world-class athletes bring down players with a bump and think they can do it too -- WRONG. Very few college players can do it either. The only way to teach tackling is to do it live and insist that the tackler learn to drive his shoulder into the lower midsection and lock his arms around the ball carrier's legs.

John Boyette
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John Boyette 09/04/11 - 03:59 pm
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I agree 100 percent on QB

I agree 100 percent on QB situation. This was Spurrier's way of punishing Garcia. Let's hope this issue is over, but something tells me it's not. Garcia's first big slip-up on the field and Spurrier might start tinkering again. I wonder if he notices that nothing good ever happens when he yanks them around?

etlinks
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etlinks 09/04/11 - 04:25 pm
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Shaw was not that bad. Barnes

Shaw was not that bad. Barnes dropped 3 in his hands. The TEAM was behind Garcia, you could see it from the moment he entered the game. I agree John, Spurrier and Garcia are having one serious battle too prove their point. All in all things are pretty good. A great come back which always leads to a positive look at the rest of the season.

j-campbell
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j-campbell 09/04/11 - 06:22 pm
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John, you're right in your

John, you're right in your concern over Spurrier's tinkering. I can understand why all high school receivers would want to play for him, and I cannot understand why any first-rate HS quarterback would want to -- too many mind games.

augfootballfan
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augfootballfan 09/06/11 - 08:00 am
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campbell, there is no such

campbell, there is no such thing as a right cb and a left cb. Gilmore didnt play well on either side actually and stated that he felt it was one of his worst games. He is much more comfotable playing the BOUNDARY corner spot rather than the FIELD corner spot but was moved to both during the game. With Auguste and Holliman both returning from suspension this week in the secondary, hopefully the whole unit will be better

CarlA
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CarlA 09/07/11 - 09:45 am
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Let me start by saying that I

Let me start by saying that I am a die hard Gamecock fan. I think your analysis of the team was spot on and very objective. They have alot of kinks to work out before expecting to waltz out of Athens with a win.

I don't get the hype for Gilmore. I can't tell you how many times he got burnt deep last season. Just look at the SEC championship game. He is way overrated in my opinion. Clowney on the other hand. I think he is the real deal. I can't wait to see Carolina's D-Line against a traditional drop back passer.

pittsburg
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pittsburg 09/08/11 - 09:19 am
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Go Dawgs!!!!

Go Dawgs!!!!

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