It was an incredible Saturday for the South Carolina Gamecocks. On a day when the SEC east overtook the west as the conference’s better division, the Gamecocks were right in the middle of it with their 35-7 pounding of the Georgia Bulldogs in a game that featured teams that were right next to each other inside the top ten.
To say that this was a pounding would do injustice to the domination that the Gamecocks demonstrated. They didn’t just shut out the Bulldogs for almost the entire game, they shut the Bulldogs down. The offense that was so resourceful and was able to put up yards and points without much trouble was barely able to gain first downs. The Bulldogs’ defense did what they could, but the combination of Gamecocks’ quarterback Connor Shaw and running back Marcus Lattimore carrying the ball more than thirty times combined ended up overpowering them.
This game was over after one quarter. Obviously there’s still three quarters left to play, but many times all it takes is one quarter to break the spirit of your opponent and make the game yours long before it’s official. This is what the Gamecocks were able to do in the first fifteen minutes against the Bulldogs on Saturday night.
The Gamecocks took the opening kickoff, went right down the field, and scored with Shaw going to the air and coming up big for the second time on the drive. The touchdown was from 20 yards, but was set-up by a 42-yard completion from earlier in the five-play drive. After intercepting Bulldog quarterback Aaron Murray, the Gamecocks took twice the amount of plays, but achieved the same result and went up 14-0 with another Shaw touchdown pass.
Then, after the very next three and out from the Bulldogs, Ace Saunders put the spike in the Bulldogs’ hearts with a 70-yard punt return touchdown to put the Gamecocks up 21-0 after less than ten minutes of play.
There have been comebacks from this much down this early in a game. So why was it so certain after this early run of scoring by the Gamecocks that the game was over? Because it is quarters like these that can give a team the greatest gift you can give a team in an important game: room to breathe.
With a lead like the Gamecocks had going into the second quarter on Saturday, you could not be a Gamecock player or coach and not feel relaxed somewhat. A lead like this provides the defense with no pressure to stop the opponent on every possession while at the same time providing motivation to do so. And with the offense, it’s about being able to do your thing without fear, whatever that might be.
For the Gamecocks, that offensive strategy with a big lead ended up being the Shaw & Lattimore show.
Lattimore ended up with his standard 100+ yard, at least one touchdown performance. It was the kind of night that wasn’t the most spectacular one, but was exactly what the doctor ordered for his team. Shaw, on the other hand, did have a spectacular game. The numbers don’t quite show it, but Shaw was brilliant on this night, whether throwing the ball, running ball, or handing the ball to someone.
He didn’t need to throw much (only attempting ten passes in the game), but completed plenty of big passes. And while running, Shaw was very effective as well. Maybe it’s fitting that Shaw scored the final touchdown for the Gamecocks himself, on a seven-yard run in the middle of the final quarter.
With the win, the Gamecocks and coach Steve Spurrier have made their voices heard. And what they are saying is that they are not messing around this year, they are going for it this year. And by it, I mean a national championship.