10 things we learned about the Gamecocks

GoGamecocks staff reportsNovember 19, 2012 

South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger (36) reacts to a tackle for loss during the first half of the Gamecock's game against Wofford Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia.

TIM DOMINICK — tdominick@thestate.com

1. The seniors are an impactful bunch

The seniors on USC’s 2012 team will leave as the most successful class in school history. You always hear the words "senior leadership." Consider these senior starters on this year's South Carolina team: Akeem Auguste; Reginald Bowens; Justice Cunningham; DeVonte Holloman; Byron Jerideau; T.J. Johnson; Kenny Miles; D.J. Swearinger; Devin Taylor; and Shaq Wilson. There's a lot of respect for and service, production and victories from that group. USC had three nine-win seasons prior to them. During their time, they've averaged nine wins. And Steve Spurrier hopes their best collegiate memory is yet to come, he said.

2. DJ Swearinger played inspired ...

Swearinger may not have topped his nationally recognized effort from a week earlier, but he came close in his final home game. The reigning national defensive player of the week put together an encore consisting of 12 tackles, including one for loss, a forced fumble and fumble recovery. "I think I had a decent last home game, 12 tackles is a good game for me," Swearinger said. "I wanted to get a forced fumble today, I hadn't had one all year so I think I had a productive day and went out with a bang for my last home game."

3. ... and so did Kenny Miles

Let's not forget Kenny Miles' final home game — a career-high 127 rushing yards. Miles liked that he ran the ball much harder than his start against Arkansas last week, when he gained 37 yards on 14 carries. Miles, who also had four receptions for 27 yards, picked up his first 100-yard game since the 2009 game against Clemson. And his hard-charging runs gave USC a lift early in the game when the offense was struggling.

4. The defense came through in a big way

USC and Wofford were tied at 7 when the fourth quarter started. South Carolina's defense set up one touchdown and scored another 37 seconds later to break open the game. Reginald Bowens combined with Devin Taylor to stuff Eric Breitenstein for no gain on a fourth-and-1 at the Wofford 34-yard line. That set up a short field for the USC offense. On the next Wofford possession, Bowens forced a fumble by Breitenstein that was picked up and scored by Akeem Auguste. With seven points allowed, the USC defense is now 13th in the country (allowing 17.45 points per game). That will be put to the test against a Clemson team that is fourth nationally with 44.64 points a game.

5. Connor Shaw struggled

Shaw completed 16 of 20 passes for 122 yards (7.6 yards per completion). His two longest passes were a pair of catch-and-run plays that went for 15 yards. Though efficient, Shaw looked uncomfortable throughout the game. He took preventable sacks, tossed a preventable interception and didn’t get the ball downfield. Afterward, Spurrier said he thought Shaw left the pocket and ran faster than he should. Shaw pointed to Wofford’s tendency of dropping eight players into coverage and rushing three. "I'm saying you’ve got to throw it somewhere, Connor, you can't take off running every play," Spurrier said following the game. "I know they had pretty good coverage, I guess. I couldn't get him to turn it loose."

6. Bowl projections unchanged

South Carolina's bowl possibilities didn't change from a week earlier, at least according to national experts. ESPN's Brad Edwards predicts South Carolina vs. Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl, while ESPN's Mark Schlabach has a Chick-fil-A Bowl matchup of USC-NC State. CBS Sports and CollegeFootballNews.com have South Carolina facing Northwestern in the Outback Bowl. For what it's worth, the lone bowl representatives at Saturday's game were from the Capital One Bowl.

7. Injuries lingering for star players

Jadeveon Clowney did not play Saturday, and we learned after the game that he has tendinitis in his left knee to go along with the sprained right foot that has kept him out of practice for the last three weeks and required a walking boot Saturday. Meanwhile, Shaw played against the Terriers but aggravated his sprained foot on the first series of the game. Shaw limped throughout the game and was wearing a walking boot in his postgame news conference. Both will be held out of practice at least through the first half of the week. Wide receiver Bruce Ellington suffered a bruised right hand but is expected to be OK.

8. The offensive line struggled at pass blocking

Disturbingly, the line was occasionally overrun by the smaller Terriers. You would expect more from this group, especially when facing a three-man rush. Shaw was sacked four times, and Corey Robinson had a pair of false starts at left tackle. While the pass protection was lacking, the run blocking improved from a week earlier and paved the way for 171 rushing yards.

9. The passing defense was not tested

As expected, Wofford did not throw much Saturday - just three passes. The lone completion went for 71 yards and caught USC off-guard. Now the Gamecocks must change gears and get ready for a high-powered Clemson attack in Death Valley. The Tigers' offense is sixth in the country, averaging 535.64 yards per game, with 332.00 in the air. Clemson's Tajh Boyd threw for 426 yards in a win Saturday over NC State. "We will prepare a lot differently," linebacker Shaq Wilson said. "We will definitely work on more pass defense. We kind of know what they do because we play them every year."

10. The attention quickly turned to Clemson

The Gamecocks are looking for a fourth straight win against Clemson, something that has happened once (1951-1954). After the Wofford win, players admitted that their thoughts had turned to the Tigers. "I know some of our guys have been waiting on this game," receiver Ace Sanders said. "The atmosphere in practice is going to be game tempo. Everything is going to go 100 percent the whole week." Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said the team was able to work on its passing defense some last week, and Auguste said there won't be a transition despite just playing an option team in Wofford. "We've been waiting," Auguste said. Said Miles: "They don't like us that much, and we don't care for them that much. It’s just a rivalry game and rivalry games are big games."

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