13th USC didn’t dominate and it certainly didn’t earn any style points, but the Gamecocks did get a 38-19 win over Furman Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium. Carolina fans were hoping for a dominating performance against the Southern Conference for, instead they will have to settle for team’s first 3-0 start since 2007.
It was actually a ball game will about seven minutes left in the fourth quarter. It was 31-19 and the Paladins were in Gamecock territory looking to cut it to a one possession game. USC corner back Stephon Gilmore ended the drive and sealed the game when he returned an interception 80 yards for a touchdown.
The Carolina defense was solid most of the night. Most of Furman’s scoring opportunities were set up by Gamecock offensive miscues and most of the Paladins yards came from an impressive individual performance by receiver Adam Mims. How special was Mims? He had 202 receiving yards, 26 yards rushing and another 26 in punt returns. As a team Furman finished with 325 yards of total offense.
The USC offensive didn’t look particularly sharp for most of the night. The offensive line was suspect and quarterback Stephen Garcia had another shaky performance. In the second quarter Garcia telegraphed a pass that was intercepted by Furman to set up the Paladins first field goal. That throw landed him on the bench for the rest of the half.
Garcia returned in the second half and led the Gamecocks on a scoring drive on its first possession but he threw a pick six on the next possession. The pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage and returned three yards for a Paladin score. Unlike the first half, Steve Spurrier decided to stick with Garcia after the interception.
Garcia finished 13-20 for 150 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He is going to have to make better decisions if the Gamecocks are going to be able to be effect offensively against the upper echelon defenses they will face later this season. As a redshirt junior he should be playing at a higher level than we’ve seen the past two games.
Garcia better improve because Spurrier continues to rave about true freshman Connor Shaw. Shaw came off the bench in the second quarter and completed four of his five passes for 42 yards and led the Gamecocks to touchdown just before the half. He finished four of five for 42 yards and rushed for another 22 yards.
Marcus Lattimore had another solid night, he rushed for 99 yards on 19 carries and scored a touchdown. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry.
Alshon Jeffery also did well with five receptions for 97 yards. Tori Gurley was the seond leading receiver with three catches for 53 yards and a touchdown.
Those were the bright spots, but the bottom line is USC will need a much better performance across the board next week if it wants to go on the road and beat Auburn. Gamecock fans that had visions of an SEC East title have to be a little concerned when Spurrier says Furman is “almost as good as we are” during his postgame comments. With all due credit to Bobby Lamb and his Paladins, if Furman is almost as good as USC the Gamecocks are going to have a hard time with the Alabama’s and the Florida’s on the schedule.