The developments of Saturday past kept USC alive in the race for the SEC East title. Not that the Gamecocks did anything to help their cause.
They frittered away a potential SEC road win by playing lousy on offense most of the day, especially in the fourth quarter, and by not being able to come up with a defensive stop on the game defining drive by the Vols.
But thanks to losses by Georgia and Florida, all is not lost for the Gamecocks. USC, the Bulldogs and Gators each have two league losses. Missouri is the current SEC East frontrunner and the Tigers are dead in front of the Gamecocks. They meet this Saturday night Columbia, MO with the Tigers unbeaten in league play.
The Gamecocks also have Mississippi State and Florida coming up at home. Obviously, they must win out to have a chance and will need Mizzou to lose at least one other time. The Tigers still have Tennessee, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Texas A&M to play with the Vols and Aggies coming to Missouri.
But for now, the Gamecocks have to do that ole flushing thing about a tough loss and focus on the next task at hand.
The defense can’t feel too bad about its performance considering it held Tennessee to just over 4 yards per play. It took a great pass and catch at the end to beat the Gamecocks and that’s what the Vols got.
DE Jadeveon Clowney had his best statistical game of the season with 5 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 2 quarterback hurries. But those numbers don’t describe his complete game effort. Clowney was a terror as Tennessee opted to single block him most of the day, so he lived in the backfield.
The Gamecock offense appeared out of sorts from the opening drive. From drops to penalties to sacks, even to bad play calling, the Gamecocks just had one of those days not seen by the unit this season. They had only 384 yards, the first time this season USC has been held under 400 yards. While that’s a negative low, there were several negative season highs….9 penalties, 8 punts and 4 sacks allowed.
What’s really puzzling about the offense Saturday, the lack of ball distribution. Only Connor Shaw, Mike Davis and Damiere Byrd had more than one touch (not counting backup QB Dylan Thompson who had 1 rush and 1 pass attempt). Shaw completed just 7 of 21 passes for 161 yards. Since he became the starter midway thru the 2010 season, that’s the second fewest number of completions for Shaw in a game in which he played the majority of the way. Davis had 21 catches for 137 yards and Byrd had 4 catches for a career high 121 yards. Bruce Ellington, the team’s leading receiver, had 0 touches on the day. And Pharoh Cooper, who ran well from the Wildcat at Arkansas, was not put in that position at Tennessee.
The Gamecocks won’t know until later in the week if Shaw will be available for Missouri due to his knee injury. He’s not expected to be able to practice until late in the week, if then. Thompson will start in his place if he can’t go and Brendan Nosovitch will be the backup.