SOUTH CAROLINA ROLLS PAST TRASH TALKING TIGERS
Prior to the start of the fourth quarter, University of Missouri defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson was on the sidelines gasping for breath … watching in helpless exasperation as his Tigers were “grown man” handled by No. 7 South Carolina.
That’s “old man football” for you, dude …
On the strength of a record-setting performance from USC quarterback Connor Shaw, the Gamecocks (4-0, 2-0 SEC) rolled past Missouri 31-10 in the Tigers’ first-ever Southeastern Conference road game – humbling a team that entered America’s toughest football conference with plenty of swagger.
“If we execute, nobody in this league can touch us. Period,” Richardson was quoted as saying prior to Missouri’s SEC opener against Georgia earlier this year. In the same interview he referred to the style of play in the SEC as “old man football.”
Well, there was nothing “old man” about Shaw’s performance. The embattled junior signal caller – who many felt should have been benched this week in favor of sizzling sophomore Dylan Thompson – easily had his best game of the season, completing 20 of 21 passes for 249 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Shaw also rushed for 41 yards on 12 carries – and had an 80-yard touchdown scamper negated by a clipping penalty.
After missing on his first throw of the game, Shaw completed his next twenty passes in a row – including touchdown strikes to Ace Sanders and Rory Anderson. When he was pulled midway through the fourth quarter, he was only three completions shy of the Southeastern Conference record for consecutive completions – set against the Gamecocks in 1998 by University of Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin.
Shaw did set a new school record by completing 95.2 percent of his passes (which ranks second in SEC history behind Martin’s 95.8 percent mark).
Old man? Try young gun …
More importantly, Shaw moved to 11-1 as South Carolina’s starting quarterback – with last year’s road loss to Arkansas representing the lone blemish on his record.
While Shaw was putting on a clinic through the air, junior running back Marcus Lattimore turned in a workhorse performance on the ground – pounding out 85 yards on 21 carries including a pair of touchdowns. His first score – which gave the Gamecocks a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter – broke the school record for rushing touchdowns held by Harold Green and Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers.
Lattimore also had a season-high seven receptions for 60 yards.
Defensively, South Carolina played perhaps its best game of the season – completely shutting down Missouri’s dangerous dual-threat quarterback James Franklin. The elusive 6-foot-2, 225-pound senior – who accounted for more than 3,800 all-purpose yards and 36 touchdowns in 2011 – was held to only 92 passing yards and six rushing yards against USC.
Not bad for a unit that was missing its top defensive back – free safety D.J. Swearinger – to a one game suspension for a helmet-to-helmet hit against UAB last week.
Franklin’s backup, freshman Corbin Berkstresser, put together the Tigers only touchdown drive of the game – but that was late in the fourth quarter against USC’s second team defense.
In addition to its offensive and defensive domination, South Carolina also had a big game on the special teams front. Ace Sanders electrified a packed house at Williams-Brice stadium with a pair of long punt returns – including sensationally shifty 49-yard return that saw him bounce off of his own teammate before weaving, stopping and starting through the Missouri coverage. Meanwhile, Bruce Ellington broke free for fifty yards on his first kickoff return of the season.