Statistically, Stephen Garcia had one of his worst performances of the season. He was just 13-for-22 for 223 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. Spurrier said in the post-game interview that the interception wasn't Garcia's fault, saying that an audible was called and it was not clear. With go-to receiver Alshon Jeffery double-teamed all day, Garcia had to find other receivers. Garcia also carried the ball 10 times for 18 yards and two touchdowns.
However, Garcia did what he was asked to do, mainly hand the ball off. Garcia didn't have a stellar day passing, but he made the plays when he had to and was able to get into the end zone to put the game out of reach..
In case you didn't already know, that Marcus Lattimore kid is a pretty good running back. Lattimore only ran for a career-high 184 yards on 29 carries against the Vols and averaged 6.3 yards per carry. Not too bad. As a whole, the Gamecocks ran for 212 yards and three touchdowns. As long as the Gamecocks can get that type of production from the running game they'll be tough to beat down the stretch.
For really the first time all season, an opposing defense was sure they weren't going to let Alshon Jeffery beat them. For three quarters, Jeffery had one catch for five yards. That gave other receivers an opportunity to make some plays. D.L. Moore had three receptions, Patrick DiMarco had two, Tori Gurley had two, Lattimore had two, and Ace Sanders had one.
However, when it came time for someone to step up, Jeffery came through. Jeffery found a hole in the Tennessee zone defense over the middle, Garcia found him, and Jeffery outran everyone for a 70-yard touchdown. That's what big-time players do.
As has been the case for most of the season, Lattimore got a lot of his yards after being hit around the line of scrimmage. However, on the two biggest runs for Lattimore of 36 and 40, the blocking was much better. They did give up two sacks, but the protection was pretty good for the most part. Usually, when the offensive line is playing well, you don't hear much from them.
The biggest gaff by the offensive line was on the first drive. After moving right down the field and inside the Tennessee 5-yard line. The Gamecocks were called for two penalties, the second being a false start. That led to the Garcia interception to end the drive.
Devin Taylor is a freak. Taylor only had one tackle, but he recovered two fumbles, had a 24-yard touchdown on an interception, and deflected a pass. Ladi Ajiboye had seven tackles and a sack, Cliff Matthews had four tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble, and Melvin Ingram had 1.5 sacks. The Gamecocks also held he Vols to less than 100 yards, the sixth time in eight games an opponent failed to reach 100 yards.
Antonio Allen tied Ajiboye for the team-high in tackles with seven, had 1.5 sacks, and forced a fumble. Josh Dickerson had five tackles, and Rodney Paulk had four. The linebackers were called on to help the defensive line stop the run and they did a nice job filling in the gaps.
This continues to be the biggest point of frustration for fans and coaches alike. They tried to run zone and they had busted assignments. They tried to run more man and they let the receivers get behind them. What do you do now? Simms and Bray threw for 312 yards and Moore had 228 receiving yards.
For some unknown reason, on Tennessee's first drive the Gamecocks jumped offsides. That allowed the Vols to go for it and they get a field goal out of the drive. Once again, for some unknown reason, the Gamecocks try and set up a punt return with the ball at midfield. No one was on the right side of the field and the Vols executed a fake punt. That drive ended in a touchdown. 10 points off of two special teams miscues.
Spencer Lanning had another day with a punt average at 40. However, after making a 40-yard field goal in the second quarter, he missed a 41-yarder bad on in the third quarter. He did make all his extra points.
The Gamecocks continue to get NOTHING out of their return teams. They nearly muffed another punt and the kickoff return continues to struggle. If not for the secondary woes, special teams would be a much bigger point of emphasis.
A lot was made of G.A. Mangus calling more plays this week. Mangus did a great job of calling plays with the Gamecocks racking up 435 yards of offense. Of course when you have Lattimore in the backfield it makes it a lot easier.
I'm convinced that Coach Johnson, Coach Ward, and the rest of the defensive coaches have tried everything possible to fix the secondary issues. They've moved players around, changed schemes, adjusted coverages, limited checks, and just about anything else you could imagine. Nothing just seems to work.
It certainly wasn't pretty, but it was a win. The Gamecocks did what it took to win the game, but not much more. They will have to play much better these next two weeks if they hope to beat Arkansas and Florida and win the East. Luckily for the Gamecocks, they weren't playing either of those teams Saturday.
Earning the Grade: Tennessee
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