Gamecocks looking for improvement against UGA

What many believe could end as the best season in South Carolina history got off to a rocky start in its opener against East Carolina as the Pirates vaulted to a 17-0 lead before the Gamecocks managed to kick it in gear.

Leading the way offensively was senior quarterback Stephen Garcia who, despite being out-performed in preseason by sophomore Connor Shaw, entered the game with the Gamecocks trailing by 17 and quickly led the team on two touchdown scoring drives.

While Garcia rushed for two touchdowns in re-claiming his starting role, the Gamecocks were less than effective throwing the football as they completed only 10 of 25 passes for 131 yards. On the positive side there were no interceptions.

Garcia completed seven of 15 passes for 110 yards and touchdown. Of the 10 completed five went to All-American Alshon Jeffery for 92 yards. The team has to find a way to diversify its passing attack as Jeffery faced double teams against East Carolina and will probably see it again in Saturday's Southeastern Conference showdown against Eastern Division rival Georgia in Athens.

It was the ground game that Georgia could not handle in last year's 17-6 loss to the Gamecocks as then freshman Marcus Lattimore used the encounter as his collegiate coming out party rushing 37 times for 182 yards and both of USC's touchdowns.

Defensively, the Gamecocks held Georgia to two field goals and 253 total offensive yards in just 47 plays. One of the top teams in the nation in sacks a year ago, they did not record one against the Pirates, something they can't afford to do against Bulldog quarterback Aaron Murray who they sacked three times a year ago.

Saturday's contest is a must win for the Gamecocks if they want to obtain their initial goal of winning the Eastern Division for the second consecutive season. The East Carolina game left several question marks for USC with the biggest being its inability to hold onto the football as they lost four fumbles.

NOTES, QUOTES

--OL Rokevious Watkins earned Southeastern Conference Lineman of the Week honors after leading a South Carolina line that allowed the Gamecocks to finish the game with 220 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 40 carries. Watkins moved to right tackle this season after beginning the 2010 campaign at right guard prior to moving to left guard. He started in all 14 games. He graded 87 percent with eight knockdowns, four pancakes and no sacks or pressures allowed. USC lost yardage on only one play.

--WR Alshon Jeffery caught five passes for 92 yards in the season opener which is a big game for most, but less than he has become accustomed. A bigger concern to the Gamecock coaching staff is he accounted for 50 percent of the team's receptions and 72 percent of the squad's 131 yards through the air.

--Seven of the last 10 meetings between South Carolina and Georgia have been decided by seven points or less. The winning team has failed to score 20 points in six of the last seven. That was not the case in the last game between the two in Sanford Stadium, however, as Georgia claimed a 41-37 victory in 2009, the second highest scoring game in series history.

SERIES HISTORY: Georgia leads South Carolina 46-15-2 (USC won the last meeting 17-6 in 2010).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Steve Spurrier proved he could be just as happy running the ball as passing it against Georgia in 2010 as the contest was the breaking out party for then freshman Marcus Lattimore, who rushed 37 times for 182 yards and two touchdowns in its 17-6 victory over the Bulldogs. It hopes to have a duplicate of that performance this year as it rushed for 220 yards and five touchdowns on 40 carries. The team wasn't nearly as effective through the air, however completing just 10 of 25 passes for 131 yards and a touchdown. All-American wide receiver Alshon Jeffery leads the wide receivers with fifth-year senior Stephen Garcia running the attack.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: This unit, since the hiring of coordinator Ellis Johnson, has been a USC strength. This season they feature a front that is three deep. Led by senior tackle Travian Robertson, the squad has been devastating against the run, which continued against East Carolina when it allowed East Carolina only 85 yards on 28 carries. Linebacker Shaq Wilson and Rodney Paulk lead the unit which continued its 2010 struggles against the pass as the Pirates completed 37 of 56 passes for 260 yards and four touchdowns. Cornerback C. C. Whitlock play possibly the best game of his career, but junior corner Stephon Gilmore, an All-SEC performer, struggled.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We tell them the importance of the game. I don't know that all of our guys know that Georgia's in our division. I hope that they do, but I'm not sure if they do or not. Maybe they do. So, we tell them that, the importance of that. But other than that, it's just a game. If it goes bad, we're still going to keep playing the rest of the year. If it goes good, we've still got to keep playing the rest of the year. So, it's one game, and all your division games, really are your most important of the year, because usually your first goal, if you're in position, is to win the division. So the division games are just a tad bit more important as far as accomplishing your goal of winning the division." -- Steve Spurrier on the importance of the Georgia game.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: South Carolina at Georgia, Sept. 10 -- Georgia has historically dominated the series although that has changed in recent years. The Bulldogs own a 26-7 lead in games played in Athens, Ga. A win by the Gamecocks, however, would not only be the second straight victory for USC but would give coach Steve Spurrier a lifetime 14-5 mark versus UGA. He enters the encounter with a 2-4 record against the Bulldogs since taking over the Gamecocks.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Pressure Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray. The Bulldogs quarterback was sacked six times by Boise State in Georgia's opening season loss. With ends Devin Taylor, Melvin Ingram and freshman sensation Jadeveon Clowney the Gamecocks have the ability to make any quarterback queasy. Senior tackle Travian Robertson and junior Aldrick Fordham also have the ability to break through what appears to be a suspect Georgia line.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

QB Stephen Garcia -- Garcia entered the game in the second quarter with South Carolina trailing 17-0 and immediately made an impact, rushing for a 32-yard touchdown on his first series. Although he struggled passing the ball, he enters the game as the Gamecocks third ranked performer in all-time pass attempts, completions and passing touchdowns. He is also fourth in completion percentage. After having his 28-game streak of consecutive starts halted in the season opener, he is ready to begin a new one.

DE Jadeveon Clowney -- The highly-touted freshman finished third in the team in tackles with seven, had 0.5 tackles for loss, broke up a pass and had one hurry in Week 1.

SPUR Antonio Allen -- The USC senior was all over the field in game one against East Carolina, leading all players with 16 tackles. He also had 0.5 tackles for loss, broke up a pass, recovered two fumbles, including returning one for 25 yards and a touchdown, while forcing two fumbles. His performance caused coach Steve Spurrier to call him an All-American candidate.

ROSTER REPORT

--SPUR DeVonte Holloman returns after missing USC's initial game against East Carolina while serving a one-game suspension following a DUI arrest during the summer.

--SPUR Damario Jeffery suffered a sprained ankle, but is expected to play on Saturday.

--CB Martay Mattox returns after serving a one-game suspension that was academically related.

--CB Victor Hampton continues to serve a three-game suspension.

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