To say that tenth-ranked South Carolina struggled all around offensively is an understatement. The Gamecocks put up 367 yards, but quarterback Stephen Garcia threw four interceptions and Carolina fumbled the ball six times, scoring just 14 points against Vanderbilt. Carolina also committed 10 penalties totaling in 72 yards, most of which brought back big plays and two led to Garcia interceptions. The Gamecocks could have easily had 450 yards of offense if not for the penalties.
Like head coach Steve Spurrier, offensive line coach Shawn Elliott was very disappointed with the effort from the line.
"The focus, the energy the effort, it just wasn't a good game," Elliott said following Wednesday's practice. "They weren't ready to play Saturday. We were very fortunate to get a win and I'm happy about a win, but we were very disappointed. It was not a good effort."
It was evident that Vanderbilt was going to key on running back Marcus Lattimore, who finished the game with 77 yards on 20 carries and one touchdown run to go along with a touchdown reception. As a team, the Gamecocks managed just 131 yards rushing on the day, 111 yards under their season average.
"I thought we had three solid games and then you come into the fourth game and they just didn't play well," Elliott said. "I'm disappointed from right tackle right on to the left tackle – everybody across the board. Starting with myself first. It was on me not having those guys prepared to go and it showed that."
Of the 10 penalties committed by Carolina, four were committed by offensive linemen. Terrence Campbell and A.J. Cann were each called for false starts, and Cann and T.J. Johnson were called for holding. There were also back-to-back fumbled snaps, one with Bruce Ellington in the Wildcat and the other with Garcia under center. The lack of discipline on the line in a home game was not expected by anyone, particularly their coach.
"Heck no, doggone penalties; they surprised me," Elliott said. "We get our here and practice on everything we do – tempo and things to draw teams offside – and it's a lack of focus. We have to get those things corrected. To be a good football team you can't go out there and slouch around and look like a bunch of bums playing."
The message this week from Elliott has been simple. If the Gamecocks hope to accomplish the things they want to accomplish they must show up every day; Monday through Saturday. It starts with himself.
"You coach your butt off and you get their attention," Elliott said. "You stress the importance to them about playing every down like it's your last. We have a lot of goals and dreams here and things we can actually achieve. Sometimes you have to refocus and put those things out in front of them and let them know that you can't come to work and not show up on Saturday's. Hopefully we're going to turn it around."
The Gamecocks now turn their attention to the only team in the SEC it has yet to defeat in a conference game – Auburn. Auburn enters the game with a 3-1 record with its lone loss coming in its first trip the Palmetto State two weeks ago against Clemson. It was also the only game Auburn has played outside of the friendly confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Tigers will bring in a young defensive line with all four starters being sophomores with a junior, sophomore and two freshmen as back-ups. Though young, the starters do have experience.
6'3, 258-pound defensive end Nosa Eguae appeared in all 14 games last season, starting in 11 games. Eguae has 17 tackles and four hurries through the first four games of 2011.
Fellow defensive end Corey Lemonier was a member of the SEC All-Freshman team by the coaches in 2010 and the 6'4, 240-pound sophomore has picked up where he left off in 2011. Lemonier has 14 tackles on the season and two of the three sacks Auburn has. He, like Eguae, has four quarterback hurries and has forced a fumble.
Up the middle is where Auburn had to replace Nick Fairley, who is now a defensive tackle for Detroit in the NFL. Jeffrey Whitaker has the most experience of the two starters. The 6'4, 312-pound monster played sparingly in all 14 games in 2010, but recorded just six tackles. Whitaker already has seven tackles this season with one quarterback hurry.
6'4, 290-pound Kenneth Carter is the least-experienced of the four linemen. Carter played in eight games in 2010 and, like Whitaker, recorded six tackles. In 2011, Carter already has 11 tackles.
"They look pretty good," Elliott said. "They're solid, big SEC linemen like they've always had and good speed off the edge. It's going to take a tremendous effort on our part. They're probably looking at our line from last week and saying ‘man I can't wait to line up there in Columbia. Thank the Lord we got the Gamecocks this week.' We'll see. We have to go play."
If there was an SEC team to turn things around from last week, it is Auburn. The Tigers have given up an average of 227 yards rushing this season. Utah State rushed for 227 yards, Mississippi State rushed for 333 yards, Clemson rushed for 238 yards, and Florida Atlantic rushed for just 108 yards.
"As long as we're preparing and doing things in practice and carry that over to the game I'll feel very comfortable about it," Elliott said. "If we go in there and don't give a crap about what we're doing like we did last Saturday then we're going to get our butts kicked."
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