Notebook: Offense clicking

For the third consecutive week the South Carolina offense was hitting on all cylinders Saturday against Missouri. As has been the case all year, the defense was dominant as Carolina cruised to a 31-10 win over Missouri.

Steve Spurrier's offense is finally beginning to click. After struggling to a 272-yard performance in the season opener against Vanderbilt, the Gamecock offense is hitting on all cylinders. In its 48-10 win over East Carolina, the Carolina offense put up 528 yards of offense. In last week's 49-6 win over UAB, Carolina put up 501 yards of offense.

"We had a great game plan coming in," Marcus Lattimore said. "We were going to run the ball and throw the ball and we executed the game plan."

While both of those can be written off as domination of smaller, less talented teams, Carolina did it again Saturday in its SEC East match-up with Missouri. The seventh-ranked Gamecocks did not reach the 500-yard mark, but they moved the ball effectively against the Tigers all afternoon. The Gamecocks amassed 396 yards of total offense in the 31-10 victory over Missouri Saturday afternoon. Carolina was well on its way to topping 400 yards after finishing the third with 335 yards, but ran a much more conservative offense in the fourth.

"I think you're going to have (struggles) in the first game of the season," Connor Shaw said. "I think we've improved every game and I hope we keep on improving."

Next week the Gamecock offense will continue to try and put up big numbers when they travel to Kentucky. Shaw ripped apart the Kentucky defense in his debut last season and will look to do the same. With Georgia looming in two weeks, the Gamecocks could overlook the ‘Cats, but that's not happening.

"I don't think you have to worry about that with us," Shaw said. "Last time we went up to Kentucky they upset us so we have something to prove."

Dominant D

While the offense took a game to start hitting on all cylinders, the South Carolina defense has been shutting down the opposing offense every week. As a team, Carolina has given up just three touchdowns through the first four games, two of which came late in the fourth quarter against ECU and Missouri with reserves on the field. Carolina ranks in the top 10 in most categories defensive and gave the Tigers a rude awakening in their first road game.

"Our defensive guys were really fast out there today," head coach Steve Spurrier said.

Missouri finished with 255 yards on the game, but most came in the fourth quarter. Through three quarters the Tigers had 151 yards of total offense. 76 of those yards came on the drive where Missouri kicked a field goal in the second quarter.

"The thing we preached all week is that we would be susceptible on defense if we didn't get lined up and get the proper check," defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. "I thought the guys did well early doing that."

Missouri had only allowed five sacks through the first three games, but Caroliina was able to sack James Franklin three times Saturday. They did so with only one blitz, allowing them to drop seven into coverage.

"We affected them with four guys," Ward said. "We were able to play with seven guys in the perimeter. I felt like we were in position to make plays even when they caught the ball. We were trying to prevent the big play and we did that."

Despite giving up the late yardage the Gamecocks still achieved all the goals they set each week defensively for rushing, passing, and third down efficiency.

"We got the rushing goal. They had 109 yards rushing and our goal is to limit them to 110," Ward said. "Our passing yard goal is 180 so we got both of them. On third down we want to limit them to 33% and they were 2-of-12. If you can't move the ball on third down you have a hard time winning."

Special teams special

For years one of the weaknesses of South Carolina has been the special teams. On Saturday Carolina had one of its best special teams performances in the Steve Spurrier era. Carolina idd not record a special teams touchdown, but special teams set up several scoring opportunities.

Ace Sanders returned a punt 49 yards down to the Missouri four early in the second quarter, and Marcus Lattimore punched it in two plays later to give Carolina a 7-0 lead. For the game, Sanders returned six punts for 106 yards, an average of nearly 18 yards per return.

"I was just reading my blocks," Sanders said. "I got a couple of good blocks from my teammates and was able to get a good return."

After Missouri put together its best drive of the game to cut the lead to 14-3 late in the half, Bruce Ellington returned the first kickoff of the season for Carolina. His first return was a great one, returning it 50 yards to midfield as Carolina went from running out the clock mode to scoring mode. Four plays later Connor Shaw hit Ace Sanders for a 23-yard scoring strike to give Carolina a 21-3 lead heading into the locker room and all the momentum it would need to cruise to the victory.

"The rule was three yards, but I was anxious and wanted to take it and make a play before the half," Ellington said. "The guys did a great job blocking and giving me a crease."

Joe Robinson received a game ball for the play of the special teams.

Special game ball

Spurrier gave a special game ball to Pepper Rogers, his former coach at Georgia Tech. Rogers used to coach at Kansas and was awarded a game ball for the victory over Missouri, one of Kansas' biggest rivals.

No respect

Many national pundits put the Gamecocks on upset alert this week. After struggling to beat Vanderbilt and cruising against two patsies, many thought Carolina was primed for an upset with Connor Shaw starting and not appearing to be 100%. That wasn't the case and the Gamecocks took it personal.

"I think our team realized that and that's something we talked about before the game," Shaw said. "We kind of felt like it was disrespectful towards us and we wanted to prove what the SEC is all about."


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