South Carolina: A Growing Team

The Texas A&M season opener placed doubts in the minds of fans and pollsters with the Gamecocks falling from No. 9 to No. 24. But, with its first Southeastern Conference win against a strong No. 6 Georgia, the Cocks are climbing in the polls and the fans are once again fired up about this season's possibilities.

After falling 41-­30 in Athens last season, the Gamecocks came back to improve the Georgia series 4-­1 over the last five years.

South Carolina was regarded as one of the top teams coming into 2014, ranked No. 9 in the AP Preseason Poll. Falling to Texas A&M 52­-28 in its season opener, the Gamecocks were starting to see doubt on the faces of fans and media members.

Head coach Steve Spurrier gained his 16th ­career win over the Bulldogs, the most by an opposing head coach against Georgia.

“We were just happy to win the ball game. Hopefully, we can start becoming a good looking team but we’re not a good looking team yet,” said Spurrier during the post-­game press conference. “The way we give up those third downs really hurts us defensively, and offensively we didn’t make as many (third downs) as we usually do. We only punted twice, they (Georgia) only punted twice and we need to force a bunch of punts if we want to be a pretty good team here before it’s all said and done.”

2014 is South Carolina’s 23rd year in the SEC, and the Gamecocks earned their first SEC Eastern Division title in the 2010 season. And this year, South Carolina was picked to take the title once again.

Coach Spurrier improved the school’s Southeastern Conference record of 37­-66-­1 from 1992­-2004 to 42­-32 in conference play and just 19-­7 over the last four years.

The Georgia win brought South Carolina’s 0­-1 record in the season to 1­-1 for 2014. South Carolina continues their SEC play against Vanderbilt on Saturday, Sept. 20 in Nashville, Tenn. Taking a win in this game will be essential for the Gamecocks to build a strong SEC rapport.

Let’s take a look at what South Carolina improved on in the game against UGA.

The running game...
The need for tailback Mike Davis in the game against the Bulldogs was a no­-brainer. However, he wasn’t the only stand out for South Carolina’s running game. Brandon Wilds took charge on the field, as well.

“Brandon Wilds is an excellent inside runner, that’s what he does best,” said Spurrier. “Mike (Davis) had some good runs in there also. Sometimes Mile wants to stop, juke around and go wide, so we have to get him going forward more because that’s when he’s best when he gets those shorter passes. The guys did run well.”
Wilds brought in the final TD of the night for South Carolina in the fourth with a 24­-yard run.

The Defense
The Gamecock coaching staff was happy about seeing improvement in South Carolina’s defense.
“I think we definitely got better,” noted coach Lorenzo Ward. “So, we still have a lot of things we need to improve on, but I’m proud of the way the guys played and the way they fought.” Georgia’s 191 passing yards and the 408 yards of total offense are the lowest for a Gamecock opponent this season.

Skai Moore brings down Gurley

Skai Moore missed a tackle on Georgia’s all-star Todd Gurley in the game but improved by having a career­-best 10 tackles, including six solo stops in the game.
“He (grew) up. I think we (grew) up. I think a lot of young men (grew) up some. If we could continue to build on that, we will have a chance.”

A lot of work to go, but it’s nice to see this South Carolina defense coming together as a unit on the field.

South Carolina will need to continue to work on consistency in both of these areas. With success in just three games, it’s safe to say the Gamecocks are working hard towards not becoming the team they were thought to be, but the team they need to be.

Photos by Robbie Robinson

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