Grading the Keys to Victory: MSU
Contain Anthony Dixon
The Gamecocks struggled early stopping the run, but came on strong holding Mississippi State to a single touchdown in the second half. Marvin Sapp filled in admirably for Jasper Brinkley at middle linebacker, leading the team with eight tackles. Melvin Ingram also showed some signs of improvement, getting off blocks and making plays. USC had to bring their safeties into the box more often in the second half, but the Gamecocks held MSU tailbacks Anthony Dixon and Christian Ducre to 83 and 68 yards, respectively, while holding MSU to under 150 rushing yards. They were not perfect, but did what they needed to get the win.
In his second career start, redshirt freshman quarterback Chris Smelley played a smart game, throwing the ball away when he needed to while also tucking it and running when possible. Smelley did make a poor decision when he tried to do too much by throwing into coverage on a pass that MSU safety Derek Pegues picked off in the end zone. Mississippi State was not able to make the Gamecocks pay for the first quarter turnover, and Smelley apparently learned his lesson, as he protected the ball well the rest of the way.
Make a Few Plays Downfield
Smelley did a good job spreading the ball around and completed multiple passes on intermediate routes to Kenny McKinley, Freddie Brown, and Jared Cook. Spurrier seemed to have a confidence in Smelley and ran a more open offense than he did in previous weeks. It was encouraging to see the young quarterback take his steps, read the defense and make the throw without any hesitation. The offense is progressing well and did some positive things that it can build on as the season goes on.
The offensive line played well and gave Smelley time for most of the day. They did give up back-to-back sacks to Bulldog defensive end Titus Brown on the first drive of the second half, but Smelley helped them out on a few occasions, as he showed a natural ability to feel the rush and get out of the pocket. Even when the rush was coming from the blind side, Smelley was able to sense when it was time to get rid of the football. The offensive line will need to improve their run blocking, but Smelley attempted 37 passes, and the line protected well for most of them. The fact Spurrier even called that many passes on the day shows Spurrier is gaining confidence in his offensive line.
Find a Second Receiver
While new starter Dion Lecorn didn't make any big plays, he did nothing to relinquish his starting spot, catching both of the balls he had a chance at, while blocking well too. Lecorn didn't get a chance to show the elusiveness he possesses, but if he has another good week of practice, he should start again Thursday. Freddie Brown had his best game of the year, catching three passes for 50 yards. Brown will never be a burner, but he has a place in the offense. The staff will still hope to find another big-play guy in the receiving corps as the season goes on, but after seeing virtually no production from the second and third receivers through the first part of the season, fans should be encouraged by what they saw from Brown and Lecorn.
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