Sorry for the delayed field report. Sunday's basketball game threw off my usual Sunday schedule, but I'll happily trade a tardy field report for a hard court win. If you are in Columbia and are available Friday night, go see Frank Martin's Gamecocks. You'll be glad you did. Anyway, on to the field report.
For the first time in 5 weeks the Gamecocks had a reason to feel triumphant. After losing to LSU and Florida, USC then lost Marcus Lattimore and had an off week. That's not exactly the recipe for putting the fan base in a good mood. What should put the Gamecocks in a good mood is ending the longest losing streak on their schedule and putting 38 points on the Razorbacks. A late cosmetic score made the game look closer than it actually was, but there was no doubt who the better team was on Saturday.
Hopefully the win put some more energy in a fan base that has had to adjust its season goals downward lately. The team doesn't seem to be as sluggish as the fan base appeared. Until D.J. Swearinger single handedly brought the crowd into the game, it was an uninspired effort by those in the stands. Leading (or failing to lead) the way was a student section that has been an embarrassment all season long. They never filled their section and appeared to leave as soon as possible.
Once that student section rivaled any other at any major program in the country. Not any more. With the exception of the Georgia game, the north end zone has not been anything to brag about. It's a shame because it could be so much better. I don't think we'll see any change next week. If the students aren't happy with a thorough yet reasonably close beating of Arkansas, I don't know what kind of performance will bring them to the stadium and keep them there against Wofford. At least we know we can count on them to annoy those of us focused on the field by doing 4 passes of a wave during the 4th quarter.
Enough about the students in the stands. The students on the field played well, even if they didn't play their best game. The secondary handled the Razorback passing attack much better than they fared against Tennessee two weeks ago. A stronger pass rush against a weaker offensive line was a key reason why, but the secondary also benefitted from the presence of Akeem Aguste. He has become the difference maker between a passable secondary (get it) and an above average one. D.J. Swearinger continues to play like a star no matter where he is, and Victor Hampton is one of the best cover corners in the conference. The rest of the secondary is prone to getting beat too often without Aguste rotating in.
The offense scored 38 points for a second straight game against SEC competition. It wasn't all that flashy, but when you look at the box score it sure seems impressive. Kenny Miles and Mike Davis are capable of carrying the load and giving the Gamecocks a decent running game. Connor Shaw's arm continues to be a high point, even if his decision making sometimes leads to feast or famine. One play he scrambles around in the backfield and takes a costly sack instead of throwing the ball away. The next he scrambles around, refuses to throw the ball away and picks up a key first down. That part of his game isn't going to change, so we might as well embrace the miraculous and the mundane.
Despite the successes, it doesn't seem like the Gamecocks have fully recovered from the LSU and Florida games. It may be just perception, but they don't seem to be playing as well as they are capable. Perhaps they haven't played their A game because they haven't needed to. Perhaps they are playing up to their potential and the unqualified success of the Georgia game created an impossibly lofty standard. I hope that observation bias has something to do with it and my memory of how good they once looked is now clouding my perception of the present, but I'm not sure. I do know I'd hate to see if we can win our last three games with anything less than our best.
Get more great South Carolina sports analysis over at Leftover Hot Dog.