Facing the most challenging three-game stretch of the college football season against three-top-10 ranked opponents, South Carolina came out gunning against Georgia, scoring on their first two possessions, and rolling to a 35-7 victory over the fifth-ranked Bulldogs. The win set the tone for next week’s trip to LSU.
The contest was all but over at the end of the first quarter after junior PR-WR Ace Sanders, one of the most dynamic playmakers in football with rare stop-start acceleration, pulled another rabbit out of his hat on a 70-yard punt return in which he slipped through five tacklers to put the Gamecocks ahead 21-0.
Steve Spurrier has built his reputation on gimmick trick plays and creative offensive packages and moved the ball with ease against a Georgia defense that’s stacked with top NFL draft prospects.
Most remarkable in South Carolina’s dominating performance has been the play of the Gamecocks’ defense, led by star pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney and physical senior FS D.J. Swearinger.
Georgia’s mammoth junior OLT Kenarious Gates, who kicked outside from the guard position he occupied last season to replace Bills second-round pick Cordy Glenn, could not handle the speed, quickness or power of Clowney, an elite rush talent who has turned flashes of dominance as a true freshman into more consistent play as a sophomore.
With senior DE Devin Taylor coming off the other edge and explosive junior DE Chaz Sutton kicking inside in nickel situations, ably replacing Chargers 2012 first-rounder Melvin Ingram in rush situations, the Gamecocks thoroughly outmatched the Bulldogs up front and would not let QB Aaron Murray find comfort or any rhythm in the pocket.
Spurrier finished off his 250th career win by feeding junior RB Marcus Lattimore, who rushed for more than 100 yards for the third consecutive time against the Bulldogs. Lattimore is tough and will square his shoulders in the hole and fight for yardage, but he is not overly powerful, with a narrow build. He also is not overly elusive and is not yet back to the form he showed prior to his ACL injury.
With loads of playmaking talent on offense, defense and special teams, South Carolina is well positioned to challenge LSU and Florida in the coming weeks.
• Texas senior DE Alex Okafor made a big impact in a 48-45 loss to West Virginia, twice stripping QB Geno Smith. The first came midway through the second quarter just short of the goal line and was recovered by the Longhorns for a TD to even the game at 21. The second came midway through the fourth quarter with the Longhorns trailing by three when Okafor got underneath the pads of the Mountaineers’ left tackle and bull-rushed him into Smith’s throwing arm, as Smith never sensed the front-side pressure coming. He escaped with a victory and maintained his Heisman Trophy-caliber production, having yet to throw an interception this season. With the Longhorns dropping extra defenders into coverage, West Virginia sophomore RB Andrew Buie was the star of the game, rushing 31-207-2 and catching three passes for 66 yards.
• North Carolina State senior QB Mike Glennon started off the season slowly, struggling with a four-interception performance against Tennessee, but he was the catalyst in the Wolfpack’s fourth-quarter rally to beat an undefeated, No. 3-ranked Florida State squad that entered the fourth quarter with a 16-3 lead. Not only did the Wolfpack’s defense do a superb job of containing Seminoles QB EJ Manuel in the second half, but Glennon converted three critical fourth-downs, including the game-winner, to produce a 17-16 victory. The tall, strong-armed pocket passer created a buzz at the Manning Passing Academy in July and could follow an ascending path to the draft if he continues to hone his decision making.
• Ohio State junior CB Bradley Roby picked off two passes in the Buckeyes’ 63-38 win against Nebraska, returning the first 41 yards for a touchdown.
• There is not a more talented defensive line in college football than LSU’s, and the Tigers’ D-line showed its potential in the first half when junior DT Bennie Logan burst through the line and forced a fumble that junior DE Barkevious Mingo recovered inside the 10 to set up a field goal. However, it was the opportunistic play of Florida junior SS Matt Elam that changed the game, stripping LSU WR Odell Beckham to nullify a long gain and set up the Gators for a 14-6 victory. Elam’s secure open-field tackling and playmaking ability overshadowed the college game’s top safety, LSU’s Eric Reid.
• Clemson star sophomore WR Sammy Watkins returned to the field against Georgia Tech after being sidelined with a virus the previous week. It did not stop junior WR DeAndre Hopkins from stealing the show, however, as he racked up 7-173-2 receiving in a 47-31 victory. The Tigers dominated in the fourth quarter, scoring the last 17 points of the game after shutting down Paul Johnson’s triple-option offense.