2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 9 - South Carolina at Tenn.
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Oct. 29 South Carolina 14 … at Tennessee 3
CFN Analysis: South Carolina didn’t have to do anything fancy to beat Tennessee. It had to keep the mistakes to bare minimum, and it didn’t do that, turning the ball over three times. It also had to keep the chains moving, and that wasn’t a problem converting 10-of-18 third down chances. Connor Shaw didn’t take any chances whatsoever, throwing for just 87 yards, while still throwing a pick. Alshon Jeffery only caught three passes for 17 yards, but the running game did its part with Brandon Wilds running for 137 yards doing his Marcus Lattimore impersonation. Playtime is over. Now the Gamecocks have to open up the attack a bit with a trip to Arkansas up next before the Florida showdown.
Now it’s really getting ugly. Tyler Bray obviously meant everything to the team, with the Vols scoring just 28 points in the last four games and going nowhere with Justin Worley getting the nod. The freshman completed 10-of-26 passes for 105 yards and two picks, and Matt Simms didn’t do any better completing 5-of-12 passes for just 46 yards. It was too easy for South Carolina, just like it’s been too easy for everyone else. Load up to stop Tauren Poole, and the Vol offense goes dead in the water. The O came up with just 186 yards of total offense and only held on to the ball for 23:42. The defense did what it could, with A.J. Johnson making 12 stops, but the offense didn’t come close to taking advantage of any chances to take over the game. Fortunately, Middle Tennessee is up next before going to Arkansas, and the layup couldn’t come at a better time.
(AP) KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- South Carolina's offense may not look as pretty without star running back Marcus Lattimore. It still managed to get the job done.
Connor Shaw threw for one touchdown and ran for another, and Brandon Wilds ran for 137 yards as South Carolina (No. 13 BCS/ No. 14 AP) survived Tennessee with a 14-3 victory on Saturday night.
The Gamecocks (7-1, 5-1) remained in control of the Southeastern Conference's East Division heading into the final month of the season, with games against Arkansas and Florida remaining. They're tied with Georgia but own the head-to-head tiebreaker after beating the Bulldogs earlier in the season.
"Well, we won the game somehow," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. "We weren't pretty on offense most of the game. Ran the ball well, gained a bunch of yards. Not bad for a guy that made his first start and got a bunch of carries."
Wilds was playing in place of Lattimore, who had 818 yards rushing when he suffered a season-ending knee injury Oct. 15 against Mississippi State. Spurrier had a bye week to prepare a plan for Wilds and the rest of the South Carolina backfield.
Wilds gradually picked up steam as the game wore on and was the centerpiece of a methodical drive that ate up much of the third-quarter. He ran 11 times for 51 yards on the 20-play drive, and Shaw finished it off with a 5-yard touchdown run on a draw that gave the Gamecocks a 14-3 lead with 47 seconds in the third quarter.
The drive threatened to deflate the Vols (3-5, 0-5), who had second-half meltdowns in three previous games. After picking up one first down, Justin Worley threw three straight incomplete passes, and the Vols punted.
But Brian Randolph recovered a fumble by Wilds on the next drive at the South Carolina 27. The breath of life was short-lived as Worley threw an interception on the very first play to Stephon Gilmore.
"We fought them hard, but we're just a mess on offense," Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said. "We can't run. We struggled to throw. We had the ball twice in the red area and we turned the ball over."
Tennessee's defense managed to keep pressure on Shaw's passing efforts most of the night, sacking him three times. Shaw was 10 for 18 for 87 yards and an interception in addition to his scores, and top wide receiver Alshon Jeffery was limited to just 17 yards on three catches.
Early in the second half, Shaw was picked off by Prentiss Waggner, who ran the ball 54 yards to the 2-yard line before being tackled, but Worley threw an interception of his own two plays later to D.J. Swearinger that set up the Gamecocks' 20-play drive.
"Our defense bailed us out and the offensive line stepped up," Shaw said. "Freshman Brandon Wilds stepped up and had a great game. He had well over 100 yards rushing. It was a great drive to go down and score."
Dooley named Worley the starter this week after Matt Simms struggled against No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama. Worley has been the third-string quarterback most of the season as Simms had replaced Tyler Bray, who broke his thumb Oct. 8 against Georgia.
The true freshman was 10 of 26 for 105 yards and the two interceptions. He had several long, accurate passes but just as many glaring misses, and Tennessee could only manage 35 yards rushing.
The Vols managed to take advantage of one South Carolina mistake. After going three-and-out on their first drive, the Vols punted the ball only to get it back at the Gamecocks 18 when Ace Sanders muffed the return.
They got as close as the 4-yard line, but Worley missed DeAnthony Arnett and overthrew Da'Rick Rogers, and Tennessee settled for a 22-yard field goal by Michael Palardy.
Tennessee again reached the red zone just before the first quarter ended. Dooley was ready for the Vols to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the 20, but they committed back-to-back false start penalties, and Palardy's 47-yard field goal attempt was tipped by Gilmore and sailed wide right.
South Carolina's only first-half score came on a fourth-and-1. Tennessee blitzed, but Shaw went instead for the play-action pass and hit Rory Anderson on a 23-yard touchdown to give the Gamecocks a 7-3 lead with 7:43 left in the second quarter.
"I think we've grown a little bit," Waggner said. "We've just got to keep on pushing, keep on pushing. I hope that things will go our way someday. Continue to have good weeks at practice and hope for the best. Just continue to improve day in and day out."
South Carolina finished with 318 yards -- 231 of them on the ground -- compared to 186 yards for Tennessee. The Gamecocks held on to the ball for 12:36 longer than the Vols to nab just their second win against Tennessee in Knoxville in 16 tries.
"I don't come off the field smiling real big like I used to when the team scored a bunch of points," Spurrier said. "But we understand that's what we've got to do, and our defense is playing well."
South Carolina (6-1) at Tennessee (3-4) Oct. 29, 7:15, ESPN2/ESPN3
Here’s The Deal … It only seems like South Carolina is in the midst of a disappointing year.
Stephen Garcia is gone, Marcus Lattimore is out for the year, and Alshon Jeffery has been non-existent, but despite all the problems with the offensive stars, and for all the issues trying to generate some form of a consistent offense, the Gamecocks are still 4-1 in SEC play and will once again win the East if they can win out. With Tennessee up this week and a date at Arkansas to follow, it’s not going to be an easy ride, but they already have a win over Georgia, and Florida has to come to Columbia. First, trying to break a four game losing streak by the visiting team will be a tough enough task this week.
Tennessee has had to deal with LSU and Alabama over the last two weeks, and while it came up with a game effort for a half against the Tide, the lack of any offensive punch was too much to overcome and the defense couldn’t hold up. At 0-4 in SEC play, this is a lost year that could get even worse with a date at Arkansas coming up next after a layup against Middle Tennessee, but beating the Gamecocks might change things around.
The Vols are undergoing some desperate changes on offense to try to find a spark, while USC looks to pick up the pieces from the lost stars in the backfield while hoping the ultra-aggressive defense can pick up the slack. Neither team is playing up to expectations or dreams, and for the loser, the season will go into a tailspin. It hasn’t been a good year for the SEC East, but these two teams are due for an interesting game after three straight blowouts.
Why South Carolina Might Win: It’s not fair to criticize the Tennessee offense to much after playing LSU and Alabama, but the South Carolina defense isn’t a picnic, either. The Gamecocks have just as much talent, if not more, on the defensive front than the Tigers and Tide, and the secondary leads the nation in pass defense. It helps the stats to have Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and Navy on the schedule, but it’s not like the Vols are ready to pounce and take advantage of a slightly-overrated defensive backfield. The Vols haven’t thrown a touchdown pass in three games and have managed just three rushing scores since Week 2. How bad has the passing game been? The Vols completed 15 of their last 38 passes for 191 yards and three picks against LSU and Alabama.
Defensively, the Vols aren’t taking the ball away. They came up with a pick against the Tide, but that was the first since the opening week win over Montana. The defensive front isn’t forcing fumbles and hasn’t taken one away since the win over Buffalo on October 1st. On the year, Tennessee has just six takeaways, while South Carolina is 15th in the nation in turnover margin. The Vols need to be +2, at least, to come up with the win, but that’s asking for a lot out of this D.
Why Tennessee Might Win: The offense went into the tank against Mississippi State after Lattimore went down. Connor Shaw has talent and upside, but while he completed 20-of-28 passes for 155 yards and a score, but he threw two picks and didn’t get anything going down the field. Shaw ran for 28 yards to help pick up the slack when Lattimore went down, but the offense had problems getting things moving. Tennessee’s defense isn’t getting any help from the offense, but the Gamecock offense is in disarray and has to find more playmakers outside of Jeffery.
Tennessee’s offense might be sputtering without Tyler Bray, but when it come up with points when it gets into scoring range, ranking ninth in the country in red zone efficiency. The Vols have come up with 18 touchdowns and five field goals inside the 20, scoring 23-of-25 times. South Carolina is 102nd in the nation, coming away with six empty trips in scoring range while being the only team in America without a field goal in the red zone. .
What To Watch Out For: Say good-bye to your redshirt, Justin Worley. With Tyler Bray still trying to return from a broken thumb, and with Matt Simms unable to move the chains, the Tennessee coaching staff is turning to Worley, a 6-4, 200-pound pure pro-style true freshman who got in the Alabama game and now will get his chances to lead the offense. The 2010 Gatorade National Player of the Year was a good recruit, but not an elite one despite throwing for 5,315 yards and 64 touchdowns as a senior while leading his team to the state title. To be fair to Simms, he was thrown into the fire against LSU and Alabama, and he still might get a few chances.
Now that Lattimore is out, it’ll take several backs to try to pick up the slack. Brandon Wilds got five carries for eight yards against Mississippi State, and Bruce Ellington ran four times for 25 yards, but the most dangerous runner might be Shaw. He’s not going to be Denard Robinson, but he’s not afraid to take off when needed and he’s just effective enough to keep the chains moving. His main job, though, will be to get the ball to Jeffery, who only caught five passes for 24 yards two weeks ago, but he came up with the game winner. The offense is now No.1’s, and he needs the ball more.
What Will Happen: Tennessee’s offense will go through another rough game. Tauren Poole will do his best on the ground, but the passing game won’t go anywhere with the USC defensive front turning the dogs loose on Worley, and possibly Simms. Jeffery caught a season-low three passes in last year’s win over the Vols, but he’ll have that in the first quarter on Saturday.
CFN Prediction: South Carolina 20 … Tennessee 13
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South Carolina -4 O/U: 43.5
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