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Sallee: South Carolina's Special Season
South Carolina QB Connor Shaw
South Carolina QB Connor Shaw
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Nov 28, 2011


Sallee Thought: They didn't win the East, but the Gamecocks were terrific


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- Fiutak: Who Really Deserves The Heisman?
- Cirminiello: Welcome Back, USC
- Harrison: The Bright Future Of Michigan vs. Ohio State  
- Zemek: 2011's Hidden Storylines
- Sallee: South Carolina's Special Season
- Johnson: Virginia's Huge Step Forward 

By: Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee


South Carolina didn’t win the SEC East, as was predicted before the season; but that doesn’t mean that the season was a disappointment.

As a matter of fact, it was anything but.

 South Carolina entered this season with something that its never had before - a target on its back.

The Gamecocks were considered the odds on favorite to repeat as SEC East Champions, after winning the title in a weak division in 2010. They had a senior quarterback, one of the SEC’s best defenses, a Heisman Trophy candidate at running back and one of the best wide receivers in the country. In addition to the talent that Steve Spurrier ad amassed and developed in Columbia, the SEC East was largely perceived to be “down” again.

Back-to-back titles should be a given, right? As it turns out, that was easier said than done. The Gamecocks finished the regular season one game behind the Georgia Bulldogs.

Disappointment, right? Not so much.

While the fact remains that the 2011 Gamecocks didn’t live up to their ultimate expectations, the season should not be viewed as a disappointment.

Marcus Lattimore is every bit as good of a running back as Alabama’s Trent Richardson, and had been the focal point of the offense for his first season-and-a-half. When he went down, the Gamecocks could have packed up their tent and gone home. But they found a way to win four of their final five games without Lattimore, including the state championship over Clemson on Saturday night.

Senior quarterback Stephen Garcia - despite all of the flack he took for his shenanigans on and off the field - was still a very important piece of the Gamecock puzzle. Other teams went into tailspins when their No. 1 quarterback went down (see: Tennessee and Florida); South Carolina didn’t.

Connor Shaw went through some growing pains as the starter, but managed to lead the Gamecocks to a 6-1 record down the stretch, culminating with a sizzling performance vs. Clemson where he passed for 210 yards and three touchdowns, and rushed for 107 yards and one touchdown. His future looks brighter than any South Carolina quarterback in recent - or not-so-recent - memory.

The season wasn’t a disappointment. South Carolina reached the 10-win mark for just the second time in program history, swept the SEC East and will be going to a traditional New Year’s Day Bowl. A trip to the Georgia Dome to play for the SEC Championship slipped through its fingers, but the program as a whole still took a step forward this season.

- Fiutak: Who Really Deserves The Heisman?
- Cirminiello: Welcome Back, USC
- Harrison: The Bright Future Of Michigan vs. Ohio State  
- Zemek: 2011's Hidden Storylines
- Sallee: South Carolina's Special Season
- Johnson: Virginia's Huge Step Forward