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Carolina Sets A New Goal: 11 Wins; Staff Does Great Work

For a team that couldn’t repeat as SEC East champion, South Carolina has accomplished one major goal already — becoming just the second Gamecock team in history to log 10 wins in a season.  Now Steve Spurrier says his team will have to start aiming for something else when they begin bowl practice:


“I think we had a goal to win eight, win nine, win 10.  We didn’t set one to win 11, so we’re going to set a new one when we meet back up (today).”


This season will have to rank among Spurrier’s best efforts.  Despite struggles at quarterback — including the dismissal of starter Stephen Garcia — and the loss of Mr. Everything tailback Marcus Lattimore, the Ol’ Ball Coach led his team to a 10-2 record and for the second year in a row beat all four traditional Carolina roadblocks: Clemson, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.

I have no problem admitting that I expected USC’s season to fall apart with the loss of Lattimore, a player who accounted for 36% of the Gamecock offense.  But that didn’t happen.  While the offense struggled, the defense became stronger.  And on Saturday night against Clemson, quarterback Connor Shaw had what might be his breakout game.

Kudos to Spurrier and his staff for some excellent work in 2011.

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Barnhart: UGA’s Richt Can’t Lose To UF Again

On a couple of radio shows this week I’ve been asked if Mark Richt faces a must-win game in Jacksonville this Saturday.  I’ve said no, because technically — given the way the East’s teams are playing and the injury to Marcus Lattimore — the Bulldogs could lose to Florida and still win their division.

If Georgia somehow wins the East and reaches Atlanta, it would be hard to fire Richt… even with another loss to Florida. 

But the fact of the matter is, that’s a technicality.  If UGA loses Saturday, it’s doubtful they would win the East. 

Perhaps that’s why longtime SEC columnist Tony Barnhart believes Richt faces a must-win scenario in this year’s Florida game.  At least the headline at CBSSports.com says it’s a must-win game: “Losing another Cocktail Party would be last straw for Richt.”

So does Barnhart believe it’s win or else?


“Let’s just put it this way: Richt is 2-8 in his 10 meetings with FLorida and it would really, really help his quality of life if the Bulldogs did not stumble to the Gators again…

So Richt needs to win against a Florida team that is limping into Saturday’s game.  It doesn’t matter how good or bad Florida is.  It’s Florida.  Richt can’t go to 2-9 against the Gators.  He just can’t.”


While he doesn’t flat-out state that Richt’s goose would definitely be cooked with a loss (as the headline does), Barnhart clearly believes that would likely be the case.

And isn’t it Richt’s luck that UF had an open date to heal up and get their starting quarterback back?

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AU’s Malzahn Ready To Give Dyer More Carries

Most of the talk following the end of Auburn’s 17-game win streak has surrounded Ted Roof’s porous defense.  But offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn feels he needs to make some changes, too.  Namely, he needs to get Mike Dyer even more carries:


“You look at your strengths and you look at what you’re good at, and (Dyer is) playing very good football now.  We’re looking at a lot of different things, but that is one of them.  He’s one of our strengths.  And we definitely need to build upon our strengths.”


Dyer has carried the ball 48 times this season for a total of 358 yards and six touchdowns.  That’s an average of 7.5 yards per attempt.  He’s also been consistent against BCS competition the last two weeks:


Opponent
Attempts
Yards
Average
Long
TDs
Miss. State
18
150
8.3
52
2
Clemson
16
151
9.4
52
2



Dyer’s 119 yard-per-game average is second only to Marcus Lattimore on the SEC rushing chart and he leads the SEC with four rushes of 30 yards or more.

No wonder Malzahn wants to get him the ball more.

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Crowell Picking Up The Offense At UGA

There aren’t many true freshmen in the country who are under as much pressure as Georgia tailback Isaiah Crowell.  Gone are many of the veterans expected to play in front of him.  Gone are some key offensive linemen who could’ve helped block for him.  Yet he’s expected to step right in and become this season’s Marcus Lattimore of Mike Dyer.

Sounds rough, but according to running backs coach Bryan McClendon, so far… so good:


“Not only in this league, but in the NFL or whatever, you’ve got guys that if you can’t trust them out there you’re not gonna put them out there. … That hasn’t been an issue with Isaiah so far.  And this is Day Four of installation, and he hasn’t missed much assignment-wise, and that’s obviously a pleasure to see.”


Before Crowell can do the things that Dawg fans are hoping for this fall, he has to know what it is he’s supposed to be doing.  The fact that he’s picking up the offense quickly should bring some sighs of relief from Rossville to Valdosta.

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Ticket Demand Higher At Carolina

Funny things about ticket sales — they always seem to go up when a team is winning.

The Charleston Post & Courier reports today that season ticket sales “are up a bit” at South Carolina.  The Gamecocks won the SEC East for the first time ever last season and they’ll likely be picked to finish first or second in their division this year, too. 

“Folks need tangible evidence,” Carolina associate AD Marcy Lirton told the paper.  “That’s what the success has provided us.” 

It doesn’t hurt that the talents of receiver Alshon Jeffery and running back Marcus Lattimore have earned the national spotlight.  Signing the nation’s top recruit — defensive end Jadeveon Clowney — was a plus, too.

“It helps to have recognizable players,” she said.  “We’ve had players like that before, sure, but this is a strong contingent right now.”

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Arkansas’ Davis Looks To Build On Success

Quick.

Who is the SEC’s leading returning rusher in 2011?

Marcus Lattimore?  Mike Dyer?

Try Knile Davis.  The Razorbacks running back gained 1,322 yards last year — second only to Cam Newton — and averaged an eye-popping 6.5 yards per carry.  Now the unheralded back wants to build on his success from a season ago.

“I put last year way in the past,” Davis told ArkansasNews.com yesterday.  “I don’t really harp on what I did last year.  I try to forget it.  When I’m practicing I don’t try to act any different.  I try to do the same things that helped me last year.  It seems to be working.”

If it works as well as it did last year, Davis might emerge from the shadows cast by both Lattimore and Dyer.



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Spurrier, Lattimore Earn SEC Superlatives

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier was named SEC Coach of the Year, and tailback Marcus Lattimore was named SEC Freshman of the Year by the league’s coaches, the SEC office announced Wednesday.
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CBSSports.com Names Marcus Lattimore Freshman Of The Year

South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore was unanimously selected as CBSSports.com Freshman of the Year, it was announced on Tuesday. This is Lattimore’s second award in as many days, as the Associated Press unanimously chose him on Monday as SEC Freshman of the Year as well.
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Marcus Lattimore Named SEC Freshman Of The Year, First Team All-SEC RB

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Marcus Lattimore has been unanimously voted the 2010 Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year by the AP.  Lattimore was also named to the All-SEC First Team Offense. 

As a true freshman for the South Carolina Gamecocks, #21 has carried the football 248 times for 1,198 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns.  Lattimore eclipsed the 100 yard mark four times this season, running for a career high 212 yards against Florida in The Swamp, where he helped the Gamecocks to their SEC Eastern Division Championship clinching win.  In addition to his ground game (99.83 ypg), Lattimore has excellent skills as a receiver out of the backfield.  He’s caught 26 balls for 364 yards and 2 touchdowns in 12 games (Though, let’s not forget he missed a game and a half), displaying tremendous ability in the open field.  Marcus Lattimore has racked up 1,562 all-purpose yards and 19 touchdowns in what has been a very stellar start to his career in Columbia, and is deserving of the accolades and attention he’s getting.     

It’s a huge honor for Marcus to have received each of these recognitions.  Congratulations, Latti. 


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Scouting the SEC Championship Game: What to Expect When Carolina Has the Ball

South Carolina
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What will the OBC have up his sleeve for the Auburn game?

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Mary Ann Chastain – AP

What will the OBC have up his sleeve for the Auburn game?

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3. Spurrier’s Cards Are Close to the Vest

In our last three games, we’ve (1) run the ball all night against Florida, (2) feasted on a cupcake against Troy, and (3) gone vanilla in the second half against Clemson when it became apparent that Stephen Garcia was hurt and that the Tigers wouldn’t get back into the game if we didn’t help them. Spurrier has not had to dig deep into the playbook over this stretch. That means that Spurrier has the advantage of coming into this game without Auburn being aware of what we’ve been working on in practice lately. Hopefully, Spurrier will be able to spring some surprises on the Tigers. This could be especially important if we have to depart from our usual run-first attack.

2. Stephen Garcia’s Injury

Garcia got banged up (left, non-throwing shoulder and throwing thumb) against Clemson, and the word out of practice at the beginning of the week is that it’s a little worse than originally thought. The coaches, though, believe he’ll be ready to go at full speed. We better hope so, because…

1. Look for Us to Throw the Ball

Carolina has been most successful this year when it can get Marcus Lattimore churning out yardage on the ground. Unfortunately, very few teams have been able to run the ball well against Auburn’s talented defensive front. That includes the Gamecocks when we played Auburn early this year. Lattimore rushed for 33 yards and a 2.4 ypc average in that game, his worst and second-to-worst averages of the year in those respective categories. Oftentimes, this would mean that Carolina is doomed, as we’ve had little success in games where Lattimore hasn’t dominated. Luckily for us, as we learned last time around, you can throw the ball against Auburn. The Tigers rank 106th in the country in pass defense. (If you didn’t realize how good the Tigers offense is before now, that number should make you realize it; how else could a team with such a poor pass defense be contending for a national title?) Garcia, before the late-game fumbles, was having one of the best games of his career against the Tigers. The truth is that he’s probably going to have to be ready to do that again this week, only this time he’s going to have to finish the deal. I hope we find a way to get Lattimore more involved this time around, but the facts say that you’re not going to run against Auburn. Garcia and the receivers need to be ready to go.


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