The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: After successfully opening up SEC play with an impressive victory over Georgia, the 13th-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks take a break from FBS foes this week as they welcome the Furman Paladins to Columbia.
There was a great deal of hype surrounding Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks this season and the team has definitely lived up to it in the early going, moving to 2-0 on the season with last week's 17-6 decision over the Bulldogs.
Bobby Lamb's Paladins opened their season last weekend against Colgate and behind an explosive offense, posted a 45-15 rout. With the win, Furman jumped into the FCS top-25 this weekend at number 24.
"This was one of the most complete performances I've seen from a Furman team in a season opener -- a good win all the way around against a ranked team" said Paladin head coach Bobby Lamb. "After five weeks of practice, it was good to finally play a game. We competed well on both sides of the football and got some good play from a bunch of guys. It's the kind of start to the season we were looking for."
This game marks the 48th meeting between these two teams, but the first since 1982. South Carolina holds a 26-20-1 all-time advantage and has won 11 of the last 12 meetings. Furman is South Carolina's oldest rival as the two teams met in USC's first-ever football game in 1892.
The Paladins put on an offensive clinic in the season-opener last week against Colgate, rolling up 536 yards of total offense in the 30-point romp. The team got a hefty 377 of those yards on the ground, thanks to stellar performances by QB Chris Forcier and WR Tersoo Uhaa. Forcier started the game at QB but made the biggest impact with his legs, turning seven carries into 130 yards and one TD, including an 85-yard scamper. Uhaa wasn't far behind, putting up 125 yards on nearly eight yards per carry, with one rushing TD and one receiving TD.
Senior quarterback Cody Worley didn't have to do much with his arm, entering the game in the second quarter and completing just 9-of-14 passes, for 113 yards. Three of his nine completions went for scores though, as Uhaa was joined by Adam Mims (three receptions, 40 yards) and Tyler Maples (two receptions, 35 yards) with their own TD catches.
When the offense converts five of six red zone opportunities into touchdowns, it makes the job of the defense much easier and Furman was never in jeopardy defensively. That being said, the team did have some problems stopping the run, giving up 209 yards on four yards per carry. To remain competitive in this game, the Paladins must shore things up along the defensive front. Senior safety Max Lerner led the way against Colgate with 13 tackles. He was followed closely by junior cornerback Ryan Steed, who posted 10 stops. Sophomore end Josh Lynn was active in the opener as well, registering eight stops, including one sack.
South Carolina was able to control things on both sides of the ball against Georgia, but it was the play of freshman RB Marcus Lattimore that proved to be the real difference in the game. The youngster erupted for a whopping 182 yards against the Bulldogs with two TDs and is now averaging 118.0 yards per game, with four of the team's six TDs to date.
Lattimore's ability to grind things out on the ground has made QB Stephen Garcia's job easier under center. Garcia has completed 70 percent of his passes, for 358 yards, Though he has not thrown a TD pass yet, he is responsible for the team's other two scores on the ground. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (14 receptions, for 209 yards) is clearly this team's top threat and it is only a matter of time before he finds the end zone.
The South Carolina offense has been efficient in the early going, but so has the defense, which is yielding a mere 9.5 ppg, on just 328.5 yards of total offense. It hasn't been easy to run the ball against USC (64.0 ypg), but the team has struggled at times against the pass (264.5 ypg).
Safeties DeVonte Holloman and Akeem Auguste pace the team in tackles with 14 apiece. Sophomore defensive end Devin Taylor (10 tackles, 3.0 TFLs, 2.0 sacks) has been a force up front, while senior linebacker Josh Dickerson (10 tackles) has made plays in the middle.
Spurrier doesn't think South Carolina will have a problem focusing on the opponent at hand, even with teams like Auburn and Alabama waiting right around the corner.
"We don't have to talk about that because we know that we barely got by Wofford the two times we played them. SC State played us very close till about the middle of the third quarter last year. That was the only game they lost. They were a very good team. Furman probably have been pointing to this game all year. This is their chance for an upset. They'll give it their best shot. We have to be ready for anything."