Published October 9, 2012 - 2:50pm
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He still has his ball plays.
But for now, offensive guru Steve Spurrier is just fine with unleashing Marcus Lattimore, Connor Shaw and Jadeveon Clowney on the rest of the Southeastern Conference.
Call it vanilla all you want, but South Carolina’s game plan on both sides of the football during its current 10-game winning streak provides the perfect blueprint on how dominate the opposition without complex hurry-ups, blitz packages and gimmicks.
It’s hard-nosed football at its finest.
“We’re not a passing team, we’re a running team,” Spurrier revealed prior to this season. “We’re not one of those teams that throws it 50 times a game. That’s not who we are.”
Prime example was Saturday’s 28-point drubbing of Georgia, a game in which the third-ranked Gamecocks dominated from beginning to end. Shaw, who won his 13th game in 14 starts, attempted ten passes. Ten!? This is Spurrier we’re talking about here who likes to chuck it all over the field, but not anymore. The Head Ball Coach glanced at the stat sheet postgame and chuckled at the passing numbers — in a good way.
When Lattimore and Shaw are moving the chains with their legs on third down, why throw, he thought. Shaw has provided a security blanket under center these last 14 games that Spurrier hasn’t had in Columbia. He’s a quarterback that rarely takes chances and doesn’t put the offense in position to fail. The term “game manager” almost has a negative connotation these days, but not when you’re backed by one of the nation’s nastiest defenses. Ask Trent Dilfer if he minded managing the game during Baltimore’s run to a Super Bowl? Shaw’s in the same boat but is also a threat to run.
It’s hard to imagine how the Gamecocks are better on defense this season after losing All-American Melvin Ingram, three-year starter Stephon Gilmore and ballhawks Antonio Allen and C.C. Whitlock.
But they are.
Heck, South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward should be in the running for the league’s coach of the year award even if he is an assistant. He was instrumental in bringing Jadeveon Clowney — the front runner for SEC DPOY — to Columbia and has taken the pass-rushing monster under his wing the last two seasons. After one season of college football, Clowney has transformed from a speedster off the edge who often over-pursued into a unblockable sack machine who commands a double team.
Spurrier has always been high on Ward — known as “Whammy” in the coaching ranks — and has said throughout the season that he will certainly become a head coach soon. Ward inherited his current title prior to last year’s Capital One Bowl after Ellis Johnson left town for Southern Miss and the Gamecocks haven’t missed a beat defensively. They lead the SEC in sacks (25; Clowney 6.5) and rank second to Alabama in scoring defense (10.5 PPG) and rushing defense (83.8 YPG). Ward and Spurrier have their team disciplined as well as South Carolina has been penalized just 27 times in six games, second-fewest in the conference.
A national champion darkhorse each of the past two seasons, the Gamecocks have turned into a legitimate contender by taking a page out of Alabama’s playbook. Do enough on offense and win on defense. It’s worked out well thus far. Just ask Tennessee, Florida, Georgia and Clemson, four top-flight programs who have lost their last 10 games against South Carolina.