By Mike Castiglione, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: If they can knock off the visiting UAB Blazers on Saturday night,
the eighth-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks will give coach Steve Spurrier his
200th career win,
The Ol' Ball Coach has seen his Gamecocks notch six straight wins dating back
to last season -- their longest winning streak since early in the 2007
campaign and tied for the third-longest in school history. A win this week
would also give USC a 3-0 start for the third straight year.
UAB is coming off a bye week after suffering a 39-29 setback to Troy in the
season opener. The Blazers went just 3-9 a year ago and are now led by first-
year head coach Garrick McGee, who was hired last December after four seasons
at Arkansas, the last two as offensive coordinator.
South Carolina has won both prior meetings in the series with UAB, the most
recent of which being a 26-13 decision in Columbia in 2008.
Gamecocks sophomore quarterback Dylan Thompson made his first career start
against ECU, and it was a banner one as he threw for 330 yards and three
touchdowns. Spurrier wanted Thompson to be in command of the offense, and so
the first-year starter was allowed to take some shots downfield.
"Probably (against ECU) the ball was in the air more distance than any game
I've coached here," Spurrier said. "We got it down there. We didn't hit them
all. At least we got them in the air. Our receivers had fun going after them."
Spurrier noted that if regular starter Connor Shaw is 100 percent recovered
from a shoulder injury, then he will be the guy. Still, the coach said it's
good to know that if Shaw is unable to suit up, Thompson can go in there and
throw it around.
"We'll get Dylan ready," Spurrier said. "If Connor is 100 percent to practice
Wednesday or Thursday, Connor will be the starter. Now we have the confidence
that we have a couple of quarterbacks that can play around here."
Whoever starts under center will surely lean on junior running back Marcus
Lattimore, who needs one more touchdown to break the school record (he is
currently tied with George Rogers and Harold Green with 33). Lattimore has
worked his way back from a season-ending left knee injury suffered against
Mississippi State last October and has 150 yards and three TDs through two
USC's defense enters the weekend ranked 15th nationally against the run (66
ypg) and 18th in points allowed (11.5 ppg). Additionally, the Gamecocks have
shown a penchant for creating takeaways. They forced five turnovers against
the Pirates (four interceptions, one fumble recovery), and a week earlier they
bottled up Vanderbilt's offense to the tune of 276 total yards and held the
Commodores to 3-of-15 on third down.
UAB quarterback Jonathan Perry threw for 317 yards and a pair of scores
against Troy two weeks ago, but that effort was spoiled by two late turnovers
in a span of 24 seconds, both of which led to touchdowns for the Trojans. With
UAB down by two points and driving midway through the fourth quarter, Perry
threw an interception that set up an eventual Troy TD. On the first play of
UAB's next drive, Perry got hit and lost a fumble inside the 10-yard line.
"You can't make the mistakes that we made; you can't snap the ball over your
head, you can't drop the ball, you can't fumble the ball on the one-yard line,
you can't get the consistent penalties that we got and win football games," a
dejected McGee said after his first game at the helm.
"I am proud of them, but I am not interested in moral victories. I expect us
to play better and win, but we didn't. I do think we have a good football
UAB must do a better job defensively if the team hopes to hang around against
a top-10 opponent on the road. The Blazers had no answer for Troy running back
Shawn Southward, who reeled off a career-high 204 yards and three TDs on the
ground. In fact, a trio of Trojan running backs combined to average a whopping
7.1 yards on 37 carries.
USC's Lattimore figures to be chomping at the bit after coming off a rather
light 13-carry workload in his last outing. Linebackers Greg Irvin (12
tackles) and Marvin Burdette (10 tackles, 1.5 TFL) will likely be quite busy
Considering UAB's struggles against the run in its first game, Spurrier may
rein in the passing attack a bit this week and try to get the ground game
established, something the Gamecocks were unable to do against ECU. Then
again, UAB will have had two weeks to prepare for this contest and clean up
some mistakes. Still, the Gamecocks have a significant edge on both sides of
the ball and are playing at home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Carolina 37, UAB 14