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Saturday, September 22, 2012
Instant analysis: S. Carolina 31, Missouri 10

By David Helman


This is more the outcome SEC diehards were expecting from Missouri's first foray into the SEC. The Tigers handled themselves well in their conference debut two weeks ago in Columbia, Mo., as they fought Georgia for three quarters before falling 41-20. On Saturday in Columbia, S.C., though, the script went in favor of the SEC buzz saw.

Here's the run down from South Carolina's 31-10 pasting of the Tigers.

It was over when: South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw found wide receiver Ace Sanders open on a 23-yard fade route for a touchdown with 24 seconds remaining in the first half. The touchdown concluded a 21-point second quarter for the Gamecocks and gave South Carolina a 21-3 halftime lead.

Game ball goes to: Sanders exploded in the second quarter to break open a scoreless deadlock. The junior started things off with a scintillating punt return that saw him bounce off five Missouri tacklers and one of his own blockers on a 47-yard scamper. The return set South Carolina up at the Tigers' 4-yard line, where running back Marcus Lattimore barreled in for the first of two touchdowns.

Sanders averaged 17.7 yards per return on six returns, and his only reception went for the touchdown that put the lead out of reach.

Game ball part II: Shaw was flawless at the helm for South Carolina in a perfectly-designed gameplan. Shaw didn't make a single mind-blowing throw, but his patience to wait for the easy, open throw was outstanding. He completed 20-of-21 passes -- those 20 coming in a row -- for 249 yards and two touchdowns.

When the open man wasn't there, Shaw pulled the ball down and ran for 41 yards on 12 carries. It could have been much worse, but Shaw's 80-yard touchdown run in the first quarter was called back by clipping.

Key stat: The Gamecocks' defensive front manhandled Missouri's offensive line. South Carolina limited Missouri to 109 rushing yards on 34 carries -- the Tigers did not eclipse 100 yards until the game's final minute. The Gamecocks also sacked Missouri quarterback James Franklin three times.

Missouri finally found the end zone with just 17 seconds left in the game -- a one-yard pass from backup quarterback Corbin Berkstresser to wide receiver Marcus Lucas.

What it means: South Carolina got to strut its stuff for the first time since struggling in the season opener at Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks' defense mauled a proficient Missouri attack, and Shaw showed opponents that there's a lot more to fear than Lattimore in the South Carolina backfield. If Shaw can keep the offense multi-dimensional, South Carolina has to be considered a contender to win not just the SEC East, but the entire league.

There was plenty for Missouri to feel good about following its conference-opener loss to Georgia. This performance in the Tigers' first SEC road game isn't so encouraging, though. Going against one of the better squads in the league, coach Gary Pinkel and Co. earned another hard lesson on the rigors of SEC play.