In a game where head coach Shane Beamer jokingly said it “took years off my life,” South Carolina found a way to its first SEC win of the season Saturday over Mississippi State, 37-30.
Here are five takeaways from the Gamecocks’ victory over the Bulldogs at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Mario Anderson cements himself as RB1
South Carolina’s offense hasn’t had much of a rushing element through the first three games. Leading into Saturday’s game, Beamer said the run game was a missing key to having a more balanced lineup. Then, Mario Anderson ran for 88 yards against Mississippi State.
The senior transfer from Newberry College received a game ball for his performance, according to Beamer, a memento Anderson joked will be promptly placed in his room. Anderson’s ability to weave through holes created by the offensive line is likely the answer for USC’s rushing mystery.
“For me, it was long overdue,” Anderson said postgame. “Just being able to seize every element possible and just thankful to be able to compete.”
The Gamecocks will still have Dakereon Joyner and Juju Williams at their disposal, of course. Anderson’s performance just means there’s some life in the run game.
Anderson’s day was part of a committed effort to get the ground game going: South Carolina ran the ball 47 times to go with 20 passes.
Defense can make its own explosive plays
The Gamecocks’ defense has intercepted a few quarterbacks this season already, including UNC’s Drake Maye in Week 1 and Furman’s Tyler Huff in Week 2. On Saturday, they had a timely fumble recovery to go with the interception of Bulldogs QB Will Rogers.
David Spaulding made the grab in the second quarter, on a drive that might’ve ended with a Mississippi State score, and brought South Carolina back on the field at its 2-yard line. Then, Stone Blanton and Jordan Strachan both forced fumbles in the second half.
Clayton White’s TFL standard finally reached
Since Week 1, USC defensive coordinator Clayton White has touted the number of tackles for loss and sacks he expects the Gamecocks to get each game. In a typical game, USC wants anywhere from six to eight tackles for loss, White said.
That target was finally accomplished against MSU: The Gamecocks finished with four sacks and nine TFLs. However, the defense still allowed 10 passing plays of at least 15 yards, and Lideatrick “Tulu” Griffin had 200-plus receiving yards.
So while not a perfect defensive performance by Beamer’s standards, the defensive found ways to put pressure on the opposing offense.
Offensive line is (nearly) finalized
The Gamecocks’ offensive line is still a work in progress, Beamer said after Saturday’s game, but at least there are some answers. Tree Babalade (left tackle), Nick Gargiulo (left guard) and Vershon Lee (center) all started again, but the right side is still a bit in the air.
Jakai Moore started at right guard, but Trovon Baugh played a few snaps again. Beamer said Tyshawn Wannamaker started at right tackle over Sidney Fugar because of a better week of practice, but it doesn’t guarantee Wannamaker will stay there for now.
“We still feel really, really good about Sidney out there,” Beamer said, “so that’s a competition going on.”
It does mean there’s less mix-and-matching being played during games. Rattler said postgame that he’s feeling more and more confident with the offensive line, and that he’s also to blame for a few sacks he took against MSU.
Beamer said he still wants to evaluate things a little more before being completely certain of any consistency in the starting five.
On the road again
And just like the last time South Carolina played at home, this win gives the Gamecocks a bit more confidence before going on the road. Up next is a trip to face Tennessee in Knoxville.
Having the first SEC win taken care of evens USC’s conference record at 1-1, and the overall record at 2-2 — a much better outlook than the prospect of being 0-2 in the SEC and 1-3 overall. It might be stating the obvious, but Beamer said it’s one less thing to worry about.
“To get a home at home, going into another week where we’re going on the road in a hostile environment Saturday night in Knoxville, we needed this one,” Beamer said.
South Carolina 2023 football schedule
Sept. 30: at Tennessee, 7:30 p.m. (SEC Network)
Oct. 14: vs. Florida
Oct. 21: at Missouri
Oct. 28: at Texas A&M
Nov. 4: vs. Jacksonville State
Nov. 11: vs. Vanderbilt
Nov. 18: vs. Kentucky
Nov. 25: vs. Clemson