Commentary

Instant analysis: South Carolina-LSU

Originally Published: September 22, 2007
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Here's a quick look at how LSU defeated South Carolina 28-16:

FINAL ANALYSIS

How the game was won: LSU's vaunted defense stifled South Carolina's running game, limiting the Gamecocks to only 6 rushing yards on 28 attempts. The Tigers forced quarterback Blake Mitchell to make plays he couldn't make. Steve Spurrier had coached the Gamecocks' previous three games in very un-Spurrier-like fashion, relying on his running game and physical defense to keep games close. The Gamecocks kept it close until late in the first half, when LSU scored its third touchdown on a nifty fake field goal for a 21-7 lead. Spurrier ran out of patience early in the second half, when he decided to go for the first down on fourth-and-1 at his team's 30-yard line. Senior tailback Cory Boyd had been stuffed on the previous two plays and was stuffed again for no gain. LSU took over and scored five plays later on Jacob Hester's 9-yard run to take a 28-7 lead.

Player of the game: We'll give the bone to every member of LSU's defense. Led by All-American tackle Glenn Dorsey, the Tigers swarmed the Gamecocks' running backs each time they touched the football. The Tigers' defense has allowed only three touchdowns in four games this season. In fact, an opponent has gotten past LSU's 20-yard line only four times in four games.

Stat of the game: 11-2: Steve Spurrier's record against LSU.

Questions answered:
• If there was any doubt, LSU is the class of the SEC. Florida looked good in blowing out Tennessee by 39 points last week, but the Gators' inexperience showed in a closer-than-expected 30-24 win at Ole Miss on Saturday. The Gators will come to Tiger Stadium on Oct. 6.

• South Carolina shouldn't have been ranked No. 12 in the country. The Gamecocks got a lot of mileage out of their 16-12 upset at Georgia on Sept. 8, but they still have a long, long way to go in Spurrier's third season.

What's next for each team:
• LSU plays at Tulane in the Louisiana Superdome next Saturday, which shouldn't be much of a challenge. Then the Tigers play Florida in Baton Rouge, which might be their toughest test in SEC play. LSU coach Les Miles doesn't want a quarterback controversy, but he should continue to play sophomore Ryan Perrilloux, who has great mobility. Starter Matt Flynn can run well, too, giving the Tigers a potent offensive attack. Senior receiver Early Doucet should be back from an injured groin in time for the game against the Gators, giving LSU a bigger pass-catching threat.

• South Carolina plays home games three of the next four weeks (the road contest is at North Carolina on Oct. 13), so the Gamecocks have a chance to rebound and pad their record. Then the going gets tougher. The Gamecocks play road games at Tennessee on Oct. 27 and Arkansas on Nov. 3, followed by home games against Florida and rival Clemson to close the regular season. Spurrier also must decide on a starting quarterback. Mitchell, a senior, was pulled midway through the third quarter and replaced by redshirt freshman Chris Smelley, who led the Gamecocks on a 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive late in the game.

FIRST-HALF ANALYSIS

Turning point: Late in the first half, with the Tigers leading 14-7, LSU coach Les Miles seemed content to run down the clock and kick a field goal. On third-and-8 at the South Carolina 19, backup quarterback Ryan Perrilloux took the snap and ran for a 4-yard gain. Much of the crowd booed offensive coordinator Gary Crowton's conservative play calling. But the fans didn't know what was coming next. Junior Colt David, who missed a 42-yard field goal earlier in the quarter, lined up for a 32-yard attempt. Quarterback Matt Flynn took the snap, but then David ran right. With Gamecocks defensive backs Carlos Thomas and Emanuel Cook rushing him, Flynn flipped the football over his head to David. The kicker ran around the right end for a 15-yard touchdown, and his point-after kick made it 21-7 with 1:10 to play in the half.

Best player in the half: Sophomore receiver Trindon Holliday proved to be a spark for the Tigers in the first half. LSU trailed 7-0 late in the first quarter when Holliday came into the game. On first down at the Carolina 44, Holliday took a handoff and ran 11 yards for a first down. On the next play, he took another handoff and burst 33 yards for a touchdown, tying the score at 7-7.

Best call: Along with the fake field goal for a touchdown, LSU also used surprise to score its second touchdown of the half. Facing second-and-goal at the Gamecocks 1, Flynn faked a handoff and threw over the top to tight end Richard Dickson, who caught a touchdown in the back of the end zone.

Three things South Carolina needs to do:
1. Keep its composure: The Gamecocks had only 89 yards of offense in the first half, but they were trailing by only seven points late in the half. Quarterback Blake Mitchell has played surprisingly well and steady when he's had time to throw.

2. Find a running game: Senior Cory Boyd doesn't have any room to run, and the weather (it was pouring again at the start of halftime) is going to make it difficult to throw. Mike Davis showed good explosion on a couple of plays, so maybe he needs to get the football more.

3. Contain the quarterbacks: LSU hurt South Carolina's defense when Flynn and Perrilloux kept the football and ran. The Gamecocks are strong and physical, but they're not the fastest defense in the world. They have to do a better job of containing the LSU quarterbacks, as well as the Tigers' speedy receivers.

Three things LSU needs to do:
1. Keep getting the ball to Holliday: The Tigers have struggled throwing the football on the rain-soaked field. Flynn didn't play against Middle Tennessee last week because of a sprained ankle and looked a little bit rusty early against South Carolina. Holliday is gaining a lot of yards after taking handoffs in the backfield.

2. Keep rotating quarterbacks: Miles doesn't want a quarterback controversy on his hands, but Perrilloux is running the ball well. He had an 18-yard burst to set up LSU's second touchdown.

3. Keep creating turnovers: The Tigers' defensive backs were laying the wood in the first half, especially safety Craig Steltz. Safety Danny McCray made a great play to force an interception late in the half, a turnover that set up the fake field goal.

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

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