Posted by Jerry Hinnen
SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Victories don't come much uglier, what with Marcus Lattimore injured and Connor Shaw rocketing back to earth after his performance against Kentucky. But the Gamecocks will take it. Alshon Jeffery redeemed a quiet day (5 receptions, 24 yards) by coming down with the game-winning touchdown in double-coverage with 3:50 to play. Lattimore had his leg rolled into while blocking for a Wildcat play and left the game, eventually going to the locker room on crutches.
WHY SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Because in the end, the lackluster Gamecock offense threw away one fewer scoring opportunity than the lackluster Mississippi State offense. After driving 69 yards in 10 plays for a 7-0 first quarter lead, the Bulldogs took 18 snaps in Carolina territory over the rest of the game, spread over five drives ... and turned all those opportunities into a total of three points. Paticularly damaging were a pair of second-half possessions, one of which yielded a first down at the Carolina 31 and the other a first-and-goal at the 5. The first ended with a missed 40-yard Derek DePasquale field goal attempt, the second with only three points after multiple missed passes into the end zone.
In a game in which the two teams finished only five yards apart in total yardage -- 294 for the Bulldogs, 289 for the Gamecocks -- that Shaw was able to hoist his pass towards a target like Jeffery while Tyler Russell had no such red zone help made all the difference.
WHEN SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Not until one final missed opportunity went by the boards for State. Russell enjoyed a decent (if not exactly "good") game in his first start of the season for Dan Mullen, completing 11-of-29 passes for 165 yards, one touchdown, several third-down conversions, and just one batted interception ... until with less than two minutes to play and his team on the Gamecock 32, Russell launched a hopeless airball which safety D.J. Swearinger duly intercepted. Ballgame.
WHAT SOUTH CAROLINA WON: The spoils of victory may be overshadowed by the costs if Lattimore misses any length of time with his injury, but a loss to the flailing likes of the Bulldogs would have all but ended the Gamecocks' hopes of going to Atlanta. As it stands, Steve Spurrier still has a lot of work to do offensively (and possibly without his greatest weapon) to get his team into the kind of shape necessary to beat Florida or Arkansas. But they're still alive.
WHAT MISSISSIPPI STATE LOST: As with Auburn and Georgia, another game against a beatable opponent--and this time at home. A winning regular season looks to be out of reach with the likes of Alabama and the Razorbacks still on the schedule, and an upset vs. Kentucky or Ole Miss would now leave the Bulldogs home for the postseason.
THAT WAS CRAZY: Depending on which sportsbook you placed your wagers at, Carolina came into this game a 2.5 to 3.5-point favorite. That didn't matter with the Gamecocks sitting on their 14-10 lead and State out of timeouts at game's end. But with four seconds remaining and the Gamecocks snapping the ball on fourth down, Spurrier elected to have Shaw run out the clock by running out the back of the end zone from the 9. That safety pushed the final margin to 2--and made any gamblers (or CBSSports.com Experts) who had picked the Gamecocks to cover sudden, stunning losers. Rest assured the Gamecock fans who had their money on the home team will have a few choice words for the Ol' Ball Coach after that one.