Tag:D.J. Swearinger
Posted on: January 2, 2012 4:29 pm
Edited on: January 5, 2012 12:22 pm
 

QUICK HITS: South Carolina 30, Nebraska 13

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Bowl games haven't been Steve Spurrier's specialty at South Carolina -- he was just 1-4 with the Gamecocks entering Monday's game -- but thanks to another big game from Connor Shaw and a huge play from Alshon Jeffery to close the first half, that might have changed at the Capital One Bowl. The Gamecocks trailed 13-9 when Shaw dialed up a Hail Mary in Jeffery's direction to end the second quarter, and the big junior -- likely playing in his final game as a collegian -- hauled it in and dove into the end zone (see above) for a 16-13 halftime lead.

With Shaw throwing for an efficient 229 yards (13.5 per attempt) and running for 42 more, that was all the momentum the Gamecocks would need. Taylor Martinez was entirely bottled up in the second half, finishing with just 153 total yards of offense (117 passing, 36 rushing) and unable to get his team on the scoreboard over the final two quarters.

WHY SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Because with Martinez always erratic in the pass game and the dynamic Gamecock front always likely to cause some problems with the Husker ground game, Nebraska couldn't afford to waste opportunities--especially ones that could have put them in firm control of the game. But that's precisely what they did late in the first half, when Ameer Abdullah picked up a first down on a 3rd-and-3 from the Gamecock 8, his team on the verge of extending their 13-9 lead to double-digits ... and then got hit by D.J. Swearinger and fumbled the ball away.

The Huskers could have retaken the lead after Jeffery's Hail Mary, driving to a first-and-goal at the Carolina 8 on their first drive of the third quarter. First down: crazy pass from Martinez for loss of 8. Second: rush for 5. Third: delay of game. Then a screen for a loss of 2. Fourth: a missed 35-yard field goal, Brett Maher's first miss from under 40 this season. The Huskers would go on to commit four penalties on their next drive and never threatened again. The Gamecocks were the better team, but if Nebraska had been able to keep their composure in the red zon, they could have at least stayed competitive.

WHEN SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Taking over up 23-13 with just over 9 minutes to play, Shaw led the Gamecocks on a methodical, clock-killing march that would eventually burn off more than 6 minutes and end with a Kenny Miles touchdown, putting the game entirely out of the Huskers' reach.

THAT WAS CRAZY: If this was indeed the final game for Jeffery and star Nebraska corner Alfonzo Dennard, their careers didn't end the way either player would have liked. The pair scuffled after a third-quarter play, with Dennard throwing a series of punches and Jeffery delivering a two-handed shove to Dennard's facemask; both players were ejected. And though Jeffery is the bigger name nationally, the Huskers seemed to suffer more from Dennard's ejection, their secondary losing its way over the remainder of the game.

WHAT SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Their 11th game of the season, for the first time in school history. Though the Gamecocks were always aiming for a repeat trip to the SEC title game, 11-2 with Shaw and Marcus Lattimore returning isn't a bad consolation.

WHAT NEBRASKA LOST: Their fourth game of the 2011 campaign, wrapping up the Huskers' first year in the Big Ten at 9-4. Bo Pelini has now lost his last two bowl games.

FINAL GRADE: The first half had the makings of a classic, with both teams exchanging big plays and long drives, capped by the Hail Mary lightning bolt. But the second was a major letdown, with the Huskers totally unabe to get out of their own way and Carolina slowly squeezing the life out of Nebraska's chances--and the game. B-.

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Posted on: December 31, 2011 12:57 pm
 

Key Matchup: Capital One Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



A look at the key matchup that could determine the
 Capital One Bowl.

Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez, RB Rex Burkhead vs. South Carolina S Antonio Allen, S D.J. Swearinger

For most teams, the primary back seven defenders assigned to stop a lethally mobile quarterback and his No. 1 rushing option in the backfield would be a pair of burly run-stuffing linebackers. But South Carolina is not most teams. The Gamecocks run an unusual (especially in the SEC) 4-2-5 scheme in which the "Spur" -- kind of a safety, kind of a linebacker -- ranges back and forth between the front seven and the secondary, and his fellow safeties have more run-stopping duties than usual as the corners play man-to-man. 

Result? "Spur" and nominal safety Antonio Allen led the Gamecocks with 81 tackles, followed closely by safety D.J. Swearinger with 73. That performance earned Allen a second-team All-SEC nod from the league's media, even though Allen -- as you would expect from a player expected to both fly to the ball and play sharp pass coverage -- checks in a relatively light 6'2", 202 pounds. Likewise, if Allen's small by SEC linebacker standards, Swearinger's on the small side even by the SEC's safety standards at 5'10", 208. 

That's caused occasional problems against the power-running games of the SEC the past couple of seasons, but in theory it should be nothing but a positive against a Nebraska team that looks to get their most dangerous rushing threat -- Taylor Martinez -- out in space using the option and various keepers. Where Martinez is able to routinely beat slower defenders one-on-one, Allen and Swearinger's tackle total speak to just how effective they were making exactly those kind of stops against elusive rushers like Martinez.

But here's the bad news for the Gamecocks: the Huskers have Rex Burkhead, too, and aren't afraid of sending the junior battering ram straight ahead in much the same way Auburn spent their entire matchup with South Carolina pounding Michael Dyer into the line. Dyer carried 41 times, gained 141 yards, and powered the Tigers to a major upset; if Burkhead has similar success, it's easy to see him doing the same for the Huskers.

But if Allen and Swearinger can shut down Martinez, hold Burkhead's longer gains in check, and allow the rest of the Gamecocks to do their thing vs. the Husker run, Nebraska may not have much of a chance. As we wrote in our Keys to the Game, the Huskers went 9-0 when they topped 180 yards on the ground, 0-3 when they didn't. Allen and Swearinger will play a major role in whether or not they reach that benchmark.

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Posted on: October 15, 2011 4:13 pm
Edited on: October 15, 2011 8:51 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 15 South Carolina 14, Miss St. 12

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.


Posted on: August 30, 2011 3:39 pm
Edited on: August 30, 2011 4:11 pm
 

Could CB Auguste's injury hurt Gamecocks vs. ECU?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

During Monday night's South Carolina practice, starting corner Akeem Auguste reaggravated a left foot injury. Per CBSSports.com RapidReporter Josh Kendall, Auguste will now come off the bench in the Gamecocks' Saturday season opener against East Carolina--if he plays at all.

Starting in Auguste's place will be senior and part-time 2010 starter C.C. Whitlock, with the Gamecock's top backups in the event of Auguste's absence projected to be senior (and former walk-on) Marty Markett and redshirt freshman Cadarious Sanders. A former track athlete, Markett has one start in his two seasons on the Gamecock football team, while Sanders was one of the lower-profile additions to Carolina's 2010 class.

If the 'Cocks were opening their season against any random FCS or Sun Belt tomato can, nothing that was going on in the Gamecock secondary would matter. Even if they were opening against most Conference USA teams, or some lower-rung BCS squad, it wouldn't matter. But against the Pirates? It could matter.

It's not likely to, of course; South Carolina is a legitimate top-20 team and ECU -- 6-7 a year ago with a defense ranked dead last in FBS total defense -- is most certainly not.

But thanks to that ailing Carolina secondary, the Pirates could present the Gamecocks with a stiff challenge all the same. ECU's (newly slimmed-down) head coach is Ruffin McNeill, a former defensive coordinator under Mike Leach at Texas Tech, and McNeill's offensive coordinator is Lincoln Riley, a former Tech wide receivers coach and devoted Leach protege. So it wasn't a surprise when their 2010 Pirate offense was as close to Leach's old Air Raid as it was possible to get, throwing more often than any other team in the country, turning quarterback Dominique Davis into the country's fourth-leading passer, and receivers Dwayne Harris and Lance Lewis into a matched pair of 1,100-yard receivers.

Now Riley, Davis, Lewis, and two other players with 40-plus receptions* are all back for another go-round--meaning that they might present matchup problems for South Carolina even if Auguste wasn't injured. The Gamecock secondary was quietly the team's Achilles heel last season, ranking 97th in pass defense and a scarcely-better 87th in opponent's quarterback rating. And even those numbers might have been generous to the Carolina secondary, which had the good fortune of playing alongside the nation's fifth-most potent pass rush. In short: whenever opposing quarterbacks had time to throw against the 2010 'Cocks, they found plenty of success.

And ECU's system -- as with Leach's before it -- is structured in such a way that their quarterback always has time. Despite their nation-leading number of attempts, the Pirates still finished in the FBS top-20 in sacks allowed, giving one up just once every 50 dropbacks. Gamecock defensive line coach Brad Lawing took notice:
"You can’t sack them,” Lawing said. “He just catches it and throws it, catches it and throws it. You can’t get there. It’s just not going to happen. You could have Lawrence Taylor up there five times and you can’t get there.”
So ... if the Gamecock pass rush won't matter ... and the Gamecock secondary can't keep up ... what happens?

What happens is that South Carolina wins going away 9 times out of 10, maybe 95 times out of 100. The Pirates have no answer for the likes of Marcus Lattimore or Alshon Jeffery, no way to handle the size Carolina offers up front, no way to avoid wearing down in the face of the Gamecocks' superior depth. We're not suggesting an upset is imminent, not when the Gamecocks have the firepower to match every score the Pirates put on the board and then some. Even the secondary concerns may be overblown--while we don't feel Stephen Gilmore has been an All-SEC caliber player (for the reasons listed above), having him, Whitlock, and fellow returning starter D.J. Swearinger back must lead to some improvement.

That said--if Stephen Garcia has one of his occasional space-case performances? If Connor Shaw isn't ready for his close-up? And Davis and the Pirate wideouts begin abusing Auguste's replacements? And the game remains close into the third or even fourth quarters, and the favored Gamecocks can't find their mojo in Charlotte's neutral-site venue? This being the 1 time out of 10 isn't impossible.

*Though one of those players won't see the field Saturday.



 
 
 
 
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