Sunday, October 14, 2012
Instant analysis: LSU 23, South Carolina 21
By David Helman
BATON ROUGE, La. -- One week after getting bowled over by a physical Florida running game, No. 9 LSU took those frustrations out on someone else. The Tigers pounded their way to 258 rushing yards on a whopping 53 attempts in a 23-21 upset of No. 3 South Carolina on Saturday night.
Despite a lopsided box score, the Tigers were never able to put the Gamecocks away, however. South Carolina rallied from a 23-14 fourth-quarter deficit and had a chance to steal a win on its final drive.
Here’s how it played out from a raucous Tiger Stadium:
It was over when: LSU safety Craig Loston intercepted South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw’s desperate heave on the game’s final play to preserve a 23-21 margin.
Shaw brought the score within two when he connected with Bruce Ellington on a 1-yard touchdown pass with three minutes to play. The Gamecocks couldn’t recover the ensuing onside kick, but they forced an LSU punt with 35 seconds to play, giving them a chance at a last-second win.
Game ball goes to: LSU has been lauded for its depth at running back all year long, and the Tigers utilized it against South Carolina. When starter Spencer Ware left the game briefly in the first half, freshman Jeremy Hill took over. Hill, with just 13 career carries heading into the game, exploded for 124 yards and both of LSU’s touchdowns on 17 carries. The youngster broke the game open on a 50-yard scoring romp in the middle of the fourth quarter.
Key stat: The closeness of the score line is baffling when looking at the box score. The Tigers outgained the Gamecocks 406-211, and won the time of possession battle 36:57 to 23:03. The Gamecocks’ defense was crucial in keeping it close -- South Carolina forced LSU to settle for field goal attempts on four of five trips to the red zone.
Key stat II: The LSU defense limited South Carolina to a 3-of-13 effort on third downs, sacked Shaw four times and stonewalled the Gamecocks for a mere 34 rushing yards.
What it means: Considering how easily No. 1 Alabama is tearing through its schedule, a second SEC loss could have ended the Tigers’ SEC championship dreams. LSU’s success running the ball behind a makeshift offensive line is encouraging, but the Tigers’ troubles in the red zone? Not so much.
Now it’s the Gamecocks’ turn to have their backs against the wall. South Carolina travels to Florida next weekend for a showdown with the surprising Gators, who could go a long way toward claiming the SEC East with a win.