College Sports

USC just having trouble getting started

COLUMBIA -- As magnificent as South Carolina's offense has been the past two weeks, the glaring question is why it's waited until the second half to get started.

"You go out there, you work hard and the points you're able to put on the board sometimes seems more than what you've put on the whole year, and you don't come out with a win," center Web Brown said. "Yeah, I guess that's a little frustrating."

In losses to Tennessee and Arkansas, USC has amassed 990 yards of offense and 60 points, a good-looking stat for a squad that's struggled to find an offensive rhythm. The only problem is each came after the opponent was well ahead.

USC was down 21-0 at halftime to Tennessee and 28-10 at halftime to Arkansas. Only then did the offense come out firing.

The unit did well in each game, but a second-half mistake or a defensive lapse, added to the first-half deficit, always left the Gamecocks just short on the final score.

Brown was at a loss to explain it, saying it just seemed like the opponents were hitting the big plays at exactly the wrong time.

"If we could have done this, we could have done that, we'd have been sitting a little prettier in that game," Brown said about Arkansas. "I'm certainly not going into this next week thinking we're going to be in a hole. Obviously, we'll go in there and from the first drive to the end of the game we want to score as much points as we can."

• STABLE: Brown has been a staple all season at center and his mates on the offensive line are finally starting to solidify.

Redshirt freshman Heath Batchelor has earned the starting right guard spot against No. 17 Florida this week, taking over the job despite getting his first significant collegiate action against Tennessee. Seaver Brown remains in at left guard while tackles Jamon Meredith and Justin Sorensen should again start.

While the line is still guilty of motion penalties or allowing open pass-rushing lanes far too often, it's overall been a strong performance while blocking for quarterback Blake Mitchell. Since giving up seven sacks against Vanderbilt, USC has only given up three over the past two games.

• NEWS FROM THE SCOUT TEAM: Freshman quarterback Stephen Garcia has been a little more in the spotlight this week from his position on the scout team. Headed for a redshirt year, Garcia has been mimicking opposing quarterbacks in practice.

With Florida's Tim Tebow, a mobile gunslinger, coming to town Saturday, Garcia has been wearing Tebow's No. 15 jersey in practice.

"He can run around a little bit," coach Steve Spurrier said. "Ball comes out of his hand nicely."

Asked if Garcia would definitely be the starting QB next season -- he's traveled to every game, although he's never been close to playing -- Spurrier brushed it aside.

"We'll worry about that in spring practice," he said. "Let he and (Chris) Smelley and (Tommy) Beecher fight it out to see who'll maybe start next year."

• ANOTHER KICK: The list of defensive ineptitude posted against Arkansas last week has plenty of embarrassing numbers, but Spurrier pointed out another one. Once leading the SEC in third-down defense, USC slipped to second this week after the Razorbacks converted 10-of-13.

"Our defense has played pretty doggone well," Spurrier said. "Then Arkansas was 10-of-13."

The Gamecocks rank second in the SEC behind Arkansas in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert 31.5 percent of the time. Their total defense ranking plummeted from fifth to eighth after allowing 650 yards to the Razorbacks.

• INJURIES: It just wouldn't be USC football without another injury to a defensive back.

Leading tackler Emanuel Cook missed the second half at Arkansas after spraining his left ankle. Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn sprained his left foot in the same game.

Each is questionable for Florida, although Spurrier said Cook would probably be OK to play.

The secondary, which has helped post the top pass defense in the country, has been nursing injuries all year. If Munnerlyn and Cook can't go Saturday, expect freshman Addison Williams to start over Munnerlyn and Stoney Woodson to check in for extended time.

Safety Brandon Isaac, who's played with a sore shoulder over the past month, has been relegated to emergency duty. Probably in line for surgery after the season, Isaac can barely lift his arm. Spurrier said if he tries to tackle anybody, the shoulder may pop out of joint.

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