Shawn Elliott was still buzzing about last weekend's dramatics. South Carolina's co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach recounted the Gamecocks' come-from-behind victory at Missouri.
"It was an exciting environment, especially there in the fourth quarter," he said. "You could feel the momentum change. Our defense started getting a lot of stops and we started putting some drives together. You could feel the momentum building and building and building."
South Carolina knocked off undefeated Missouri in overtime. Now the SEC East race is wide open with No. 14 South Carolina nipping at the Tigers' heels. The focus in Columbia, S.C., is on avoiding a hangover this weekend.
"We don't want to put it all on our quarterback's shoulders, so to speak," Elliott said. "We need a good team effort offensively and we need our defense to stay playing well.
"All in all, we just need to keep our heads on straight and keep looking forward."
Elliott was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about his team and the challenge of facing Mississippi State on Saturday.
You've seen Connor Shaw do things like that for years now. What did that game say about his toughness and his competitiveness to be able to lead you guys back?
Elliott: I think Connor Shaw is one of the best leaders college football has these days. His grittiness, his toughness, his determination, his competitiveness; it all fuels our team and our university. It's just exciting. Our players gear up and go to battle for a guy that they know when he goes out there he's going to lay it all on the line. Just a special, special young man. I'm just excited we get the opportunity to spend a few more weeks with him at South Carolina.
What's Connor been like this week as far as health. Do you expect him to start?
Elliott: Yes, he's out there practicing with us. He had a little stomach bug with us earlier in the week and his knee injury from the previous week against Tennessee, but it's more or less the trainers holding him out. This guy would be out there at every practice had it not been for our trainers. He certainly wanted to be out there throwing the football. When he hurt his knee against Tennessee ,he said there's nothing wrong with my arm so I can go out here and toss the ball around a little bit. He's always working to get better and try to develop into a better quarterback every week.
How do you all rebound and refocus after a dramatic win like the one last week at Missouri? It's got to be hard to hit reset.
Elliott: You know, I don't think it does. We just got punched in the stomach the week before. And we know how easy it is to get knocked off the pedestal, so to speak. Not that we're on a pedestal, by any means. But we come off an Arkansas win and we go to Tennessee and lay an egg. So I don't think our players, nor us as coaches, are going to be sitting here on the high horse saying how good we are. We know we have to play and play to the best of our ability.
Is that something you've been staying on them about, avoiding that letdown by reminding them of the Tennessee game?
Elliott: We don't have to. Our team it wasn't just two weeks ago that that happened to us. It's still clear and fresh in their minds to keep us on track. We don't' have to remind them about what potentially could happen.
Mike Davis had some trouble holding on to the football against Missouri. What have you seen from him this week?
Elliott: It's certainly a point of emphasis. Anytime you put the ball on the ground, you have a concern of why it's going on the ground. You know, Mike's a good back. He just needs to hold on to the ball a little bit tighter and firm it up. He's trying to get some extra yards on one of those attempts and we've got to block better for him up front. We can't have him being touched a yard in the backfield before he's got his bearings. We as a team have to do a better job of protecting him off the line of scrimmage and then, of course, he has to do a better job of maintaining possession of the ball.
As far as Mississippi State is concerned, what challenges do they present?
Elliott: They're big and strong and physical up front. They've got a good defense. They're kind of middle-of-the-pack statistically, but there's not a lot of points being put up on them. They're going to come in here and play hard and we'll have to keep our heads on straight. The good thing about it is we'll be playing at home in front of these great fans at South Carolina. That gives us a little momentum going into the game with the early kickoff. We just need to play sound football and eliminate our turnovers and play a solid game.
Are there a couple guys on Mississippi State's defense that you're focused on stopping?
Elliott: I'll say what I've said about a lot of defenses; there's not really a big headline guy, so to speak, for them. They all play really well together. They field-tackle, they gang-tackle, they get themselves to the ball very quickly. There's not one particular player that is above and beyond the rest of them. They're just a good, sound football team.