Well rested, mostly healthy, and presumably with a new signal caller, the South Carolina Gamecocks aim to get back on the winning track and end a three game skid when UMass enters town for a noon matchup this Saturday.
The Minutemen are no strangers to SEC opponents in 2016, so here’s some keys to keep them searching for that upset.
- Start fast. Sic: A 75-yard A.J. Turner touchdown run to get things started. Sounds nice, right? Here’s the truth: UMass has taken on two SEC teams so far this year in Florida and Mississippi St.. Sure, they haven’t gotten the upset, but they’ve certainly gotten close. Entering the fourth quarter against the Gators, the Minuteman were only down three points before losing 24-7, and they went back and forth with the Bulldogs for the better part of 60 minutes, only to lose by one score. Let’s not let ‘em hang around too long in this one. Currently, UMass is reeling, riding a four game losing streak and back-to-back double digit losses to Old Dominion and Louisiana Tech. There’s no need to give them any hope. South Carolina should enter this one looking to pounce early and often and suffocate any chance of an upset.
- Dynamic offensive attack. Maybe I’m just too deep into Steve Spurrier’s recently released book with hopes and dreams of a 500 yard passing game swirling through my brain. Or maybe I, the casual football fan, noticed too much predictability in the Gamecocks’ offensive play calling. Either way, something’s gotta change. It felt like the Gamecocks were insistent on running on every single first down, despite little success against Georgia. Look, I’m not here to criticize offensive coordinator Kurt Roper and the way he goes about his job. He doesn’t have the weapons nor the seasoned QB to do everything he wants on offense. That said, he needs to show a little bit more creativity on certain down and distance situations. If I’m UMass, here’s what I think I know what South Carolina is going to try to accomplish on offense: establish the run on first down and rely on short, easy completions to move the chains. Prove them wrong Kurt. Take some chances down field. Attempt a pass here or there on first down. I don’t know. Just get us out of the statistical offensive basement we currently reside.
- Paging Hayden. The Gamecocks pass catchers, riddled by injuries and inexperience, have been underwhelming thus far for South Carolina’s offense. Except for a few nice catches here and there by freshman Bryan Edwards and Deebo Samuel, the explosiveness just doesn’t exist. It’s not individual’s fault, but rather the collective offensive unit as whole. The one steady in all of this though is tight end Hayden Hurst who is rapidly developing into South Carolina’s surest and most steady pass catcher for the offense. Should true freshman Jake Bentley make his first career start at QB, which all signs point too, he’ll need his saftety blanket, Hurst to be on full display Saturday.
Given South Carolina had managed to reach 20 points in a game just once this season, it seems a little silly they sit at 20 point favorites in this one. However, the UMass defense isn’t the most stout unit they’ll go up against, giving up an average of 470 yards per game. I like the Gamecocks, like we all should. I just don’t think we’ll have any of the questions we still have answered after this one.
South Carolina 27 - UMass 10.