Well, we’re back to reality. While a 2-0 start to the year would’ve been a remarkable feat, we may have just gotten a bit ahead of ourselves. Let’s be honest though, maybe a loss to Mississippi St. is a blessing in disguise. Maybe it’s a good thing the Gamecocks aren’t coming into Williams-Brice all high and mighty when the Pirates come down.
The obvious improvements and adjustments are as follows: better tackling from the defense, a more imposing offensive line and a quick offensive start.
With that in mind, here’s what’s necessary for South Carolina to welcome Will Muschamp to is new home with a win.
Three Keys to the Game:
- Win the possession battle. A tactic most teams head into a game trying to achieve, this may be the most important thing the South Carolina offense can accomplish Saturday, and it would be a huge favor to it’s defense. Opponents are 0-2 in slowing down East Carolina QB Philip Nelson so far this season. The easiest way to hinder his production you ask? Keep him on the sideline. This may be easier said than done given the Gamecocks recent inept rushing attack, but you can only go up from the Mississippi St. stat line of 34 yards on 31 carries. At least, one would hope. This goal may be decided in which quarterback Muschamp trots out there first and which one gets the most snaps. Strategy says start McIlwain, hope for a few positive plays early, and go from there. Conventional wisdom may tell him to play it a little closer to his chest and start the veteran Orth. Either way, a rushing game needs to exist and first downs need to be had. Nothing from the first two games suggests South Carolina can win a shootout, so why even try?
- Prevent 30. Less of a key and more a statistic, but East Carolina is 29-5 in the last 34 games that they’ve put up over 30 points. While their offense hasn’t showed much of any signs of slowing down, if South Carolina can bend, not break, and trade field goals for touchdowns, they should find themselves in a position to eek this one out in the fourth. If they give up big plays for touchdowns and let Nelson pick the secondary apart, this one could get blown wide open. We’re all expecting a better performance out of the Gamecocks defense after being questioned by coaches all week, but they’ll have to earn it Saturday.
- Wreak havoc in the Pirates’ backfield. I feel like there hasn’t been much focus on the Gamecocks defensive line performance through two games. I’m not sure if that’s because we’re all tired of pleading for improvement and just waiting for results or what. But, I’m thinking there’s a reason the opposing quarterback is coming into the game with a better than 80% completion percentage. He hasn’t felt much pressure from either Western Carolina or NC State. Should guys like Marquavius Lewis and Darius English impose their will on the ends and hurry Nelson into some errant throws and a couple sacks, it might be just enough to rattle the gunslinger. If anything, we can’t let him sit back their had have his way all game.
South Carolina has dropped back-to-back home openers. With a four-star and five-star prospect in the bleachers Saturday afternoon, snapping the streak might be more than just a positive for the rest of 2016. After a fiery week of practice coming off the loss, I’m expecting improvement in the obvious issues.
South Carolina 24 - 21 East Carolina