The Gamecocks have a chance to show what they are made of this Saturday, and will look to prove they can bounce back from defeat. Louisiana Tech isn’t their toughest opponent, but this particular opponent isn’t really the test they have in front of them. The challenge for Will Muschamp’s squad will be handling adversity and rebounding from a disappointing loss. Coming off their first loss of the season, the Gamecocks need to respond.
South Carolina will host the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in their second home game to the season. No matter the opponent, this young team will need to show an extra bounce in their step. After losing to Kentucky in the home opener, the Gamecocks will look the get back on track this weekend.
A Look at Louisiana Tech
The Bulldogs come in at 2-1, having already lost to an SEC opponent this season. They will bring their high-powered offense to Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday looking for an upset. The Bulldogs are averaging 413 yards and 32 points per game. Jarred Craft and Boston Scott lead the rushing attack, as both players average over five yards per carry. Quarterback J’Mar Smith is throwing for 240 yards per contest, but in only completing 51% of his passes. Louisiana Tech will look to go up-tempo and spread the Gamecocks defense out.
Defensively, the Bulldogs have struggled this season. They are allowing 405 yards and 34 points a game. Some of those numbers may be skewed by the 56-21 loss to Mississippi State, but the defense is still the weakest part of the team. They are led by junior defensive end Jaylon Ferguson. He was named Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week for his two sack performance against Western Kentucky. It was his seventh career game with multiple sacks.
Homecoming of Sorts
Saturday will be a bit of a homecoming for Louisiana Tech’s head coach Skip Holtz. He was the offensive coordinator for his dad, the legendary Lou Holtz, during his tenure at South Carolina. Skip Holtz helped his father lead this program from the doldrums of a 21-game losing streak between the 1998-99 seasons. After a rough first year, the Gamecocks won 33 games between the 2000-04 seasons. You can bet Skip Holtz, and his team, will be highly motivated to perform well in his return to Williams-Brice Stadium.
The Gamecock offense has started slowly the last two ball games. They outscored Missouri 31-3 after falling into an early 10-0 hole. They scored on the first play of the game against Kentucky, but then squandered two Wildcat turnovers that had set them up in good field position. Missing out on these chances to score eventually caught up to the Gamecocks in the 23-13 loss. Quarterback Jake Bentley has been erratic on some early throws, overthrowing some open teammates and just missing some others. With the struggles of the running game and star Deebo Samuel out with an injury, it is important that Bentley start games more efficiently.
Da Doo Run Run Run, Da doo Run Run
The Gamecocks rushing attack has been anemic this season. South Carolina currently sits at 13th in the SEC in rush yards, and 12th in total offense. Rico Dowdle doesn’t seem to have the same bounce as he did as a freshman. The onus cannot all be placed on him though. The run blocking hasn’t been good enough, and the play calling has been an issue as well. Ty’Son Williams had a solid 78-yard performance at Missouri, sandwiched between two games in which he did not have a carry. They need to figure out a rotation for the running backs and become stronger at the line of scrimmage. These issues need to be fixed soon. Playing Louisiana Tech could be a good time to remedy some of the problems they have.
South Carolina’s depth will be tested going forward. Losing Deebo Samuel to a leg injury puts a big hole in their offensive production. While they have a good stockpile of young talent at receiver, those guys are mostly unproven. Freshman Shi Smith, Randrecous Davis, and OrTre Smith will have the opportunity to step into the void left by Samuel. The Gamecocks will also be without their best offensive lineman, as junior Zach Bailey has an ankle sprain and is out for this Saturday’s game.
The Gamecocks need to bounce back from their first defeat. Sure it was only one game, but everything on and off the field seemed to go wrong. They should look to attack the Bulldogs early and get their home crowd going. The defense has been opportunistic, and has forced seven turnovers in three games. Forcing a few mistakes from the Bulldogs early would give this team a much needed boost. Letting this game stay close may begin to weigh on this young team. A hot start, sparking a raucous atmosphere could be just what South Carolina needs heading into a stretch of six consecutive SEC contests.