COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The first half of South Carolina's season saw its share of setbacks from Kenny Hill's coming out party against Texas A&M in the season opener to the heartbreaking loss in Kentucky.
Still, Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks are looking to salvage what remains of their season by getting back on the winning track today when they welcome Bruce Fowler and the Furman Paladins to Williams-Brice Stadium.
"Furman's like they always are," Spurrier said. "Their players play extremely hard, don't make many mistakes. They're actually nationally ranked in a lot of defensive categories. So, they're a solid team."
The loss to the Wildcats two weeks ago forced the Gamecocks to make some major adjustments. Among those most notable adjustments was Lorenzo Ward's relocation away from the sidelines and into the coaches' box. Still, Ward's location doesn't change anything the players do on the field defensively. With that in mind, Spurrier is hoping things will get better for his defenders.
"We're going to try and tackle better and (Ward) thinks he can see better up there," Spurrier said. "That's fine, but we've got to get lined up and get our guys flying to the ball and getting off blocks and tackling and get guys down when we hit them. We've practiced that and, hopefully, it will pay off starting Saturday."
But Saturday isn't just a day for Carolina to display their improvement. It could very well be a chance for those who haven't seen much time on the field to show their worth in live competition. Fans could see Connor Mitch or Perry Orth taking snaps against the Paladins at some point Saturday.
"Those players have practiced," Spurrier said. "Gosh, a lot of backup receivers have practiced. Kane Whitehurst, Shamier Jeffery, I don't think they have a catch all year. It's not much fun. When everybody gets to play and everybody gets to contribute a little bit, it's a lot more fun for everybody."
Furman enters today's contest looking to snap a four-game losing streak. Their most recent setback was a 37-31 loss to Coastal Carolina. With the Gamecocks also looking to get back on the winning track in front of a Homecoming crowd, the Paladins will have their work cut out for them.
"Obviously a very good football team in the Southeastern Conference," Paladins head coach Bruce Fowler said. "Dylan Thompson has played in some big games for them before this year. So, he's very capable. Obviously, quarterback is a focal point, but they've got a lot of good players and it'll be a big challenge for us similar to when you play one of the FBS schools."
The Paladins will look to test the Gamecocks' secondary with leading receivers Jordan Snellings and Duncan Fletcher. Combined, the duo accounts for 645 receiving yards. On defense, Furman is led by Cory Magwood with 73 total tackles and Gary Wilkins with nine sacks.
Needless to say, the Paladins will be motivated to spoil South Carolina's homecoming and putting an end to their four-game skid. However, the Gamecocks are hoping to get a few things corrected as they try to avoid another defeat.