For one last time this year, the South Carolina Gamecocks will take to the field at the friendly confines of Williams-Brice Stadium. For 21 seniors, it will be the last time they’ll see game action on their home field.
“They have been great,” said Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp. “Anytime you go through a transition, having been through this before, at times you feel a little push back. ‘This isn’t how we’ve always done it.’ That kind of mentality, and we didn’t have a lot of that. A lot of these guys were very open to change. I always say change is inevitable but life growth is optional and these guys have decided to grow with us. Perry Orth is about the greatest example of guys (where) maybe their senior year didn’t know exactly how they wanted to do or how they planned for it to go, but there hasn’t been any (divisiveness) in the locker room and things that didn’t want to be a part of what we are trying to do. It is very positive and very supportive, and that’s credited to the type of men we have in the locker room too. I’m just very appreciative of these guys.”
The Gamecocks aren’t just looking to give the seniors one final win at Williams-Brice. They’re looking to become bowl eligible with a win over Western Carolina.
“That’s huge,” said Gamecocks senior offensive lineman Mason Zandi when asked about possibly becoming bowl eligible. “Not going to one? Man, that’s for the birds. I’m not watching bowl games at my house.”
The Catamounts are currently 2-8 on the year. However, USC has no intentions of taking WCU lightly. In fact, their reminder not to do so can be found in last year’s loss to The Citadel.
“It drives me nuts,” said Zandi. “I wasn’t able to play in that game, but it drives me nuts and it definitely creates a sense of urgency to tell the young guys what you watch on film, they’re going to play [two times] better than that because, when every FCS team plays a Division I team, they want to beat you. That’s what I’m stressing to the guys.”
The Catamounts allow an average of 35 points per game to opponents. In fact, USC running backs could be in for good performances as well as WCU gives up an average of nearly 300 yards rushing on the ground. With temperatures expected to drop, the Gamecocks could lean on Rico Dowdle and company a lot more.
“I think you do what you’ve got to do to win games,” Muschamp said. “Obviously, if you’re in a situation where you’re in a mud bowl, you probably need have someone to be able to run the ball. I do think that when it’s just lightly wet, the advantage for the offense is to throw the ball from the standpoint of they know where they’re going and defense is reacting off cuts to receivers and that’s very difficult as a defensive coach and player. I think you can do what you do.”
The Gamecocks come into Saturday’s game 3-1 with Jake Bentley as a starter. The freshman quarterback suffered his first loss in his first road game against Florida last week. However, USC believes he’ll be ready to bounce back this weekend.
“Any time you can get reps in an environment like that, it’s going to help you,” Muschamp said. “Jake did some really good things Saturday. When you get that experience under the belt, the game continues to slow down for you and you will continue to play well.”
South Carolina hosts Western Carolina at 4 p.m. on Saturday. The game can be seen on SEC Network Alternate.
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