Gamecocks gear up for tough battle at Texas A&M - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Gamecocks gear up for tough battle at Texas A&M

South Carolina's Jake Bentley is seen during the Louisiana Tech game on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017 in Columbia, S.C. (Travis Bell/SIDELINE CAROLINA) South Carolina's Jake Bentley is seen during the Louisiana Tech game on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017 in Columbia, S.C. (Travis Bell/SIDELINE CAROLINA)
COLLEGE STATION, TX (WIS) -

South Carolina and Texas A&M have battled as SEC foes for the last three years.

But the Gamecocks have not won a contest against Kevin Sumlin and the Aggies since the rivalry began. That’s something USC head coach Will Muschamp and his players are hoping to change on Saturday as they seek their fourth win.

“It’s a big road game for us,” said Gamecocks tight end Hayden Hurst. “Any game for us in the SEC is huge. Having the chance to go 4-1 would be big for us moving forward. We’re going to give them hell.”

Following a massive collapse against UCLA to open the season, the Aggies are now owners of a three-game winning streak. In those wins, Texas A&M has averaged just under 40 points per game. Finding a way to slow down this high-octane offense will be critical for Carolina if they hope to move to 4-1 on the season.

“They’ve got a lot of perimeter guys that can make a lot of explosive plays,” said Gamecocks senior linebacker Skai Moore. “So, we’ve just got to contain them and limit those explosives.”

The Aggies offense is led by Kellen Mond. The Aggies freshman dual-threat quarterback has rushed for 157 yards and a score and he’s thrown for 649 yards and six touchdowns. Mond will several weapons around him including tailbacks Trayveon Williams and Keith Ford. Combined, the two running backs have amassed 560 yards rushing and nine touchdowns for Texas A&M. Their ability to make plays is something the Gamecocks aren’t taking lightly.

“The two backs they’ve got are big-time runners, guys that are going to create space,” said Muschamp. “They’ll get in one-on-one matchups, and you don’t want to have to tackle in space and get both of these guys on the ground. They can take the ball anywhere. They run the inside zone extremely well. They can bounce all the way to the backside. They do a fantastic job with both (Keith) Ford and (Trayveon) Williams.”

The Aggies also have junior wide receiver Christian Kirk. The Aggies’ leading receiver has 19 catches for 251 yards and four touchdowns this year and is as big a threat as his teammates in the backfield. He’s also recorded a touchdown as a kick returner.

“Christian Kirk is as good of a player as there is in college football as far as a returner and receiver,” said Muschamp. “They are very deep and athletic on their offensive line. They’ve got a deep receiving corps. They’re young, but they’re talented.”

Defensively, the Aggies haven’t exactly stifled their opposition. In four games, Texas A&M has allowed an average of just over 30 points per game. However, Carolina will need to find ways to capitalize on their trips to the red zone. USC has four red-zone touchdowns in nine chances. Knowing that, execution inside the 20 will be key for the Gamecocks.

“We always talk about in the red zone being needy, not greedy,” said Gamecocks sophomore quarterback Jake Bentley. “So, you want to have points. You don’t want to get too greedy to make a bad decision and turn the ball over and not get points. It gets a little harder down there, but we’ve got to be better.”

South Carolina will face Texas A&M Saturday at Kyle Field at 7:30 p.m. The game can be seen on the SEC Network. 

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