COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - With rivalry week just a week away, it would be easy to look past an FCS opponent to prepare for arguably the biggest game of the regular season. However, South Carolina has no plans on making that mistake against Wofford on Senior Day.
The Terriers enter Saturday's contest with a 9-1 record and are currently tied for seventh in the FCS Coaches Poll. Although the Gamecocks have won the last 16 meetings against Wofford dating back to 1918, the Terriers present quite the challenge for the Gamecocks with their triple-option offense.
"They're a very difficult preparation," said Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp. "Obviously, there are some option factors involved in it, but they're very multiple with what they do under center and in the shotgun. They do a really nice job of spreading the field and making you defend the entire field."
Head coach Mike Ayers has seven seniors listed as offensive starters in their depth chart. However, their rushing attack is led by junior fullback Andre Stoddard, junior halfback Lennox McAfee, and sophomore halfback Blake Morgan. Stoddard leads the team with 722 yards and 14 touchdowns on 142 carries. However, the trio of backs has each rushed for more than 500 yards and combined for 26 touchdowns this season.
"There's a lot of movement," Gamecocks linebacker T.J. Brunson said about the Terriers offense. "Just to slow it down, you've got to read your keys and just be sound on your keys and everything.
Because the Wofford offense thrives on their performance in the run game, defenders will have to remain disciplined when it comes to their assignments on defense.
"They create a lot of different motions and things," said Muschamp. "They try to get your eyes in the wrong spot. You have to be very disciplined with your eye control. That takes you to your responsibility. There can't be any 'I thought he had the ball' or 'I thought he pulled the ball.' That's where you get in a lot of trouble, because when they're able to make you defend inside out from a dive to a quarterback with a lead blocker to a pitch, and we have certain assignments, if one guy doesn't do his job, the other guys are executing their responsibilities and that's when you create a big play on defense."
"It's going to be very interesting focusing on their scheme offensive-wise because, with that formation, they have hundreds of plays for that," said Gamecocks defensive lineman Taylor Stallworth. "So, we've got to know every single one so we can better prepare ourselves for the game."
The Wofford run game, however, doesn't just impact the Gamecocks defense. It also puts a premium on Carolina's offensive possessions. The Terriers hold the ball for an average of just over 31 minutes per game.
"Throughout practice, you just stress that we have to execute at a high level," said Gamecocks quarterback Jake Bentley. "You want to do that every game, but in this game in particular, you want to take advantage of when you have the ball and know that you're going to have to move the ball and score points when you have it."
Defensively, Wofford can be a tough nut to crack. The Terriers have only surrendered an average of just under 21 points per game. Ayers' defense is led up front by junior defensive end Miles Brown, who has a team-high three sacks and nine tackles for loss. In the secondary, the Terriers lean on Devin Watson and George Gbesee. Combined, the two corners have seven interceptions this year.
"Coach (Shiel) Wood does an outstanding job," said Muschamp. "(They have) some odd structures. (We) obviously start with some issues there as far as identifying who the hot rusher is, who the core rusher is. They are really good at zone as far as their eyes are concerned, putting them in the right spots and the spacing concerns. They are going to make you earn it at the end of the day. They are going to make you earn everything you get, and that's usually the sign of a pretty good defense."
South Carolina will host Wofford at 4 p.m. on Saturday. The game can be seen on the SEC Network.