Sunday is usually a day off for South Carolina players, but not this week after a 31-28 home loss to Ole Miss knocked the Gamecocks out of the national top 25.
"On something like that it's best to look at the film, get them in here, visit with them, bury it and start getting ready for next week," South Carolina coach Lou Holtz said. "It's just a changeup sometimes."
Perhaps Holtz is also trying to change a bad habit the Gamecocks developed the past two seasons. South Carolina was 4-2 at this point in each of the past two seasons before finishing 5-7 both times.
Now, with a 4-2 overall record, 2-2 in the SEC, the Gamecocks have to avoid the same second-half collapse or risk missing out on a bowl for the third consecutive season.
South Carolina's quest for a bowl continues this week with a winnable road game at Kentucky but the journey won't get any easier the rest of the way with games against Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida and Clemson.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: South Carolina is second in the SEC in percentage of rushing plays executed, at 66.91 percent (273 of 408). The Gamecocks are at their best when they are running effectively, but they've been inconsistent at times this season in the running game, due partly to RB Demetris Summer's nagging ankle sprain. Sophomore QB Syvelle Newton has emerged as a big-play threat for the Gamecocks, especially when he's throwing to WR Troy Williamson, but senior QB Dondrial Pinkins will likely return to the starting lineup this week from a shoulder injury because he makes better decisions.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: South Carolina ranks second in the SEC in scoring defense (11.7 points per game) and leads the SEC in least amount of passing TDs allowed (3), due in large part because the Gamecocks lead the SEC in another important defensive stat with 16 takeaways in six games. Then again, the Gamecocks clamped down on Ole Miss after deficits of 14-0 and 21-14 and helped the offense take a late lead before faltering down the stretch and letting the Rebels drive for the winning score in the final minute.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's got to get in the game, he's got to stay in the game, he's got to run the ball." -- South Carolina coach Lou Holtz on RB Demetris Summers.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: South Carolina at Kentucky, Oct. 16 -- Was last week's 31-28 home loss to Ole Miss a one-game aberration or a sign of things to come for the Gamecocks? The opened up with four quick wins in each of the past two seasons only to fade down the stretch and finish 5-7 both times. This Kentucky game should help them get back on track with a win, but they still must face Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida and Clemson.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: QBs Dondrial Pinkins and Syvelle Newton -- Pinkins is the veteran who has coach Lou Holtz's confidence and will most likely return to the starting role as soon as he's healthy. But it's hard to ignore the fact that Newton is second in the SEC in pass efficiency or that he's ninth in the SEC in total offense, averaging 153.33 yards per game in a part-time role with his combination of running and passing.
WR Troy Williamson -- He's emerged as the SEC's most dangerous big-play threat, leading the conference with 103 receiving yards per game. With 23 catches for 619 yards this season, he's averaging 26.9 yards per catch and three of his five TD catches have gone for more than 50 yards.
ROSTER REPORT: QB Dondrial Pinkins missed the Ole Miss game and part of the Alabama game the week before with a bruised right rotator cuff and remains a question mark for this week's game at Kentucky. Sophomore Syvelle Newton has played well in his place and could continue to share the job when Pinkins returns. "We'll have to see when Dondrial gets back where we go from here," coach Lou Holtz said. ... C John Strickland (ankle) and backup WR Travis Lee (broken finger) are day to day headed into the Kentucky game, but LB Lance Laury (knee) should be available.