Gamecocks Continue Preparations for Kentucky

The Gamecocks continued preparations Wednesday for Saturday night's contest with the Kentucky Wildcats in Lexington, KY at 6:00 P.M. on ESPN2. Offensive line coach Shawn Elliott, running back coach Jay Graham, and several players met with the media following practice.

The South Carolina football team continued it's preparations for Saturday night's SEC Eastern Division match-up with the Kentucky Wildcats in Lexington, KY. The Gamecocks, coming off a historic 35-21 victory over #1 Alabama, must put that behind them for a key game with the Wildcats.

"I hope so," offensive line coach Shawn Elliott said. "That's the only thing that's going to get us through Kentucky this week is focusing on them and working hard to get better. It's hard not to just put it behind you, but I think they've done a good job. They're focused."

Though Kentucky, 3-3 (0-3), doesn't seem like a big challenge with the Gamecocks winning the last 10 games in the series, it's been anything but easy. seven of the 10 wins have been by seven points or less, including the last trip the Lexington. It took a Captain Munnerlyn 81-yard touchdown on a blocked field goal and another 84-yard kickoff return to set up another score in a 24-17 Gamecock win. The Gamecocks scored 10 points in the fourth quarter for the come-from-behind victory, finalized by a 7-yard touchdown pass from Stephen Garcia to Weslye Saunders.

"They're a solid team," Gamecock receiver Ace Sanders said. "We can't look past them. They came close to beating Auburn and a lot of of big SEC schools so we've got to take them serious."

The Gamecocks played about as well as anyone could have hoped for in the victory over Alabama. Some say they played over heads, some say they just showed what they are capable of doing. Elliott falls in line with the latter.

"I thought, as a team, it was the first time we put everything together," Elliott said. "Offense, defense, special teams were great."

The Gamecock offensive line was the focus of attention after the game, and for good reason. They paved the way for 110 rushing yards, which included a 7-yard loss on a reverse to Sanders and a 15-yard loss on the bad snap that resulted in a safety to open the second half. Elliott did his best to downplay the effort of the offensive line.

"We played pretty good as an offense," Elliott said. "The offensive line played average. It wasn't an outstanding effort by them. They played pretty good, but there was so much we've got to work on. It was more about our team playing as one than any particular group playing well."

Elliott did point out one surprising fact that you'll rarely hear an offensive line coach say after going up against the Alabama defense.

"The one thing that was really key for us - no missed assignments," Elliott said. "No blind-side sacks, no things of that nature happened to us Saturday. We were all pretty sound and that's a big deal."

That certainly is a big deal after playing against a Nick Saban-coached defense. Saban's defensive schemes relies on confusion up front by blitzes and stunts, but other than a few missed blocks, Elliott felt his line did well with their assignments.

One of the biggest surprises of the game against Alabama was the ability to run it straight at the Tide inside the 5-yard line. The Gamecocks scored two touchdowns - including the game-clinching touchdown in the fourth - by just running it up the gut.

"Speaking for the offensive line, we take great pride when it gets within the 10-yard line," Elliott said. "That's our territory. That's when we want to make a difference. That's when people are focusing on what you're doing and how we're getting that ball in (to the end zone). We want to run the ball in. That's exactly what we want to do."

That is something the Gamecocks have rarely been able to do in the past, which was noted by Elliott. In last season's 20-6 loss to the Tide, the Gamecocks attempted three straight fades to Alshon Jeffery inside the 5-yard line. Elliott appeared offended about that even though he wasn't even on the coaching staff.

"I've seen a lot of times - and I'm not talking about past years - but last year when we've been on the 3-yard line we've been throwing that fade," Elliott said. "I take pride in ourselves to get it in from that point. "

The beneficiary of the offensive line's ability to open up holes inside the 5-yard line is freshman running back Marcus Lattimore. Of Lattimore's eight touchdown runs only one has come from outside the 4-yard line, a 7-yard touchdown run in the season-opener against Southern Miss.

Lattimore 93-yard, 2 touchdown performance against Alabama was good enough to be added to the 2010 Maxwell Award list, along with teammate Alshon Jeffery.

"That's good for him," running back coach Jay Graham said. "He's done well in some big games. That's the first I've heard about it but that's an honor for him. The most important thing for us is the next game. We've got to go up there and play a tough Kentucky team."

Lattimore, who's averaging 92 yards rushing per game, has to be excited to go up against a Kentucky defense that ranks dead last in the SEC in rushing and 97th in the country. The Wildcats, who gave up 200 yards rushing to Auburn's Cam Newton last week, is giving up an average of 190 yards per game on the ground.

"It's important for us to establish the run game," Graham said. "No matter what the defense has done, it's how well we run the ball and how well they stop us on that day. That's the most important thing that we need to look at and watch the film and realize some things that we can do and be prepared to do those things on Saturday."

The Gamecocks have also seen the reemergence of Brain Maddox in the last two games to give Lattimore some rest. Maddox only had 42 yards of offense against the Tigers, but he brought a new energy to the team each time he was on the field and electrified the Gamecock sideline by leaping over an Auburn defender on a 23-yard reception. In the Alabama game, Maddox had two nice runs and averaged nearly 6 yards per carry.

"I don't think he reinvented himself or anything," Graham said. "He's just worked hard this summer. Those are things that we always thought Brian could do, and I think he can do more of those things throughout the season. He's shown that he can by physical and break tackles, he can catch well, and he can pass-protect. He's showing that he can do it all at a high level."

The Gamecocks only have one player from the Bluegrass State, wide receiver D.L. Moore. Moore is from Bowling Green, Kentucky, and he says he's looking forward to playing in front of friends and family.

"It's about an hour and thirty minutes (from Lexington)," Moore said. "It won't be a far trip for my family and friends that live in Bowling Green."

Moore said he went to a lot of Kentucky games growing up - mostly basketball - and they were one of his favorite teams. Kentucky recruited Moore out of high school, but Moore decided to attend Carolina and play for Steve Spurrier. Moore says he can't wait to step out on the field at Commonwealth Stadium Saturday night.

"It's one of my little rival games that I made up and I'm looking forward to it." Moore said with a smile.

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