When you're coming off your worst performance and the biggest blowout of the season one week prior to the biggest game in school history, there's cause for concern. That's the position the South Carolina football team is in this week. Prior to Saturday's 41-20 beating at the hands of Arkansas, the Gamecocks hadn't trailed by less than eight points all season. Now the Gamecocks will head down to Gainesville to face the Florida Gators in a winner-take-all match-up in the SEC East.
Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett threw for 303 yards and a touchdown and Knile Davis ran for 110 yards and three touchdowns as the Razorbacks churned out 443 yards of offense, the most the Gamecocks have given up since giving up 492 yards in a 35-27 loss to Auburn. Arkansas dominated all phases of the game as the defense held the Gamecocks to under 300 yards for the first time all season and the Gamecocks special teams failed to convert a fake punt and field goal attempt. That all led head coach Steve Spurrier to do something he has yet to do this year Monday. Coach Spurrier made the entire Gamecock offense sit down and watch the defensive film while the entire Gamecock defense watched the offensive film.
"He (Spurrier) thought about it yesterday and felt like we should watch the last game as a team so the offense can see what the defense did wrong and the defense can see what the offense did wrong and we can hold each other accountable," South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said.
Following the film session, the team did some heavy conditioning and was then dismissed without practicing.
"We're going to start on Florida tomorrow," linebacker Tony Straughter said. "Today was more of a correction day and getting your feet back under you and be ready for a real tough game Saturday."
Mallett torched the Gamecock secondary, completing 21-of-30 passes. The more pressure the Gamecock defense put on Mallett the more open the receivers were. The Gamecock defenders gave the Razorbacks a huge cushion, then failed to make the tackles when they had a chance.
"Coach Spurrier talked about it," Ward said. "He talked about how the Arkansas guys tackled and talked about how poorly we tackled. We're supposed to address it tomorrow in practice - we're going to have some one-on-one with the receivers and do some fundamentals."
"It was a lack of focus," Spur Antonio Allen said. "We're going to be more focused this week, I guarantee it."
The Gamecock defense will have to be much more focused to defeat the Gators. Not only will they have to worry about the arm of John Brantley, but also receiver Trey Burton lining up in the ‘wildcat' formation. Burton has rushed for 278 yards and 10 touchdowns, while Brantley has thrown for 1,616 yards and eight touchdowns.
If that weren't enough for the Gamecocks to worry about, the Gators have recently introduced "Tebow Jr." in 6'3, 240 pound Jordan Reed. Reed, a high school quarterback who has played tight end, moved over to play some at quarterback. Reed has completed 11-of-19 passes for 120 yards and a touchdown, while also running the ball 21 times for 103 yards and two touchdowns.
Brantley, Burton, and Reed will all be on the field at the same time with one behind center, and will often shift so that one of the other two is behind center just before the ball is snapped. It's all part of Urban Meyer's attempt to confuse the defense.
"You've got to have proper vision," defensive line coach Brad Lawing said. "You've got to have your eyes in the right place, especially the second level players and the (defensive) ends. If they've got their eyes in the right place they've got a chance to make plays and stop them. If they have poor eye discipline they can be in trouble."
With all that to prepare for - and that's just on defense - some will question why the Gamecocks seeming threw away a day of preparation.
"There's a lot of teams I've worked for in the past that later you go into the season they took Monday's off," Ward said. "We play really like an NFL schedule - there's a potential for us to play five more ball games. Then you're looking at 14 games in a season and a month to prepare prior to the season. The more time you can take off to get fresher the better."
That means the Gamecocks will have to work even harder the rest of the week in order to be prepared for the Gators.
"I feel like everybody is going to work 10x harder this week," Straughter said. "Even Coach Fitz (Fitzgerald) had the music blasting when we came in to lift weights this morning."
Now the Gamecocks must put that loss behind them and look forward to the Florida game Saturday night, a game that will decide who will go to Atlanta in December to play for an SEC Championship.
"We have to forget about it and bounce back this week," Allen said. "This game is for the Eastern Division and we've just got to be ready if we want to do something that's never happened here."
That has been a goal that the Gamecocks set prior to the season. After seeing the baseball team win the National Championship, the football team has their sights firmly planted on Atlanta.
"Before I committed here, Coach Spurrier told me we have a chance," senior defensive end Cliff Matthews said. "Four years is enough time for us to be where we want to be."
C.C. Whitlock did not participate in conditioning tonight and has not been released yet.
Chaz Sutton may be released to practice tomorrow and play this weekend. Coach Lawing said it depends on whether or not doctors have to put the ‘club' on his injured wrist. If they have to put the ‘club' on then Sutton will not play.
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