Notebook: Gamecocks look to rebound

South Carolina failed to capitalize on its opportunity to pay Auburn back for two losses in the 2010 season, including a 56-17 loss in the SEC Championship team. The Gamecocks now must shift their focus to Kentucky, who also defeated the Gamecocks in 2010.

The eighteenth-ranked South Carolina football team is looking to bounce back from a 16-13 upset loss to Auburn last week when they take on the Kentucky Wildcats Saturday afternoon. Last season the Wildcats overcome a 28-10 halftime deficit to upset the tenth-ranked Gamecocks, 31-28 in the final minutes.

"Kentucky is a team that beat us last year," South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said in his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon. "In fact, they beat us very similarly to the game we lost last week, very similarly. They scored on their last play when they had it. And we had sort of a defensive error there, and we sort of got in field goal range but something happened each time and we didn't attempt either time. But anyway, that's just similarities of losing three-point games."

Last season the Gamecocks got back into field goal range against Kentucky before quarterback Stephen Garcia threw an interception in the end zone to end the game.

This year's Kentucky offense is nowhere near what they were a season ago. Mike Hartline, who threw for a career-high 349 yards and four touchdown last season is gone, as is their go-to guy from 2010 Randall Cobb. Cobb caught eight passes for 63 yards and the game-winning touchdown last season, as well as running for the two-point conversion to extend the lead to three points.

"they've lost Randall Cobb and Mike Hartline, their quarterback, so they've struggled a bit on offense," Spurrier said.

To say Kentucky has struggled a bit is an understatement. The Wildcats are last in the conference and 113th in the country in scoring offense (15), eleventh in the conference and 96th in the country in rush offense (116 per game), and eleventh in the conference and eleventh in the conference and 113th in the country in pass offense (139 per game). Only Tennessee is averaging less rushing yards and Vanderbilt less passing yards per game than Kentucky.

Defensive coordinator Rick Minter, who spent the 2004 season under Lou Holtz at Carolina, is in his first season at Kentucky and the Wildcats have struggled. The defense is tied with Ole Miss for tenth in the conference in points given up (24.6), eleventh in rushing defense (199 per game), but are fifth in pass defense (164 per game).

"Their defensive coordinator (Rick) Minter was here at South Carolina and they've got a lot of stuff, they blitz from everywhere, zone blitzes, man blitzes, they've got a lot of defense which is unusual for Kentucky," Spurrier said. "They used to only have about two or three defenses and you sort of knew where they were. But these guys are all over the place. LSU, I think, had 14 at halftime, but they didn't really go up and down the field against Kentucky's defense last week at all."

Spurrier announced Monday night that Connor Shaw will be the starter this week at quarterback, the second start of his career to try and get an offense going that appeared promising before the season but has been a middle of the pack offense all season.

"I know our offense looks pretty sorry," Spurrier said. "We're still 7th in the conference in offense like we were at the end of last year. We've moved up to 6th in defense but we're obviously not really peaking as well as we had hoped. But again, we feel like Connor deserves a shot and see if he can perform at a higher level and get our offense going a bit. So that's where we are on offense"

As has been the case for Garcia the last year and a half, Shaw won't be expected to win the game for the Gamecocks. He just doesn't need to cost Carolina the game. He needs to manage the game, keep the Wildcats from stacking the box, and give the ball to Marcus Lattimore.

"We're just going to go give him a chance to go play the game, make good decisions," Spurrier said. "He doesn't have to try to win the game for us. We've got a good defense. Connor needs to just take care of the ball, make smart decisions, throw it to our guys, take off running every now and then, hand it off, and we think he's capable. He hasn't played a lot yet, so he needs to feel his way as he goes probably, but he's going to get a chance to go play."

Injury notes

Senior offensive tackle Kyle Nunn missed last week's game against Auburn due to a back injury. Spurrier said he is still nursing the bad back and is doubtful to play this week, meaning Mike Matulis or Cody Gibson will get another chance to play against Kentucky.

"As far as offensive linemen, probably Mike Matulis and Cody Gibson, they may rotate around at one of the tackle spots, so we're really probably not going to have many changes much up front," Spurrier said.

Perhaps a bigger loss this week could be the loss of defensive lineman Melvin Ingram. Ingram, he played through a foot injury he suffered during the Auburn game, has been in a walking boot and may not practice at all this week.

"He may not play," Spurrier said. "Melvin sprained his foot, not the one he had surgery on, which is good, and there's a chance he may not be able to play this week. I talked to him yesterday and he hurt it I guess in the fourth quarter there but he was in the game on the last play, I mean, he hit the quarterback right after he threw it on their last play of the game. So, he was running full speed at that time."

Ingram has been everything to the Gamecock defense. After recording 3.5 sacks against Auburn, Ingram is now tied for second in the nation with 5.5 sacks. Only Colorado Stat's Nordly Capi has more (8). He's also recovered two fumbles, intercepted two passes, scored two defensive touchdowns, and has a special teams touchdown.

"He thinks he can play, now whether or not the trainers and doctors clear him, we'll just have to wait and see," Spurrier said. "But he's got his foot in one of those boots right now, so he's definitely not going to practice this week."

Overcoming adversity

Ever since the final seconds ran off the clock in Saturday's loss the criticism has rained down on the Gamecock football team. Following all three of the regular season losses last season, Carolina bounced back with wins. It upset #1 Alabama 35-21 following a loss to Auburn, defeated Vanderbilt 21-7 following the loss to Kentucky, and beat down Florida in the Swamp, 36-14, following its loss to Arkansas.

"Well, we hope we handle it well We think we will," Spurrier said. "And again, like I told our guys the other day if we had a chance to lose to Auburn or Georgia, we're better off losing in Auburn, in close games, both of them could have gone either way. But we've got our division opponent coming up this week, a team that beat us last year. After this game last year, we had two losses, hopefully we'll still only have one, hopefully. So we're not in bad shape. We didn't think we were going to go undefeated. We thought we had a good chance to beat Auburn but it didn't work out, it just did not work out. So, we're regrouping and we're trying to get smarter as coaches, trying to help our guys, put them in position, let them play."

Gamecock Anthem Top Stories