Triple-option offense provides challenge

If there is one thing that appears to drives South Carolina assistant head coach-defense Ellis Johnson crazy, it is being forced to prepare for a wishbone, triple-option attack. That will be the case Saturday. The Gamecocks, with a successful Southeastern Conference campaign in the rear-view mirror, have only two games remaining against Palmetto State teams remaining in the regular season.

The Citadel Bulldogs come to Williams-Brice Stadium one week prior to the encounter everyone in South Carolina can't wait to see when the Clemson Tigers come to town. Before taking on its highly ranked rivals, Carolina must figure out a way to stop the ground attack that has given it problems in the past.

Luckily for Johnson and his unit, the Gamecocks have had experience against the triple option this season after defeating Navy earlier in the campaign. Despite entering the contest with a 4-6 record, the Bulldogs average 291 rushing yards per game. USC will hope to draw on its experience against the Midshipmen, who it managed to shut down in the second half after struggling during the initial two quarters.

"I certainly hope they don't run it as effectively as Navy did it, but we'll have to wait and find out," said USC coach Steve Spurrier. "We do have some experience playing against the triple option, which I guess is what Georgia Tech does. Hopefully we'll be ready to play."

Ranked 14th nationally, USC enters the game on a high as its 17-12 win over Florida wrapped up a 6-2 record against SEC competition and a perfect 5-0 mark against East Division competition, the first time the Gamecocks have earned that accomplishment. That meant a lot to Spurrier, who may be in the midst of his best coaching job since taking over the program.

"A lot of people thought I was very happy (Saturday)," said Spurrier. "I was very happy to be 8-2 and win six conference games. I was happy to beat Florida, not because it was my old school, but because Florida has been one of the elite, or one of the best programs in America over the last 10, 15, 20 years, or whatever.

"Between 2000 and 2009, they've won more game than any other Division I school in the country. Everyone gets a thrill out of beating Florida. Some people thought the Gamecocks were happy to beat Florida. You should have watched the Georgia Bulldogs when they beat Florida. That was a happy group right there now. I don't think we were quite as happy as they were, but we were pretty close."


--Junior WR Alshon Jeffery (172 receptions for 2,784 yards) broke Kenny McKinley's school record of 2,781 receiving yards in last week's win over Florida. He ranks second behind McKinley in career receptions (207). He needs three touchdown catches to tie Sidney Rice on the school's all-time list at 23. He got a little emotional following Saturday's game when talking about the now deceased McKinley.

"I hung out with him a couple times," Jeffery said of McKinley. "He told me I was going to break his record one day."

--Sophomore QB Connor Shaw is 5-1 as a starter this season, with victories over East Carolina, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Florida, and a loss at Arkansas. He became just the third Gamecock quarterback since 1971 to start his career with four straight wins, joining Steve Taneyhill (1992) and Chris Smelley (2007). Shaw has led his team to an 8-2 record and a No. 14 national ranking, but he's the low man on the family totem pole. Connor's dad, Lee, has coached Flowery Branch (Ga.) High School to a 10-1 mark, while brother, Jaybo, has quarterbacked Georgia Southern to a 9-1 record and a top-5 ranking in the FCS. The trio has a combined record of 27-2 this season.

--South Carolina is 6-0 against SEC East rivals Tennessee, Georgia and Florida over the last two seasons. The team has won 11 of its last 12 games against East Division competition.

--South Carolina has won nine of its last 10 games against The Citadel.

SERIES HISTORY: USC leads 37-9-3 (last meeting, 1990, 38-35, The Citadel).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Gamecocks have had little success passing the football in recent games, but they have managed to continue to pick up big yardage on the ground despite the loss of All-America TB Marcus Lattimore. Freshman Brandon Wilds has picked up more than 100 rushing yards in two of the three games he has started since taking over the starting position. Even more impressive has been the ability of QB Connor Shaw to pick up yards on the ground. He rushed for 88 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries and is third on the team in rushing with 286 yards and five touchdowns. USC coach Steve Spurrier credits much of his team's success on the ground to Tennessee and Florida opting to run two-deep zones in an attempt to stop All-America WR Alshon Jeffery. While Shaw appears more comfortable as Carolina's starting quarterback, he still must find a way to get the job done through the air.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Following a disappointing outing against Arkansas, the unit returned in a big way against Florida, holding the Gators to 261 yards of total offense. The Gamecocks limited Florida to one touchdown and consistently applied pressure to QB John Brantley, sacking him three times. The team recorded 11 tackles for loss and limited the Gators to 119 passing yards, completing 13-of-23 attempts. Carolina will have a different task this week as it faces The Citadel, an in-state NCAA FCS team that runs the triple option out of the wishbone set. The Bulldogs average 291 rushing yards per game. USC should be helped by the fact it has already gone against probably the best triple-option attack in the country in Navy. After struggling during the first half against the Midshipmen, it was solid during the second half.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It is not where we want to be. We want to be (the SEC champions) soon. That's where we want to be. But there is still work to do. Anytime you beat Florida, you are going to be happy. If you thought we were happy, you should have seen Georgia when they beat them. Florida is a team that has won two national championships recently. It's kind of funny, though, last year's team probably had better (offensive) statistics, but this team has won more games." -- South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier


THIS WEEK'S GAME: The Citadel at South Carolina, Nov. 19 -- This is the first meeting between the in-state schools since 1990, when the Bulldogs claimed a 38-35 win over Carolina. The Gamecocks had dominated the series prior to that, winning nine straight. The Citadel enters with a 4-6 record in FCS play, so it appears to be a game the Gamecocks should win easily if they refrain from looking ahead to its regular-season finale against in-state rival Clemson.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Remain in lanes. The Citadel attempts to lull you to sleep with its triple-option attack. If each player doesn't stick to his assignment, it is an attack that can hit you with big plays. The Bulldogs are averaging 291 rushing yards per game, so they have done that a lot. Offensively, the Gamecocks will attempt to fix what has been ailing their non-existent passing attack.


QB Connor Shaw -- The sophomore has played courageously since taking over as the Gamecocks' starter. The team is 4-1 with him at the helm. More than through the air, however, he has done it with his legs, as he USC's third leading rusher. That has come with a price, however, as he suffered a late-game concussion against Arkansas and briefly missed playing time against Florida following a big hit on a rushing attempt. He will try to prove he can move Carolina through the air this week against The Citadel.

WR Alshon Jeffery -- Although he holds virtually every receiving record in South Carolina history, through no fault of his own, this has been his least productive season. He enters Saturday's game with 38 catches for 504 yards and five touchdowns despite facing gimmick defenses virtually every week. Needing three receiving touchdowns to tie Sidney Rice for most career scores, this could be Jeffery's breakout week.

DT Travian Robertson -- The fifth-year senior does not get the attention of some of his teammates on the defensive line. He has had a solid campaign and served as a team leader. He is coming off a four-tackle performance, including two for loss and a game-ending sack that earned him Southeastern Conference Defensive Lineman of the Week honors.


--FS D. J. Swearinger (foot stress fracture) was injured against Arkansas, but remained in the game. He played the entire way against Florida as well, saying his foot does not hurt that much. His performance appears to back his claim, as he made several key tackles in the contest.

--SS DeVonte Holloman (concussion) missed the Florida game after suffering a concussion late against Arkansas. He is expected to return to his starting position against The Citadel.

--CB Victor Hampton played only on special teams last week, but he is expected to return to corner against The Citadel.

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