After a tough loss against Missouri, Coach Spurrier wasn’t pulling any punches. “Last week is history; disappointing how it ended, but that’s what happened.” Spurrier was reticent to place the blame on any one player or group.
The Carolina defense, led by senior defensive tackle J.T. Surratt, held the Missouri Tigers to 280 total yards, and contained Maty Mauk for most of the night. The real story was the inability of the Carolina offense to put together a solid drive.
“It was a tough game to call plays,” the HBC said in his press conference, held at Williams-Brice Stadium on Tuesday.
Looking at the stats, though, it becomes much more difficult to understand why the Cocks couldn’t put the game away. In facing a very similar team this Saturday in Lexington, drawing comparisons from the Missouri game could prepare fans for what kind of game this could be.
So, in preparation for Saturday’s game against Kentucky, we’ve broken down some of the key areas of interest for both teams.
Recruiting: The last two years, Kentucky has had its highest ranked recruiting classes ever, landing at No. 21 in the nation, according to Scout.com. South Carolina finished No.24 last year, as well as 24th the year before.
Defense: Kentucky hired Mark Stoops 2 years ago, and it seems to have paid off. So far, the Wildcats have not allowed an offensive touchdown in the first half of any game this year. In addition, the Kentucky defense ranks 19th in the nation for interceptions (6), 23rd in the nation for passing defense (186.0 yards/game), and 7th in the SEC for rushing defense (137 yards/game). In contrast, Carolina’s offense is averaging 421.6 yards/game, which is 11th in the SEC. Be on the look-out for the Gamecocks to really protect the ball and negate the Kentucky pass-rush, especially from “Bud” Dupree.
Offense: Kentucky returned 4 starters from last year’s offensive line. This experienced core has allowed the Wildcats to rush for an average of 182.5 yards/game, and pass for 290.5 yards/game. Look for the Gamecocks defensive backs to be challenged by the Kentucky receivers. Though missing Dorian Baker due to suspension, the Kentucky receivers are fast and athletic. Look for them to try and get the young South Carolina corners on an island and make explosive plays.
Quarterback: Although Dylan Thompson has dropped two games as the leader of the Carolina offense, he is still having a quietly stellar season. He ranks 13th in the nation in passing yards with a 143.4 passing efficiency rating. Kentucky’s starting play-caller, Patrick Towles, has thrown for 1,117 yards this season, but with only 6 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.
Defensive Line: Kentucky’s defensive line looks very similar to Missouri’s, and that’s not good for Carolina. Last week, the Gamecocks allowed Dylan Thompson to be sacked 4 times, twice by powerful pass rushing end Shane Ray. Kentucky has their own powerful pass rusher, Alvin “Bud” Dupree, who is only 1.5 sacks away from becoming the school’s 2nd All-Time Sack leader. The Gamecocks, meanwhile, are still struggling to effectively rush the passer. Gerald Dixon leads the Carolina line with 2 sacks, but the total 6 on the year leaves Carolina as the 110th nationally ranked team in the category.
The game is at 7:30pm, EST, from Commonwealth Stadium, Kentucky, on SEC Network.
Take a look at some of the highlights from Spurrier's opening statement on Tuesday.