Five Keys To Victory Against UGA
I. Protect Blake Mitchell
While quarterback Blake Mitchell has seen it all throughout his up-and-down career at South Carolina, one thing that has remained true is he plays much better when given time in the pocket. When comfortable, Mitchell plays like a premier quarterback in the league, and at times looks like one of the elite signal-callers Spurrier tutored during his Florida run. When pressured and with a hand in his face, however, Mitchell regresses, doesn't go through his reads, and makes bad decisions.
The Gamecocks need the cool and collected Mitchell to show up Saturday and for their young offensive line to play well. With James Thompson still suspended, converted defensive lineman Lemuel Jeanpierre, who struggled in the opener, will make his second start at right guard and will need to come up big against the athletic Georgia defenders.
The Georgia defense tallied five sacks against Oklahoma State. A repeat performance would spell big trouble for the Gamecock offense.
II. Contain Moreno, Brown
With Kregg Lumpkin out with injury, the backfield tandem of Knowshon Moreno and Thomas Brown will get most of the carries Saturday. Moreno and Brown combined for 259 all-purpose yards in their opening contest and will be a huge part of the Georgia offense and kickoff-return team. While Gamecock fans have seen Brown before, Moreno brings a different style to the Georgia backfield. The redshirt freshman out of New Jersey brings more speed and is more explosive than the other UGA backs.
The South Carolina defense, as a whole, will have to tackle better than in the Louisiana-Lafayette game, but there is hope they will do so, as most first games are characterized by sloppy tackling. Also, while the gaudy all-purpose yards the two backs put up look nice, Moreno only averaged 3.5 yards per carry. If the Gamecock defense can keep him around that number, it would be huge for Carolina's chances.
While they will need to stop the running game first, Georgia will also use short passes to get Moreno the ball in space, something the Gamecock defense will need to be aware of throughout the night.
III. Generate the big play
In the 2005 match up in Athens, the Gamecocks were able to stay in the game, due in large part to a late second half interception by Carlos Thomas and an interception returned for a touchdown by Jonathan Joseph. After being blanked at home last year and not forcing any turnovers in week one, it would be huge for the Gamecocks to earn a defensive or special teams touchdown. Now would be the perfect time for the addition of Coach Shane Beamer to pay dividends, as the Gamecocks have not returned a punt or kickoff for touchdown since Chavez Donnings did so against Florida in 2003. Don't be surprised to see freshman speedster Chris Culliver see more action this week in an effort to utilize his speed and break a long play.
As big as the two interceptions were in '05, also as notable were dropped interceptions by the Gamecocks' secondary, which similarly plagued them last year. Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford did not throw down field much last week, but will likely take a few shots this week. For the Gamecocks to have a chance, they need to take advantage of big play opportunities by catching easy interceptions and batting the other balls down rather than up. Missed opportunities like those kept USC from winning close games a year ago.
IV. Wrap Up and Tackle
Tackling may already be mentioned above, but it deserves its own category. Nothing will prevent the Gamecocks from winning quicker than another poor tackling performance. After giving up 252 yards on the ground last week, many believe the South Carolina defense will get dominated by Georgia's explosive running game. The fact is, however, that Georgia's offense is nothing like Louisiana-Lafayette's, and the Ragin' Cajuns success running the zone-read option offense will have no bearing on whether or not Georgia's more conventional I-formation rushing attack will. The Gamecocks will not be near as indecisive as they were last week and won't have to deal with all the misdirection. The return of linebacker Dustin Lindsey from an ACL injury in the spring will give the USC defense a big boost, as he's slated to back up sophomore Rodney Paulk at strongside linebacker. His presence and physical style of play will add size and experience to the front seven to help slow down the run.
V. Get Receivers open downfield
While Kenny McKinley and the tight ends looked good in the season opener, it would be huge for a second receiver to step up. Dating back to the fall scrimmages, most of the passes have been to tight ends or running backs, so completions in the intermediate passing game could do wonders for the Gamecock offense. Mitchell showed late last year that he can shred defenses up by hitting these passes consistently, and a second receiving threat would go a long way towards him continuing that trend. Look for athletic tight end Jared Cook to get more playing time this week, and also don't be surprised to see highly touted true freshmen receivers Matt Clements and Jason Barnes get their shot against Georgia.
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