Gamecocks excited about facing #2 ranked LSU

The newly minted #12 Gamecocks returned to the practice fields on Monday night for the first time since dismantling S.C. State 38-3. The upcoming matchup against the LSU Tigers, ranked #2 in the country, figures to pose a much stiffer challenge, and the Gamecocks appear focused on a strong week of practice. Read inside for a full report on Monday's workout.


The Gamecocks suffered three serious injuries against S.C. State on Saturday night, and Steve Spurrier addressed all three following Monday's practice. It was initially feared that both Nathan Pepper (knee) and Brandon Isaac (shoulder) would be lost for the season. Pepper's injury was confirmed on Monday, but fortunately Isaac's injury was found to be less serious than first thought.

"Brandon's shoulder popped out," explained Steve Spurrier. "It's back in now [and] he's feeling good. He's doubtful this week, but maybe he can play with a harness next week."

Pepper injured his knee as he brought an interception untouched into the end zone, and immediately fell to the ground. The junior lineman, who had started the past two games at defensive end, will have surgery on his knee, and try to return next season.

"He's got a redshirt year, so I think he is eligible for a [medical] redshirt," said Spurrier. "It's unfortunate. Hopefully it will teach all of our guys a lesson. He just went to make some kind of funny move. I guess it was celebration. It wasn't much, but it was enough to tear his knee ligament."

The third injured player is offensive lineman Gurminder Thind, who injured his left ankle when another player fell on him.

"He's walking around in a boot [and] crutches," said Spurrier, who was vague about the exact timeframe for Thind's return. "We're not counting on him [this week], we'll put it that way."

As has become his hallmark during his time at Carolina, Spurrier again challenged his team to play with more intensity. He likes what he sees on the practice fields, but it does not always carry over to Saturday.

"It doesn't matter what we do out here; it only matters what we do in there," he said, gesturing toward Williams-Brice Stadium. "[Blake Mitchell] can hit [the wide receivers] on the run out here, but he overthrows out there. It's what you do in the ballgames that counts. Unfortunately, we're not taking the practice field to the game field very well. All we can do is keep trying and try to think positive."


Trip to Baton Rouge is a family affair for McKinley

Playing at Death Valley against the no. 2 team in the country in front of a national television audience has all the Gamecocks looking forward to Saturday. For wide receiver Kenny McKinley, however, there will be even more excitement outside the stadium.

McKinley's family hails from Baton Rouge, LA. His mother graduated from LSU, and his sister attends Southern University in Baton Rouge. When asked if he had many ticket requests, McKinley laughed and, almost begging for help, said, "I need over 50."

"My family's having a family reunion around this game," he explained. "All my family is from Baton Rouge, so it's a big deal this week."

The Tigers are consensus national title contenders, and along with Oklahoma and Southern Cal, part of a trio that is thought to be far ahead of the rest of the country. Even though they are ranked 12th, the Gamecocks have yet to get rolling on offense, and the dominant LSU defense would appear to be a bad team to find a rhythm against. Despite the odds, McKinley thinks this could be the week the Cock-N-Fire breaks out.

"Last year we didn't start out too good, and we got better every week," he said. "By Auburn this time last year, the passing game was pretty much unstoppable. I'm hoping we can progress to that stage right now. The line is coming along, Blake's looking good, so I feel like we'll have a good week of practice and a good game on Saturday."

"It's going to take everybody coming together, quarterbacks and receivers, and the line. The line's got to get the quarterback some time, the quarterback's got to make good throws, and the receivers have got to run good routes. It's all a combination. We've been struggling, but we're going to get everything ready this week, and go get them Tigers."

McKinley's confidence that the Gamecocks will break out soon is one of the reasons he is looking forward to facing LSU. The other reason he is looking forward to the game? The Tigers are good.

"Coach told us, to be a good team, you have to beat a good team," he smiled. "This team is, if not the best, then one of the best in the nation, so we'll have our chance this Saturday. It just motivates us to bring our game up. Right now, we've been playing to our opponents. We need to play up to the way everybody expects us to play so we can get some hype around here."


Notes:

- Offensive guard James Thompson returns to the lineup this week after a three game suspension. He practiced with the team, but will not start, though he was the starter at right guard prior to his suspension.

- Spurrier said he was glad the Gamecocks will play the next two games during the day. He first said that USC was undefeated in day games last season, although he quickly changed his mind. "Florida started in daytime and ended at night. Our other three games we won in the daytime," he said.


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