Five Keys To Victory Against LSU
I. Survive the First Blow
While it would be ideal for South Carolina to deliver the first big blow of the game and take the Bayou Bengal crowd out it early, it may not happen. If LSU does indeed strike first and the Gamecocks find themselves behind, they must not panic and will need to stay with their game plan.
If the offense can be efficient and move the ball, then the defense will have a chance to keep them in the ball game. The longer the Gamecocks can hang around, the higher their confidence will rise, and some doubt may creep into the minds of the LSU players. LSU has not been tested yet this year, and quarterbacks Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux have never played in a close college football game. There is no doubt the Tigers have looked great so far this year, but it will be interesting to see how a team who has outscored opponents 137-7 reacts when facing adversity.
II. Make the Big Play on Defense and Special Teams
For South Carolina to have a chance, they need to force LSU to make mistakes on offense. To do this, they will need to get pressure on the LSU quarterback, whether it be Flynn or Perrilloux, while also keeping them from scrambling. Both quarterbacks run well. The secondary did a great job in coverage at Georgia, but will need to make the big play this time, rather than dropping would-be interceptions.
With inclement weather a possibility, fumbles may also be an issue. The Gamecocks will need to get the lucky bounce on any balls that hit the ground. It also wouldn't hurt if one of those turnovers were returned for a touchdown.
We've been calling for a big play on special teams for four weeks now, and it couldn't finally come at a better time than this weekend in Baton Rouge. Captain Munnerlyn has the ability to be one of the better return men in the league, but he will never show it if he can't get consistent blocking in front of him. Even if it doesn't come in the form of a big punt or kickoff return, USC at least needs to play solid in coverage and not give LSU the short field. There is hidden yardage in special teams, and South Carolina will need all that yardage they can get Saturday.
III. Stop the Run
It was a pick your poison type decision on whether to put "stop the run" or "stop the pass" here. With LSU's number one receiver Early Doucet out with a groin injury, it will be more important for the Gamecocks to slow down Jacob Hester and Keiland Williams, who have 206 and 174 yards, respectively, on the season. While Hester has more yards thus far, Williams will be the bigger threat to take it to the house on any given play. Hester is hard-nosed, but so is the Gamecock defense, and the less yards the LSU running backs have, the better chance South Carolina's defense has at being successful.
While LSU wide receivers Brandon LaFell and Jared Mitchell are both legitimate threats in the passing game, there was a reason Doucet was the number one guy. Doucet's absence has been downplayed by LSU coach Les Miles and the media, but if the Gamecocks stop the run and force LSU to move the ball through the air it would give them a chance. This would also give the defense a chance to pin their ears back and rush the quarterback against an LSU offensive line that is ranked 76th in the nation in sacks allowed.
IV. Blake Mitchell Must Have a Good Day
Blake Mitchell has shown he can win the big game, quarterbacking South Carolina to wins at Tennessee, Arkansas, Clemson, and Georgia in his career, while also boasting a win over Florida at home. What Mitchell has not shown is the ability to be consistent and play well every week. He will have to be on this week for his team to have a chance. Mitchell will not only need to be efficient and go underneath when necessary, he will also have to call a great game by checking into the right plays at the line of scrimmage.
At some point in the game, Mitchell will also have to hit a few big plays down the field. While he won't have to throw the ball up and down the field like a quarterback in the Spurrier offense of old, if the Gamecocks can't complete some downfield passes they likely won't score many points.
V. Step up on the Offensive Line
I could write all day about the little things South Carolina needs to happen and needs to do to win this game, but the bottom line is the offensive line will need to play their best game of the year to date against an LSU defensive line, which many consider to be the best in the nation.
While Mitchell does need to play well, Cory Boyd and Mike Davis need to run hard, and the young receivers will need to step up. All of this is correlated with how well the offensive line plays. As good as the LSU defensive line is, overall they are considered to be better against the run than true pass rushers, and will likely first attempt to stop the Gamecocks in their base defense. For better or worse, run blocking is considered the strength of the South Carolina offensive line. They will need to get the better of the strength versus strength match up and get Boyd and Davis running down hill. This will allow the offense to stay ahead of the chains and in makeable third-downs. If LSU is forced to bring a safety into the box, then Spurrier will have his chance to take a shot down field.
South Carolina may have the entire deck stacked against them heading into Baton Rouge on Saturday, but as long as Spurrier is coaching and the defense keeps playing well, they will have a chance at the upset and to bring home one of the biggest wins in school history. Spurrier and staff will have a good game plan prepared, and the players will go there believing they can win. If the offensive line can play well, they will give the offense, and team, a chance.
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