Keys to victory against Arkansas
I. Contain Darren McFadden and Felix Jones
It may go without saying, but the Arkansas offense begins with McFadden and Jones. McFadden and Jones have rushed for 993 and 863 yards, respectively on the year. The two backfield stars are widely considered to be the best duo in the SEC, if not the country.
The South Carolina run defense has been much improved over the past few games, and it will be very important for Marvin Sapp and Melvin Ingram to continue to play their assignments and make tackles. The entire defense will also need to swarm to the ball and not give up on plays. McFadden is the type guy who rarely is brought down by the first defender, so the best way to contain him is to have multiple guys pursuing in order to clean up the play in the end.
As important as it will be to contain the talented combo of backs, it is also important to remember they will get their yards, and the defense will have to accept that and move on if any big plays do occur. Two years ago McFadden ran for 187 yards on the Gamecock defense, but they were able to keep him out of the end zone and get a crucial SEC road win.
II. Get open against the press
Arkansas is notorious for bringing their corners up, pressing the opposing team's receivers, and daring them to beat them. It is an extremely effective defense when a team has the corners to run it, but can lead to disaster if they don't. The great Florida State defenses of the 90's were built on the very concept as their athletes were simply better than everyone else's. The Razorbacks lost stud-cornerback Chris Houston to the NFL, but despite his loss the Arkansas' secondary still finds itself ranked third in the SEC, surrendering just 176.5 receiving yards a game.
Wide receiver Kenny McKinley is coming off his best game as a Gamecock, when he caught 14 passes for 151 yards against Tennessee. Spurrier mentioned on his Thursday call-in show that Arkansas may use the same defense against McKinley that they used against Sidney Rice last season. This would likely mean they would double McKinley with one safety and bring the other safety up in run support. This would open the door for receivers Dion Lecorn, who showed signs against Tennessee, Freddie Brown, and maybe even Larry Freeman. The guy who could match up best with the Razorback secondary is sophomore speedster Moe Brown. The Anderson, SC native has been inconsistent to this point in the season, but he has all the tools and just needs something good to happen to him in order to get his confidence up. Tight ends Jared Cook and Weslye Saunders should also be used in the passing game, especially on third down situations. The Arkansas' defenders are relentless in their physical play, but should another receiver be able to step up and get open, it should be the type game returning starting quarterback Blake Mitchell can thrive in.
III. Play physical all around
Arkansas will probably be the most physical team South Carolina plays all season. They are a physical, blitzing, pressing team on defense and a run-between-the-tackles team on offense. It is very likely the Gamecocks will get popped in the mouth at some point early, but they will need to roll with the punches and keep battling. Luckily, USC is more equipped than in previous years up front and likely has the players in the trenches to compete with the Arkansas linemen. The offensive line will need to build off what they accomplished in the second half of the Tennessee game and continue to open holes for Boyd and Davis, and give Mitchell time to throw.
IV. No careless penalties or turnovers
The offense has been plagued by penalties and turnovers over the last ten quarters of the season. The mistakes cost them wins against Tennessee and Vanderbilt and nearly led to a loss in Chapel Hill, NC. Arkansas is the type of grind-it-out, clock-eating team that the Gamecocks can't afford to give extra opportunities. McFadden and Jones are also big-play threats who the defense needs to keep the ball away from as much as possible. When the offensive line is protecting and Spurrier gets in a groove play-calling, the Gamecock offense is usually only stopped by itself. The Gamecocks will need to get in a groove and not make mistakes, and they should be okay Saturday.
V. Play well in the red zone
The Gamecock offense took strides in this area against Tennessee, but they will need to return to their early season form against the Razorbacks. Two seasons ago in Fayetteville, USC did not get many opportunities but still converted when they got their chances. Conversely, Arkansas could not convert their opportunities into points and it was the difference in the ball game. The offense will need to score when they're inside the 20 and score touchdowns rather than field goals. Arkansas has the SEC's top ranked offense, and in a game where yards could be racked up by both teams inside the 20's, which team converts when it matters most could be the difference in a heated SEC contest.
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