Keys to victory against Florida
I. Have Something Good Happen Early
In the past three contests, the Gamecocks have gotten behind early. Whether it was costly turnovers or simply an inability to stop the big play, the Gamecocks have entered their last three halftimes down a combined score of 16-66. They will need that trend to stop against the Gators.
Two seasons ago it was an early-game interception and return inside the Gator 10-yard line by defensive lineman Chris Tucker that put the Gamecocks in prime position for one of their biggest victories of the Spurrier era. The Gamecocks will need a similar big play early and to stay in the game through the first half in order to enter the locker rooms at halftime with confidence rather than with a comeback on their minds. If the Gamecocks can score early it would go a long way towards their second win over the Gators in Williams-Brice in as many games under Spurrier.
II. Contain Tebow and Harvin
If Darren McFadden and Felix Jones are the best combination of playmakers in an SEC backfield, then quarterback Tim Tebow and wide receiver/running back Percy Harvin are a close second. The sophomore playmakers lead a Gator offense that has rarely been stopped this season, and the Gamecocks will need to at least slow them down to have a chance Saturday. The USC defense has struggled with spread-option teams over the past few seasons, and there is no doubt Urban Meyer will give the Gamecocks some of the same looks Arkansas, SC State, and Louisiana-Lafayette were so successful with. Harvin and Tebow will get their yards, but the South Carolina defense must stop the big plays that plagued them a week ago. If they can contain the two Florida stars they will give their offense a chance.
III. Play Efficient Red Zone Offense
In the games the Gamecocks have won during the Spurrier era, they have been relatively successful in the red zone. Early on this year South Carolina was scoring touchdowns in the red zone, but recently that trend has reversed. The Gamecocks will need to take advantage of every opportunity they get against the high scoring Gators, and that means scoring touchdowns rather than settling for field goals. This means the USC offensive line, which has played better as of late, will need to be consistent and give the Gamecock backs running room. Redshirt freshman Heath Batchelor recently proved to be the answer at the right guard spot, while junior Gurminder Thind will get the start at left guard. Thind has shown signs when healthy throughout the season, but has battled an ankle injury for much of the year.
IV. Get Boyd and Davis Room
South Carolina has been forced to pass the ball more than they have run it due to being behind big in their past few games. To have a chance Saturday, they will need to get the ball in Cory Boyd and Mike Davis' hands as much as possible. The two backs will need to get the ball in space and will likely see the sprint-draw play that is so successful for Spurrier-coached offenses called their way often. With Florida's two athletic defensive ends coming off the edge after Blake Mitchell, Spurrier will have to do something to keep them out of Mitchell's face. The Gamecocks will look to run the ball between the tackles to keep the Florida outside rushers out of the backfield and the ball out of Tim Tebow's hands.
V. Force the Turnover
The Gamecocks have had multiple opportunities to force turnovers throughout the season but have not been able to take advantage of those situations many times. Last week it was an Emanuel Cook forced-fumble that the South Carolina defense could not recover early that could have been a game-changing play, but simply turned into another missed opportunity. A big turnover would have been huge for the Gamecocks' chances in a game where they struggled all night to stop the Razorback offense. The Florida offense has moved the ball at will in most of their games this season, and they have too many playmakers for the USC defense to consistently stop cold. The defense will need to force turnovers and take advantage of the chances they do get in order to have a chance against the potent Gator offense.
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