Five Keys to Victory against Georgia
I. Slow Mr. Moreno
Obviously, the key to beating UGA for any team all year is going to be to slow down Knowshon Moreno, but limiting the Heisman contender will be easier said than done. Moreno has started right where he left off last season, rushing for an SEC-leading 227 yards in just two games. The redshirt sophomore is dangerous between the tackles and on the outside, and is a true threat to take it to the house on any play. When Moreno is on, the Georgia offense is almost impossible to stop as the Dawgs are averaging an SEC-leading 50.5 points per game so far this year.
The South Carolina defense will have to swarm to the football and limit the missed tackles to have any chance at slowing him. Senior preseason All-SEC linebacker Jasper Brinkley must have his best game of the season. Brinkley only has three tackles in the first two games, a far cry from the 107 he racked up in 2006 when he was healthy all season. Brinkley has had some trouble picking up the new 4-2-5 defensive system to this point, but will need to breakout against his home-state school. Fellow linebacker and Georgia native Eric Norwood also must have a big game, as the two All-SEC defenders will need to stuff up the middle and allow the defense to limit the running game without bringing extra people into the box.
II. Make the Big Play
There's no question the South Carolina offense has had its struggles during the first two weeks of the season, and All-SEC wide receiver Kenny McKinley missing Saturday isn't going to help matters. As good as the South Carolina defense could prove to be, they can't win the game on their own. With McKinley out, multiple young potential-stars like Joe Hills, Jason Barnes, C.C. Whitlock, Eric Baker, Brian Maddox and Weslye Saunders will get a shot. One of them needs to step up. Tight end Jared Cook, who had a big day at Vanderbilt with a career high 8 catches for 111 yards, will also need to have another career day.
While the Gamecock special teams had their share of miscues last week, they could make up for that with a big play to boost the team this week. The Gamecocks have not had a kick return for touchdown since 2002 (Matthew Thomas Vs. UVA), and have not had a punt return for touchdown since 2003 (Chavez Donnings Vs. Florida). Returners Chris Culliver and Captain Munnerlyn have both been close to breaking long returns throughout their careers, and Saturday would be the perfect day for one of the speedsters to finally accomplish that feat.
III. Pressure Stafford This goes right along with key to victory no. 1. If Moreno is allowed to bust loose, then the play action passing game will likely be too much for even the talented South Carolina secondary to contain. But if Moreno is contained and Stafford is forced to win the game himself, then the junior quarterback has shown a tendency to sometimes get excited and miss open guys. Last year in the Gamecocks' 16-12 win in Athens, the Gamecocks frustrated Stafford all night and forced him into a 19-for-44 day. The defense was not perfect, but didn't allow Stafford to get in rhythm, and ultimately was able to come away with the huge road SEC win.
South Carolina's young defensive ends have shown the ability to get into the backfield so far this year, but have spent the majority of their time there chasing speedy quarterbacks. Stafford is a prototypical quarterback in every other way, but doesn't possess great speed. This could be an opportunity for the talented defensive line to bust out against an inconsistent UGA offensive line.
IV. Play consistently
The Gamecocks have had trouble playing consistently in almost all facets of the game to this point, and that will have to change for them to have a shot against the Bulldogs. The offensive line played well for much of the Vanderbilt game, but two key sacks (though the QB was to blame for one) on the offense's final drive ultimately took away a shot for the team to tie the game. Chris Smelley also played much better than he has been given credit for, but two big interceptions and an errant throw to a wide open Jared Cook could have cost the Gamecocks dearly.
Smelley doesn't have to be a world-beater for the Gamecocks to win. Last season in the Gamecocks' win, quarterback Blake Mitchell went 20-for-31 for 174 yards and most importantly no interceptions. The Gamecocks can win with a similar performance from Smelley on Saturday.
V. Don't panic
The South Carolina defense did the impossible last year and left Athens without giving up a single touchdown. Don't expect that to happen this year. Georgia is going to score some points, and it will be up to the USC offense and defense to respond accordingly. At times South Carolina has abandoned the run when they've been behind, but that can't happen for them to have a chance on Saturday. If South Carolina can respond to adversity by just playing its game and sticking to the game plan, the Gamecocks will have a chance to beat the no. 2 team in the nation for the first time in school history.
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