UAB offers final test before SEC play resumes

The Gamecock football team faces UAB (1-3) Saturday evening in what amounts to a final tune-up against inferior competition before resuming SEC play. How well Steve Spurrier's bunch finishes the season will be heavily dependent on increased productivity from an inconsistent offense that has struggled to score a mere five touchdowns in their last three outings.

The lack of an effective ground game figures mightily in the Gamecocks' scoring woes, though it certainly is only one of many chinks in the offensive armor. Tied with Mississippi State at the bottom of the SEC standings in rushing offense, Carolina hopes to gain some momentum, literally and figuratively, against a Blazers defense that has surrendered 548 or more total yards in 3 of its 4 games so far this season.

With starting tailback Mike Davis out Saturday (suspension), sophomore Brian Maddox will get his chance to earn significant playing time down the stretch and hopefully display the skills that prompted to rank the T.L. Hanna High School (Anderson, S.C.) product as the #4 tailback in the country following his senior season.

"I'm going out this week and working hard in every aspect of the game," Maddox said earlier this week, "blocking, catching, running the ball, seeing the holes… just working hard. I'm definitely hoping that we can come out and play our game on offense and just take what they give us and cash in on the opportunities. I'm definitely looking forward to this, and it's going to be a great opportunity just to go out there and run around and play my game. I've been working hard week in and week out.

"It's an opportunity for me to seize the moment and show that I can compete on this level and start for this team."

Maddox describes himself as a back whose strength is his "power".

"I'm a big back, I've got speed," he explained. "I can block. I can stick my nose in there and block some of those big guys coming through. Basically, that's it."

As for establishing a viable running game before SEC play resumes, Maddox is realistic.

"We definitely need to turn it around," Maddox admitted. "I have no idea why we have not been able to run the ball as well as we should, but we are working hard. Coach Gillespie has us out there during individuals doing some key things to help us break long runs. Us as backs, we need to carry that over to Saturday nights."

Due to Davis' predetermined one-game suspension, Maddox admitted that the UAB game had essentially been "circled on the calendar" since the preseason. And after scoring his first career touchdown in last week's win over Wofford, you can bet Saturday's kickoff cannot come soon enough.

"Yea, definitely," Maddox said. "Coach Gillespie told me that this is my chance to shine… I'm going to keep working hard like I've been doing since I've been playing this sport and good things are going to turn out for me."

On the other side of the ball, senior linebacker Marvin Sapp is tied for third in tackles for a Carolina defense that, in contrast to the offense, ranks second in the SEC in total defense, trailing only Florida in that category. But any notion that the Gamecock defense may be frustrated by the offense's lack of productivity is quickly dispelled by the Jacksonville native.

"There's a lot of games where the defense has had to carry the offense," Sapp began. "But the offense has had to carry the defense (also). I remember a lot of times, especially the first years I was here, it was the offense carrying us and they had to keep up with the other team (on the scoreboard) because of the defense. We just weren't doing it.

"So I think that we've just got to keep helping one another out," Sapp continued. "We've got to compensate for the other side of the ball. We're all a team in the same way. You can't get frustrated with stuff like that. You've just got to do your job because the moment you get frustrated, you stop doing what you're supposed to be doing and (then) you've got two sides that are down.

"So I think we should just play and do the best we can to defend and stop (opponents) from scoring until the offense does score. I think that's our job."

It may be surprising to some that the former all-stater from Florida is already a senior, and that includes Sapp himself. When asked how he would size up his career at Carolina so far, he answered, without even a moment of hesitation, "Quick!"

Sapp went on to say that "it goes by fast. But I also have learned a lot of things. I've learned a lot about football, but I've also learned a lot about dealing with people and adversity. I don't see it all as a waste or anything like that. I see everything that has happened as productive for what I am right now."

Which happens to be an extremely productive linebacker for a defense that aims to continue its outstanding play Saturday evening against UAB.

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