Five Keys to Victory against UAB
I. Finish the Drive
The South Carolina offense has moved the ball very well at times this year, but has struggled with untimely interceptions, fumbles and other mental miscues. Remarkably, the Gamecocks are first in the SEC in first downs, undoubtedly helped by their 30 against Wofford, yet 11th in scoring offense. As much heat as quarterback Chris Smelley has taken this year, the offense he heads is third in the conference in passing yards a game and Smelley individually is fourth in the conference in the same category.
The popular thing to say right now is that Steve Spurrier has lost it and his offense doesn't work anymore. Don't buy the hype. The Gamecock offense has the potential to be very good if it can take full advantages of all its opportunities. That means everyone — from the quarterback, to the o-line, to the skill guys, have to focus and play better in the red zone. The Gamecocks will have every opportunity to do that against a UAB defense that ranks 117th in total defense and 104th in scoring defense.
II. Get the Ball Back
As good as the South Carolina defense has been this year (12.8 points/game), its one downfall has been a lack of turnovers forced. The Gamecocks are 11th in the conference in turnover margin, but a big play or two would do a lot for an offense that has struggled to put the ball in the end zone.
One reason for the lack of turnovers has been that opponents have used offensive attacks that relied primarily on the run. That pass defense will get plenty of chances against quarterback Joe Webb and the UAB pass-happy offense today. It could be a two or more interception day if the Gamecock DB's can take advantage of their opportunities.
III. Establish the Run
The South Carolina running game is tied for last in the SEC in rushing, and with starting running back Mike Davis out this week, young backs Brian Maddox and Eric Baker will get a chance to provide a spark. South Carolina's running backs are averaging just 3.3 yards a carry and that will have to change for the offense to improve as the season goes on. Maddox and Baker are inexperienced, but talented and could be the boost the offense needs.
The offensive line has struggled to get a push up front, but a UAB defense that is 105th in the nation in tackles for loss and 91st in rushing defense should provide an opportunity for the line to enforce their will and gain some confidence.
IV. Make some plays
Maddox and Baker are not the only young guys who will get a chance to show their worth. Stephen Garcia and young wide receivers Joe Hills and Jason Barnes will get the chance to prove themselves. With Kenny McKinley still out, the passing game is desperately looking for another weapon to go along with stud tight end Jared Cook, who has 17 catches on the year.
Hills showed some promise with two catches early against Wofford, but has yet to truly break out yet. Barnes has plenty of natural talent as well, but hasn't been able to put everything together. Both should get plenty of opportunities tonight. Garcia will get his first chance to play a lot of snaps and prove whether he can be the spark the Gamecock offense needs.
V. Put them Away
The Gamecocks have struggled putting teams away for much of the Spurrier era. Even teams the Gamecocks were far superior to have been able to hang around after going down early. The offense lacks continuity and confidence at this point, and a big win with some fireworks along the way could be just what this team needs.
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