South Carolina travels to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday in search of a 2-0 start to the Shane Beamer era. The Gamecocks are fresh off a win over an outmanned Eastern Illinois crew and have now turned their attention to their neighbors in the north.
The Pirates present the toughest test so far on the young season, as they possess a veteran leader under center and a host of talented pass catchers. The defense is still a question mark, after allowing 35 points a game last year. Things didn’t improve much in a season opening matchup with Appalachian State, who was able to notch 33 points and nearly 500 yards of offense last Thursday in a win. This is an area that the Gamecocks will try to exploit with Kevin Harris and Luke Doty expected to return to the field over the weekend.
The South Carolina defensive unit is still a relative unknown. The Gamecocks pitched a shutout versus Eastern Illinois, limiting the Panthers to just 109 yards of total offense, but the opponent is much tougher this week. Holton Ahlers is one of the American Athletic Conference’s top quarterbacks, and he’ll show why on Saturday. Against a solid Appalachian State defense, Ahlers tossed two scores and threw for nearly 300 yards. It could’ve been more had two more touchdowns not been overturned, one by penalty and one by review.
To counteract that passing attack, the Gamecocks must rely heavily on the pass rush from its defensive front four. Jordan Burch, Jordan Strachan, Kingsley Enagbare, and more will need to consistently get in the backfield. That should help out the secondary, and possibly lead to a few turnovers.
Let’s preview the matchup moving forward, and see what the Gamecocks need to do in order to escape what’s likely to be a tough environment with a road victory.