The Shane Beamer era at South Carolina has already proven to be a roller coaster of emotions, just five weeks into his first year. The Gamecocks sit 2-3 on the season, and there seems to be an uptick in emotion from the team, as they buy in to what the coaching staff is preaching. In the game against Troy, the Gamecocks didn’t sulk in bad luck. They fought their way towards a victory in the 4th quarter.
But now, the Gamecocks must go on the road again in the SEC and travel to Knoxville for a noon kickoff. (Tennessee is favored by 10.5 on FanDuel.) The last time they embarked on a road trip, at Georgia, it turned into a one-sided contest for four quarters. They shouldn’t see that type of defensive opponent this weekend against Tennessee, though they’ve allowed an offense to get hot at times. The key thing for the Gamecocks is to establish the run somehow, which could lead to downfield looks for quarterback Luke Doty.
Shane Beamer discussed the quarterback’s progress, after coming back from injury.
“Had a foot injury in preseason camp and missed quite a bit of time, and he’s trying to just get back to where he feels 100-percent comfortable out there, and feel like he’s really close. And he’s still a young guy. This Saturday will only be his, what, third start of the season and I think his fifth career start, so he’s still a young quarterback that has a lot of upside. And we’ve got a lot of youth all around this football team, and the quarterback position’s one of them. But he continues to get better, and excited about his progress.”
The Gamecocks defense, meanwhile, have scored three touchdowns this season, which obviously helps the team when the offense is stalling. But this week, they will face a high-tempo offense, as Tennessee tries to get a snap off every six seconds. So the defense will have to prepare differently in practice this week.
Beamer touched on that subject as well:
“Not only are they operating at a fast speed. They’re operating at a fast speed with really good players. And then Tennessee’s a challenge because, I think sometimes there’s a misnomer about all these teams that go fast: They want to go fast and throw the football. And Tennessee wants to run the football. If I’m not mistaken, there’s no team in the SEC that has ran the ball more than Tennessee has this year, so you’ve got to be able to handle the tempo, but then still handle the tempo, get lined up and play physical, because they want to line up fast and then run the ball down your throat.”
The ultimate key for South Carolina will be getting the Vols off the field on third down and not letting them extend drives. Just last week, Troy was 8-15 on third down conversions, so the point of emphasis will be to force mistakes from the opposing offense. The only way the Gamecocks will have success on Saturday is getting the Vols off the field on third downs or disguising blitzes, which will could force mistakes from Hendon Hooker. The Gamecocks will have a much more formidable defense than Missouri, Tennessee’s previous opponent, showed, and stopping the Vols rushing attack should be their main priority.
The Gamecocks have been through some close battles so far this season, which not many teams can say. So, they’ve been tested, now whether that’s a good thing in the eyes of fans is up to you, but at least they’ve earned a few wins. They also pushed Kentucky for 60 minutes. This has shown Shane Beamer what kind of fight his team has within them.
“We’ve got a lot of great young men in our program that have to buy into that and have to be willing to compete. We’ve certainly had some ugly games that could’ve gone the other direction, like East Carolina and Troy. But we’ve got a lot of fantastic young men in our program that are fighters to begin with, and hopefully we’ve had a small hand in that as a staff, just continuing to bring that out in them.”
Now Beamer is hoping they can bring the fight once again to Tennessee, and maybe get out of Knoxville with an upset victory. One way or the other, we’re going to find out a lot more about this Gamecocks team on Saturday.