COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – South Carolina looks to snap a four-game losing streak this weekend as they welcome No. 13 Georgia to Williams-Brice Stadium. Meanwhile the Bulldogs seek revenge after falling to the Gamecocks in 2019.
A 17-10 loss to Missouri made it four straight for the Gamecocks, who eventually turned to freshman quarterback Luke Doty to provide a spark in the second half. While he was able to help move the team in position to score ten unanswered points, Doty’s fourth quarter interception helped seal USC’s fate. Now, South Carolina fans are left to wonder what the team will do at its most crucial position moving forward. Head Coach Mike Bobo said the team has made a decision, but isn’t revealing the starter at this time. He and Luke Doty discussed the quarterback situation below:
Both Collin Hill and Doty struggled to get much going through the air against the Tigers. Both completed 60% of their passes, but Hill managed just 39 yards on six completions. Doty made some more plays downfield, adding 130 yards with no touchdowns and that interception on their final play. Doty added a rushing element to the position,compiling 59 yards to lead the team. It was a difficult evening for the entire USC offense as Kevin Harris managed just 58 yards on 16 carries.
For the first time this season, Nick Muse paced the receivers with six catches for 57 yards, most coming in the second half. But almost no one could connect. The Gamecocks have exclaimed their need for more receivers to step up this season, but it hasn’t come to fruition yet. And if a major improvement isn’t made this week they’ll likely be staring at a five-game losing streak as they get ready to face one of the best defenses in the SEC.
As for the defense, they held Mizzou to under one hundred yards rushing and just 301 total yards. And that was without their two top corners, who had announced that week that they would be leaving to prepare for the NFL Draft. Kingsley Enagbare provided the team’s lone sack against the Tigers, making it six on the season which leads the team. They’ve had some great moments this year, and some not-so-great, but this defense has a chance to make a statement against a Georgia offense that has had its issues this year although they may have found a big resurgence with a new QB.
The No. 13 Bulldogs have been up and down this season, starting with a three-game winning streak only to alternate victories since. But last week against Mississippi State may have propelled this offense to a new level.
Against MSU, Georgia turned to sophomore transfer J.T Daniels (#18) to lead the team’s passing attack in relief of Stetson Bennett. And Daniels delivered. In his first start with the team, Daniels was 28 of 38 for 401 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. He was phenomenal, and averaged over ten yards per completion. Their downfield passing was visibly improved with Daniels at the helm as he helped lift the Bulldogs over MSU, 31-24. Daniels is more of a pro-style quarterback, relying heavily on pocket passing. A five-star recruit that started as a true freshman at the University of Southern California, Daniels transferred to Georgia for the 2020 season and now appears to be the quarterback of the future.
Sophomore Zamir White (#3) is the team’s featured runner. He leads the team with 530 yards rushing, and seven touchdowns this season. But although he’s logged a respectable 4.9 yards per carry this season, the Georgia run game has been largely disappointing. They rank 58th in the FBS with 173.5 yards rushing per game. Their passing offense, ranked 84th, has been even worse. But that may very well change with Daniels.
Kearis Jackson (#10) is the top target in the receiving corps. He leads the team in catches (36) and yards (451). Jermaine Burton (#7) has been the big-play threat averaging over 18 yards per reception. And George Pickens (#1) adds a big body type on the outside. The trio have three touchdowns apiece in the Georgia offense.
The Bulldogs defense has been among the best in the SEC this season, although that’s not saying a whole lot given the state of the conference’s defensive units this year. And they’re coming off of one of their worst performances of the season considering they went up against a backup quarterback, allowing Mississippi State’s freshman Will Rogers to complete 41 passes for well over three hundred yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. They switched up their typical man-heavy approach to primarily zone, which seemed to work at limiting the big plays. When they went to man, MSU took full advantage. But their front four was able to establish pressure in the second half to help secure the game late.
Richard LeCounte III (#2) and Eric Stokes (#27) lead the team with three interceptions each, accounting for the majority of the team’s ten total turnovers. LeCounte provides a ton of speed a the safety position, while Stokes and Tyson Campbell (#3) are likely the league’s best duo at cornerback. But overall the secondary is where this defense is most vulnerable, as they can surrender big plays if the pressure doesn’t get home.
Georgia’s biggest strength, outside of its depth as whole, is its front four. And that’s noticeable against the run as they present the fourth-best run defense, allowing just 82.8 yards per game. And they’re surrendering just over 21 points per game. The team allows a lot of yards through the air, but they do average three sacks per game and many of those have come in crucial situations. Azeez Ojulari (#13) is best described as an edge, though he’s listed as a linebacker. He often plays from a three-point stance and is the Bulldogs’ top pass rusher as he leads the team with 5.5 quarterback takedowns. At end they have Malik Herring (#10) along with nose tackle Jordan Davis (#99) to round out an impressive defensive line. These guys consistently collapse the pocket, and seemingly create instant pressure.
It’s a stacked defense that doesn’t allow much for opposing quarterback’s to get comfortable, so the Gamecocks can expect to see an aggressive strategy from Kirby Smart and company.
Georgia ranks in the top fifteen for a reason, and they now appear more dangerous than ever with a new quarterback taking over. The Gamecocks, however, have little to lose and that can be a scary thing for any opponent. Not to mention they have a recent history to pull from.
South Carolina is going to have to stretch the field if they hope to win, though. Georgia is too good when it’s defense can keep everything in front of them. The USC receivers are going to need to find separation early and often, and they’re going to need to take a fair amount of deep shots down the field to keep the Bulldogs honest. If they can hit on a couple of those, anything can happen.
It will be a huge challenge for the Gamecocks; offensive line as they’ll probably be seeing the best front they’ve encountered all season. If they can limit the pressure, or at least keep them off the sack stat sheet, then USC may find some room to cash in on big plays. The running game is going to struggle, but they may be able to get creative with how they use Kevin Harris and Deshaun Fenwick to create some other opportunities to rack up yards through screens to combat the Georgia rush.
Limiting the pass rush and hitting on deep shots will likely give USC its best chance at pulling off the upset. And what a moment that would be for the Gamecocks in an otherwise rocky year.