After spending the last two weeks on the road, the Gamecocks finally get another chance to play in front of their own fans.
South Carolina (5-4, 4-4 SEC) will take on Southern Conference foe Chattanooga Mocs (6-4, 4-4 SoCon) for the first time in program history. To do that, and to clinch bowl eligibility for the third year in a row, the Gamecocks will need to play well against a strong Mocs defense.
“They’re very talented up front. Isaiah Mack, No. 8, is a really talented inside player,” head coach Will Muschamp said. “All three of their big guys inside present some issues for you. They’re all [300 pounds] plus. They move extremely well.”
Mack has played in all ten games for Chattanooga this year and has had a total of 11 tackles-for-loss in 2018, and has forced 41 TFL’s in his career.
South Carolina is still dealing with injuries, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
There will be at least two players out on defense this week. Injuries always put the team at a disadvantage, but Muschamp knows that it will be no excuse, even against an FCS team, and the team will have to move forward.
"Jaylin Dickerson has a hamstring, he’ll be out this week,” Muschamp said. “Aaron Sterling probably will not be back this week with a knee. We’re still trying to work through that and see what we need to do as we move forward.”
While the Florida game was disappointing for both the players and the coaches, Muschamp did provide one silver lining – tough losses can serve as teaching moments for everyone on the staff and on the roster.
“There's always teachable moments. They’re certainly easier to teach, unfortunately, after a very difficult loss,” Muschamp said. “We’ve been really good in one-score games for a reason. They understand when that crunch time comes, as coaches, we’ve got to put our guys in positions to be successful, and players got to execute in those times.”
Coming off a loss to Florida and with an upcoming showdown with the No. 2-ranked Clemson Tigers on Nov. 24, it can be easy to look past an FCS opponent. Muschamp and the team are determined to put last week’s frustrations behind them and focus solely on the Mocs.
“I think our guys are very mature to understand that it’s about our preparation this week. I really always challenge our guys,” Muschamp said. “Our guys understand it’s not really about the opponent. Regardless of who we play, it’s about us and our preparation and how we go about our business.”
Junior quarterback Jake Bentley has looked back at the mistakes from the loss to Florida, but is also ready to move on and return to the winning column this Saturday.
“As a quarterback ... you gotta either let go of a win or a loss very quickly,” Bentley said. “We had to be on Chattanooga on Sunday, watching them ... I’m past the Florida game and really just focused on Chattanooga."
Muschamp, Bentley and the rest of the Gamecocks look to take care of business against the Mocs on Saturday and clinch a bowl game bid for the third time in three years. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Williams-Brice Stadium and can also be seen on SEC Network Alternate.