The Gamecocks return home this weekend for a homecoming matchup under the lights against the Vanderbilt Commodores. After difficult losses the past two weeks, head coach Will Muschamp said he hopes South Carolina will recover.
“Can’t wait to get back home in front of our fans. Our guys are excited about it; they’ve made a huge difference for us this year and we appreciate that,” Muschamp said in his opening statement at the press conference Tuesday. “[It’s] homecoming, so we appreciate all of the alumni coming back.”
Here’s what to know for Saturday:
Gamecocks looking to continue a long win streak against Vandy
South Carolina has won 17 of the last 19 meetings with Vanderbilt, including a 10-game win streak. The Gamecocks hold a 24-4 record overall against the Commodores.
Muschamp is 6-1 for his career against Vanderbilt. Meanwhile, Commodores head coach Derek Mason is 0-5 against the Gamecocks.
South Carolina’s recent second-half struggles
Despite having a 21-17 lead going into the second half against Tennessee last weekend, the Gamecocks were held scoreless as the Volunteers scored 24 points in the second half to win 41-21. The matchup with Florida on Oct. 19 had a similar story: The Gamecocks were tied at 10 with the Gators at the half, but the defense was unable to hold Florida back, resulting in a 38-27 loss.
When asked about what needs to be fixed offensively, Muschamp said he thought it was “multiple things.”
“We’re not getting the production we need, especially in the second half,” Muschamp said. “We’ve been ineffective consistently throwing the football. I think that goes to multiple areas of protection: route running and precise routes, accuracy with the football."
Muschamp also said “I point to some youth in some key areas” and acknowledged “it’s hard, what we ask some of these guys to do.”
Vanderbilt’s best areas
Muschamp said he thinks Vanderbilt has “one of the best running backs in the country," redshirt senior Ke’Shawn Vaughn, who has over 2,000 career rushing yards. Senior wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb also has more than 2,000 career receiving yards, and graduate quarterback Riley Neal owns over 8,500 career passing yards.
Vanderbilt has lost two fumbles this season, and its seven turnovers ranks second in conference.
“They play extremely hard,” said Muschamp of Vanderbilt’s defense. “They’re very disciplined in what they do and their techniques. They’re not going to be out of position, they’re not going to bust a coverage.
The Commodores took a 21-14 victory over Missouri in their latest game, upsetting the No. 22 ranked team.
Senior running back Rico Dowdle is still unavailable this weekend after spraining his knee against Florida, but might be back next week. Senior defensive back A.J. Turner is out with a hamstring injury, and junior linebacker Damani Staley is sidelined with turf toe.
South Carolina kicks off against Vanderbilt at Williams-Brice Stadium at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. The game will be aired on SEC Network.