After a loss to Florida, the South Carolina football team is playing the Vanderbilt Commodores on the road this weekend, and for the first time this season, the Gamecocks are favored to win by 11 points on Saturday.
The Gamecocks have won the last 11 games against Vanderbilt and have beat the Commodores 18 times in the last 20 years. Head coach Will Muschamp spoke to the media Tuesday about what he’s looking forward to this weekend and how the team has been preparing.
“We probably had one of our better practices since we started the season,” Muschamp said. “A lot of energy and competition, which we need and look forward to having again tomorrow."
Despite seeing improvement with running the ball last week, the team is still looking to further improve the run game and with passing the ball, according to Muschamp. He said one of the biggest things holding the team back is not making more big plays on both sides of the ball, especially on offense.
“Offensively, just staying on the field and not getting off rhythm because of ourselves,” Muschamp said.
According to Muschamp, the defense has improved significantly since the first game against Tennessee, but he is still looking for the secondary to stop giving up as many big plays and to start making more explosive plays on defense to turn the ball over.
“Don’t make just the routine play; we need to get our hand on some balls to make some interceptions,” Muschamp told the defense.
The Gamecocks only have one interception this season and are giving up around eight yards an attempt, compared to between five and six yards in the last few seasons.
The Gamecocks will have junior defensive back Israel Mukuamu return to cornerback this week after he played safety most of last week due to a groin injury. Mukuamu was responsible for the team's one interception against Florida last week and led the team last season with four interceptions.
Sophomore defensive lineman Zach Pickens said he thinks the Gamecocks are a lot closer than it seems to being a successful program.
“We got to do the little things, and that's what's separating us from a win,” Pickens said. “If we do the little things right, can't nobody stop us.”
The Commodores have also not won any games this season, falling to No. 10 Texas A&M and No. 20 LSU in the last two weeks.
Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason said his team is looking to improve its offense by making more big plays and attacking more down the field.
“We’re going to have our hands full,” Mason said in a press conference. “Coach Muschamp coaches a physical brand of football. We look forward to the challenge."
The Gamecocks will be kicking off against Vanderbilt at noon Saturday. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.