The Daily Gamecock

Amidst struggles, Gamecocks look to turn the page against Troy

To put it lightly, the last two weeks have been challenging for South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer and his football program. 

Outscored 56-23 during that span, the Gamecocks have not played their best brand of football in their two SEC matchups.

With six consecutive weeks in conference play looming, this Saturday will provide an opportunity for the team to correct the mistakes of weeks past as they host non-conference foe Troy at Williams-Brice Stadium. 

The Trojans are coming off a 29-16 loss to UL Monroe and enter this matchup with a 2-2 record. Though the Gamecocks are a seven-point favorite, Beamer knows to not underestimate his opponent. 

"Big challenge this Saturday night against a really talented Troy team," Beamer said at Tuesday's press conference. "I'm sure they feel like they could very easily be 4-0 right now... You can look around the Sun Belt Conference and see what those teams have done in the last couple years, really throughout their history, against Power Five teams."

Beamer would be right, as the Trojans have knocked off formidable opponents such as LSU in 2017 and Nebraska in 2018. Come Saturday, the Gamecocks will hope to not have their name added to that list. 

Troy head coach Chip Lindsey knows his team will have its hands full against South Carolina, but says it is an "exciting challenge for us."

"It's something we look forward to here at Troy is getting the opportunity to play these Power Five or SEC schools," Lindsey said in his weekly press conference. "We'll have to play very well to have the opportunity to win."

Troy's offense is led by junior quarterback Taylor Powell, who played two seasons at Missouri before transferring and winning the starting job during fall camp.

In four starts, Powell has eclipsed 1,000 passing yards, throwing for seven touchdowns and three interceptions. For a defense that has done its job in creating turnovers, South Carolina will need to continue to make big plays, as it faces a predominantly pass-first offensive team.

While the defense did hold Kentucky graduate transfer quarterback Will Levis to 102 passing yards, they struggled in stopping the run, allowing 230 yards. Fortunately, Troy has been severely one dimensional in its last three games, combining for 137 rushing yards.

However, where the Trojans struggle at running back is where they have weapons in their receiving core. Junior wide receiver Luke Whittemore and freshman wide receiver Tez Johnson have each amassed over 250 yards and one touchdown each. 

Whittemore shapes up to be the main threat on the outside against the Gamecock secondary, as he is averaging 18 yards per catch. 

Once again, South Carolina's offense missed its opportunities to do damage against the Wildcats, as it was unable capitalize in plus territory following three defensive turnovers.

"Our main focus point is execution," freshman running back Juju McDowell said at Tuesday's press conference. "Our coaches they put us in the correct positions and give us perfect opportunities to make plays. We just have to execute."

There were signs of life at times, starting with a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to open the second half. Yet, the offensive inefficiency would derive the team from having sustainable drives, averaging just 4.2 yards per play. 

It will not get much easier for the Gamecocks come Saturday, as Troy ranks fifth in total defense.

"When you talk about wreaking havoc, this defense wreaks havoc," Beamer said. "They're disruptive and it is not coach-speak when I tell you this is one of the hardest playing defenses I have ever seen."

With there being a lot on the line, the team understands the importance of this game and what a win could do for their season moving forward.

"The guys are back in here ready. We're not dreading on the past and feeling sorry for ourselves," sophomore punter Kai Kroeger said at Tuesday's press conference. "They're ready to play again in front of home and a great crowd and everyone's pretty much, if anything, coming in with a better attitude than before because they want to get the win, back in the winning column that much more, which has been really great to see."

South Carolina and Troy will kick off at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday on the SEC Network. 


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