The South Carolina football team will face its biggest challenge of the young season when it welcomes the No. 1 team in the country, the Georgia Bulldogs, to Willams-Brice Stadium this Saturday.
The Gamecocks are returning home after a 44-30 loss in their SEC opener at Arkansas. This Saturday will offer the team their second chance at a first conference win, but the defending national champion Bulldogs stand in their way.
Georgia, the defending national champions, defeated South Carolina in six of the teams’ last seven meetings. In 2019, the Gamecocks pulled off a miracle upset in Athens, snapping a four-game Bulldog win streak. Since then, however, Georgia is back on a two-game streak, including 40-13 victory in Athens last year.
On the offensive side of the ball, South Carolina will go toe-to-toe with one of that nation’s top defensive units. The Bulldogs are the only FBS team that has yet to give up a touchdown and lead the nation in fewest points allowed, with 1.5 per game.
Head coach Shane Beamer said he wants to see a balanced offensive attack, adding the team has the talent to do so efficiently.
“I’d be an idiot to sit up here and tell you we are going to run the ball 60 times a game. We got an NFL quarterback, NFL receivers and NFL tight ends,” Beamer said. “At the end of the day, we just got to figure out what we do well and be able to run those no matter what defense they’re in.”
Passing has not been the issue for the 2022 Gamecocks through two games. They gained 227 passing yards in their first game and 376 yards in the Arkansas game. To strike that offensive balance, though, the team will need to run the ball significantly better than they did in the first two games. The team only gained 79 rush yards in their first game and rushed for just 40 yards on 29 attempts during the Arkansas matchup.
“These guys aren’t going to be easy to run the football on, we’ve got to really work hard as coaches to come up with a plan to be able to run the ball,” Beamer said. “It’s going to be a long day Saturday if we're not able to run the ball a little bit against these guys.”
Georgia's 2-0 record includes a 49-3 thrashing of then No. 11 Oregon and a 33-0 shutout against Samford. Beamer said that two blowout wins have made it hard to analyze the Bulldogs’ offense.
“They haven’t had to show a lot at this point, so they might come out there Saturday, and it's a lot more multiple than they’ve been the first two games,” Beamer said.
Senior quarterback Stetson Bennett has had an efficient start to the season, passing for 668 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions on 65 pass attempts. The team also features two massive tight-end threats. Sophomore Brock Bowers, standing at 6-foot-4, has five catches for 95 yards, and junior Darnell Washington, who measures 6-foot-7, has four catches for 66 yards.
Last week South Carolina faced similar big bodies in Arkansas, and Beamer expressed disappointment with the team’s struggle to finish tackles against Arkansas, a mistake they can't afford against Georgia.
“We emphasize it, I mean we tackle in practice on Tuesdays in certain periods, and there’s not a lot of the teams in the country, I think, that do that,” Beamer said.
The Gamecocks may be shorthanded for the game. Aside from junior linebacker Mohamed Kaba and sixth-year edge rusher Jordan Strachan, who will both miss the rest of the season with ACL injuries from the Arkansas game, Beamer said a number of players are still questionable for Saturday.
It is unknown if defensive backs David Spaulding, Cam Smith and RJ Roderick, wide receiver Corey Rucker and defensive lineman (Alex) “Boogie” Huntley will play this Saturday.
Beamer’s predecessor and former Gamecock head coach Will Muschamp will return to Williams-Brice for the first time since being let go and joining the Bulldog staff as a defensive analyst and now co-defensive coordinator. Muschamp coached the Gamecocks for five seasons.
South Carolina and Georgia will kick off this Saturday at noon. The game will be televised on ESPN.