After a disappointing road loss at Florida, the South Carolina football team is gearing up for its last home game of the 2022 season.
“We've got a heck of a challenge once the game kicks off Saturday night in Williams-Brice,” head coach Shane Beamer said. “A really, really good team that's playing well — not just on offense, but all three phases."
The Gamecocks have their work cut out for them as the team prepares to face a Tennessee team that has had success on both sides of the ball led by redshirt senior quarterback Hendon Hooker.
“Offensively, speaks for itself, what a great player Hendon Hooker is,” Beamer said. “What a special young man, and he's playing at a really, really high level, good offensive line … this is a physical football team.”
The Gamecock defense has also had its struggles, giving up 33 touchdowns and 262 points this season, ranking 68th in the FBS in scoring defense.
Redshirt junior defensive back Cam Smith is among many players who will likely play their last game at Williams-Brice Stadium against the Volunteers on Saturday. Smith has been a consistent part of South Carolina’s defense this season, playing in nine games with 19 tackles and one interception.
“Coming in as a freshman, all the older dudes tell you it goes by fast,” Smith said. "You don't really think about it because you're going day to day. I'm coming to the end of my career. It's just crazy. I've just made so many friends, so many brothers just through the whole process, it's just crazy.”
South Carolina has had an erratic season on the offensive side of the ball headed by offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield and redshirt junior quarterback Spencer Rattler.
Sophomore running back Juju McDowell has made an impact in the ground game, scoring two touchdowns and rushing for 195 yards. After limited success in Gainesville on Nov. 12, McDowell said he believes the offensive players need to trust each other and coaches more to beat Tennessee.
“Coaches have been doing a terrific job of implementing more compatible plays for us. They've been doing a great job of that we just got to execute,” McDowell said. “They've been doing a great job of making sure that we are more comfortable inside of our schemes. That's all that it comes down to.”
One obstacle the Gamecocks may face is getting through Tennessee’s fifth-year defensive back Trevon Flowers. Flowers has two forced fumbles, two interceptions and 53 tackles this season.
Flowers was also a teammate to South Carolina fifth-year wide receiver Josh Vann in middle school and at Tucker High School.
“One last game in Willy-B, it'll be special. We've got the Vols coming in, and what other way than to go out with those guys,” Vann said. “I've got a guy over there, we've been playing ball since middle school, so to just go up against him one last time in college, and just to go out with my brothers … it'll be one to remember.”
The Gamecocks will need to overcome challenges and stay consistent on both sides of the ball in order to compete with No. 5 Tennessee.
“It starts up front. You've got to be able to limit them in the run game,” Beamer said. “They're going to complete passes, and they're going to make plays. We've got to do a great job of tackling when they do.”
The 9-1 Volunteers are on the hunt for their fourth-consecutive win against the Gamecocks and have won six out of the last 10 contests between the two teams.
The Gamecocks and Volunteers will meet Saturday, Nov. 19, at 7:00 p.m. Watch the game on ESPN with previews from SEC Nation beginning at 10 a.m. on the Horseshoe.