The Daily Gamecock

Behind enemy bylines: The Reflector sports writer calls Bulldog-Gamecock matchup a toss-up

<p>Head coach Zach Arnett of Mississippi State studies his team during the break of play. Mississippi State is currently 2-1 for its 2023 football season.</p>
Head coach Zach Arnett of Mississippi State studies his team during the break of play. Mississippi State is currently 2-1 for its 2023 football season.

The South Carolina football team will host its first SEC home game Saturday against Mississippi State. Both teams are coming off of losses to kick off their respective conference campaigns — the Gamecocks fell to Georgia 24-14 on the road, while Bulldogs lost to LSU 41-14 at home. 

The Daily Gamecock spoke with Colin James, a sports writer from The Reflector, to break down the Mississippi State team ahead of its matchup with South Carolina. 

The Daily Gamecock: Zach Arnett is in his first season as the head coach, so how would you evaluate his first coaching performance through the first three games?

Colin James: I would say, right now, he still has a little bit to prove because, obviously, we're just coming off a big loss to LSU, and we had some struggles. If you watched the previous two games before that, you can see that his offensive system is kind of a little struggling. We started off slow against Southeastern Louisiana before we started scoring more and it became more of a blowout, and then after that, we needed overtime to beat Arizona despite forcing five turnovers." 

I feel like he still has some adjustments he needs to make. So, we will have to see how he faces tougher opponents as the season goes on, especially as we enter SEC play.” 

You just mentioned that LSU loss, so what happened in that game that allowed it to get away from them like that?

“I could say a lot of things, but really, the offense just looked really stale in my opinion. Will Rogers had the worst career game as a starter, and LSU's offense just completely dissected our defense.” 

We just really did not look prepared, and I'm really hoping that this team will learn how to come back from adversity.” 

We’ve talked about the offense and their struggles, but what can Gamecock fans expect to see from this team defensively? 

"We will be missing our safety, (graduate student) Shawn Preston Jr., because he got ejected for a targeting call during the LSU game, so he'll be out for at least the first half. But other than that, I think this will be very interesting to see how they play on the road because this is their first road game of the season. We have a new defensive coordinator. Our head coach is more defensive-minded.” 

Both of these teams are coming off of conference losses, so what do you think it's going to take for one of these two teams to get that first conference win?

It really just depends on what version of each team decides to show up to the field next weekend because Will Rogers, like we know, he could be a good quarterback … Rattler, he has a lot of potential.” 

Is there anything else about the Mississippi State football program or maybe the matchup this week you'd like to add? 

This is our first road game of the season, so it'll be just really interesting to see how this team responds on the road, especially after a loss like that.” 

“Also, we're just moving away from the air raid in general, what Mike Leach was known under. So, it'll be interesting to see the adjustments our offensive coordinator Kevin Barbay makes.” 

Who wins the game, and what is your score prediction?

“I think it's going to be a very close game. I can't really say who will win, but I would say for a final score would be probably somewhere around 31-24, maybe even 31-28.” 


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