Everyone’s hoping that South Carolina is a better football team than they showed last Thursday. That’s been the theme of message boards, call in shows and water cooler talk. Are they? We’ll see on Saturday. Here are some things to look for:
Tackle better – For all of the missed assignments and lack of pressure on the quarterback, poor tackling doomed the Gamecocks’ defense as much as anything. East Carolina will seek to put the ball in their players’ hands in space. Tackling will be paramount. Watch to see if the linebackers and defensive backs are able to make tackles.
Get off the field – It seems every time Carolina got close to getting a punt from A&M, the Aggies would pick up another third down. Coach Spurrier mentioned that aTm was something like 12 of 17. That won’t win many games regardless of the other stats. USC has to get third down stops. Part of being successful on third down is being successful on first and second downs. The longer there is to go on third down, the more likely the defense is to prevail. But even in less than favorable situations, making the plays on third down matters.
Run the ball – Adequate offensive lines can usually pass block. Good offensive lines can open holes for the running game. Carolina needs to be able to run the ball to take some pressure off of its defense. Having a deep offensive backfield is of little use if there aren’t any holes for them to run through. ECU isn’t known as a defensive juggernaut, so this week should provide some opportunity for success on the ground.
Sacks and QB hurries - Don’t worry about this, not this week. ECU’s offensive game plan will include an emphasis on getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hands quickly. Offenses like theirs don’t give up many sacks because the qb doesn’t have the ball long. Even if Carolina’s defensive line is dominant, they may not have many, if any, sacks. It’s really not that kind of game. Worry about this next week.
Attitude - Outside observers, like me, can only ever give so much analysis or have so much insight. A great deal of the success a team has or doesn’t have is determined by leadership and attitude. Last week’s loss was devastating enough to break a team that isn’t cohesive and had problems to begin with. And while there is no indication this team has any problems, watch to see how they come out on Saturday. How do they handle it when the ball doesn’t bounce their way. Are they excited to be there, or will A&M beat them two weeks in a row?