COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - For the second time this season, South Carolina is looking to avoid a three-game losing streak.
To do that, the Gamecocks (2-4) will look to continue their winning ways against a 2-4 Ole Miss squad.
“I think we’re in a good spot mentally, based on two poor performances back to back, as good as it could be,” Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp said. “As far as where these guys are, they’re angry, they’re upset, and they want to play better and we need to coach better. So, it’s a two-way street and we plan on doing both.”
If there’s good news the Gamecocks has hold on to heading into Saturday’s game, it’s this: Carolina has won the last three meetings between the two teams. However, each of those victories has been decided by seven points or less each time. This year, Carolina will have to deal with a new coaching staff headed by former Tennessee head coach and Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.
One of the key things Carolina will have to determine early on will be their starting quarterback. According to Muschamp, both incumbent starter Collin Hill and backup Ryan Hilinski have taken the lion’s share of the snaps for the Gamecocks in their primary offense. Ultimately, Muschamp said it could come down to who makes the better throws during pre-game warmup.
“We all have the same mission,” said Hilinski. “That’s to win football games. There is no awkwardness. We just want to give our guys the best chance to win. Whoever’s out there, we trust Coach’s decision and, whoever’s number it may be, we just want to go out there and play for those 10 other guys in that offensive huddle.”
Carolina will also have to find a way to slow down Lane Kiffin’s offense. Over the last two games, stopping offenses hasn’t exactly been a strength for the Gamecocks. South Carolina has been outscored 100-27 in their past two contests. To make matters even more difficult, the Rebels are currently ranked among the top four in the SEC in many offensive categories:
- Scoring offense (3rd, 38 points per game)
- Rushing offense (1st, 215.7 yards per game)
- Total offense (2nd, 541 yards per game)
- Pass offense (4th, 325.3)
- Third-down conversions (3rd, 52.4%)
- First downs (2nd, 28.2 per game)
“I do think with the tempo they play with, there’s a little bit more in the run game that Lane presents each week as far as what they do,” Muschamp pointed out. “There are a lot of concepts that carry over, especially with the tempo that they play with.”
The Rebels are led by Jerrion Ealy at the tailback position. The 5-foot-8, 190-pound junior has a team-high 512 rushing yards and six touchdowns. He joins sophomore quarterback Matt Corral in the backfield. Corral has completed just over 71% of his passes for 1,846 yards and 18 touchdowns this season. His favorite target is junior wide receiver Elijah Moore. He’s got 61 catches for 829 yards and six touchdowns. However, the Gamecocks will also have to worry about senior tight end Kenny Yeboah, who has 22 catches for 470 yards and six touchdowns.
“They’re very good in the skill positions, they play with tempo, and Lane does a great job -- whether he or [offensive coordinator Jeff] Levy are calling plays -- both guys do a nice job of attacking you with tempo but also schematically in matchups.”
The Gamecocks could have a chance to put some points on the board. As many as the Ole Miss offense has put up, the Rebels' defense has surrendered just as many. Ole Miss gives up an average of 40 points per game. However, the Gamecocks will enter another week looking for another playmaker to complement Shi Smith in the passing game.
“I think we’ve given some guys opportunities,” Muschamp said. “Whether it’s dropped passes or running the route the precise way, those things are all issues. So, we’ve got to catch the ball, number one. Number two, when your number’s called, make sure you’re precise in what you’re doing route-wise and those sort of things are a concern because obviously, that throws off timing for the quarterback in the play. So I think those things are all-encompassing and those are the two main issues that we’ve got.”
South Carolina takes on Ole Miss at Vaught Hemingway Stadium in Oxford at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.
The game will be shown on SEC Network Alternate.