South Carolina Three Keys: Kentucky


South Carolina got the job done against South Carolina State, as most people expected the Gamecocks would.

By Matt Zemek

Yet, even in a win over an FCS team, quarterback Spencer Rattler threw another two interceptions, bringing his season total to seven. To be clear, those two interceptions were the products of catchable passes which glanced off a South Carolina receiver’s hands. Nevertheless, when an interception occurs, someone isn’t doing his job as well as humanly possible.

Even though Rattler did make improvements against SC State, the larger overall reality for the Gamecocks’ offense remains uncertain. The quarterback and the receivers have to help each other out. More than that, they need to play well at the same time. This has to be part of the mix against Kentucky. We’ll flesh out that point.

Get Rattler established early with percentage passes
Rattler is undoubtedly hearing from people about his struggles. A good performance against South Carolina State won’t silence the doubters. This game against a strong Kentucky defense is a true measuring stick and a moment in which Rattler can significantly alter the trajectory of his team’s season, not to mention his own collegiate journey. It’s Shane Beamer’s job to keep Rattler focused on growing within the offense. The wins will come as he gets more and more comfortable; nobody said transferring to the SEC would be a walk in the park. The only way this turns around is if Beamer gives him a winning game plan. Against Kentucky, South Carolina can’t be too ambitious right away. Rattler needs a first quarter with safe, high-percentage throws which get various receivers involved and give Kentucky a lot of targets to cover across the field. This can set up combination routes and complicated play designs later in the game, when the Gamecocks can be more ambitious. Start simple, then use variations of basic concepts to go for the big plays the Gamecocks will need at some point.

Attack. Attack. Attack.

Kentucky is dealing with a host of injuries to players at key positions. Per 247 Sports, the Wildcats are dealing with injuries to some defensive starters: outside linebacker J.J. Weaver, middle linebacker Jacquez Jones, and defensive tackle Josiah Hayes. They are also dealing with injuries to quarterback Will Levis, whose status for this game is uncertain, and right tackle Jeremy Flax. South Carolina needs to hit Kentucky at the point of attack on offense and truly test the injuries to their front seven. They have the workhorse to do it: MarShawn Lloyd. Similarly on defense, they have to work the injured right side of UK’s offensive line and punish Levis all night if Levis is indeed playing in this game.

Run defense needs to tighten up

Teams can’t allow their opponents to average 185.4 yards per game on the ground as a defense. That’s far too many yards to allow with the schedule the Gamecocks have played. The pass defense is doing its job, but the run defense has also allowed 10 rushing touchdowns. If Levis isn’t playing, Kentucky will have to lean on its ground game. South Carolina’s defense will need to make run-stuffing a central priority against the Wildcats. This will be an increasingly important need for the Gamecocks as they enter a full SEC schedule.

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