Heisman candidate Marcus Lattimore and the South Carolina Gamecocks will make their 2012 home debut by hosting East Carolina on Saturday afternoon. The game will be televised regionally by the SEC Network and this article takes a look a look at five things Lattimore and his teammates must do well to move to 2-0 on the season.
Running back Marcus Lattimore will likely be a busy man on Saturday afternoon.
Handle the Tempo, Get off the Field
East Carolina will employ a fast-paced, no-huddle attack on offense with quick, short passes. The South Carolina defense must be ready for this and not allow the Pirates to tire them out over the course of the game. The easiest way to make that happen, of course, is to not let them get momentum on that side of the ball and get off the field when given an opportunity to stop a drive. The Gamecock defense must take good angles to the ball and make sure tackles to prevent the Pirate receivers from picking up yards after the catch.
Pound the Rock
Statistically, East Carolina has struggled on the defensive side of the ball under head coach Ruffin McNeill, especially in stopping the run. That is exactly what the doctor ordered for Marcus Lattimore and Gamecock offense, as it’s possible they will be without starting quarterback Connor Shaw, or he could be limited. Controlling the clock with Lattimore will also shorten the game, allow the defense to rest and keep the fast-paced Pirate offense off the field.
Force multiple turnovers
South Carolina’s linebackers and secondary will be tested in this contest with East Carolina guaranteed to take to the air early and often. The Gamecocks need to make them pay by forcing game-changing mistakes from first year quarterback Rio Johnson. The talented Gamecock defensive line isn’t likely to sack Johsnon very often because of how quickly he gets rid of the ball, but they still should be able pressure him and force mistakes.
Play with Discipline
Steve Spurrier’s bunch needs to play with discipline on both sides of the ball in this contest. They can’t afford to give up the big plays on defense that plagued them at times in the season opener against Vanderbilt. Offensively, they need to protect the football, avoid drive-killing penalties and put the ball in the end zone with consistency against what should be an overmatched East Carolina defense.
Make it happen on Special Teams
First-year special teams coordinator Joe Robinson has worked hard to put his units in position to make more big plays this season than in recent years. Whether it be blocking a kick or breaking a long return for a score, big plays on special teams will help take pressure off every other unit on the team. It wasn’t a great debut for the special teams units in the season opener, and the tide needs to turn in this contest.
I expect South Carolina to win this contest primarily because of their defense and their running game. Even if Shaw is able to play in this game, he won’t be 100 percent. If Dylan Thompson gets the start, I do think he’ll perform much better in the friendly confines of Williams-Brice than he did when he was unexpectedly inserted in the game last week against Vanderbilt. I do think expect the wide receivers and the tight ends to be a bigger factor offensively, but shortening the game and controlling the ball appear to be a formula for success.
While East Carolina will likely have some success on offense early, I think the Gamecock defense will rise to the occasion as the game progresses. Adjusting to the tempo of the Pirate offense could take some time though.
Prediction: South Carolina 34 East Carolina 17
Want to enjoy all of the premium content on TheBigSpur.com? Click HERE to find out how to receive access to the latest in South Carolina athletics and for a LIMITED TIME WE ARE GIVING YOU THE REST OF THE YEAR FOR FREE. Get all the breaking news, insight from the best staff of insiders in the market, and join a lively message board community. Also check out our recruiting database, get free text alerts, and enjoy quality content from football, basketball, baseball, and other Olympic sports.