What the UConn offense sees from South Carolina on Saturday may not necessarily be what it gets.
Make no mistake, the Huskies will face the nation’s 15th-ranked defense in South Carolina when the two 7-5 teams meet Saturday in the Papajohns.com Bowl at Legion Field (2 p.m., ESPN).
“Their defense is tricky,” said senior running back Andre Dixon, who is 33 yards shy of joining Jordan Todman (1,152) as a 1,000-yard rusher this season. “There’s a lot of movement and it throws off offensive lineman because you’ll have a set blocking scheme that you’re going to run vs. what you see. They’ll be in one defense, then another, and once the ball is snapped then they shift again.
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“We’ve been practicing a lot against that and getting ready for the different looks we’re going to see.”
So there shouldn’t be any rust in this offense, even though the Huskies will be playing for the first time since their Dec. 5 win over South Florida.
UConn didn’t start game-planning for South Carolina until after finals ended. Since Dec. 19, minus a three-day Christmas break, the Huskies have focused on nothing but what it takes to beat the Gamecocks and win another bowl game.
It won’t be easy.
“We have a good defense,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “Our defense comes into the game third in the SEC behind Alabama and Florida. Our defense has to play well.”
The UConn running game must impose its will on the best defense the Huskies have faced this season.
“We have to execute and not turn the ball over,” coach Randy Edsall said. “That’s the biggest thing. We have to take care of all of our possessions. I think if we can do that, we’ll be OK.”
This game features an offense hitting its stride against a stingy defense that allows an average of just over 300 total yards. The Gamecocks are 12th in the nation against the pass (167.6 yards a game).
While running the ball will be primarily what the Huskies do, they’re still going to have to loosen things up through the air.
And that’s where quarterback Zach Frazer comes in.
Frazer threw for 225 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions against South Florida; 173 yards, two TDs and one interception against Syracuse; and 141 yards, one TD and one interception against Notre Dame — all UConn victories.
Frazer is as hot as Todman, Dixon and the Huskies’ offensive line right now. And he’s looking forward to his shot against the Gamecocks, tricks and all.
“Top defenses, SEC, that’s the biggest conference, supposedly the best conference,” Frazer said. "Coming into it, I feel like I want to throw the ball, you know? I want to chuck it around, show people that we can throw the ball in this offense."
The South Carolina defense is anchored by linebacker Eric Norwood. The first-team All-American compared Todman to C.J, Spiller, Clemson’s outstanding tailback, and called Dixon a thumping downhill runner.
“The competition that they’ve been facing being in a great conference, playing against all those teams ..... Dixon said. “They’ve already gone against the Heisman Trophy winner [Mark Ingram, who had 246 yards on the ground against South Carolina in October]. We’re going to line up and do what we do and hopefully continue to bring the balance we’ve been bringing.”