Underestimate an FCS team? These Gamecocks know better.
A year ago, they were in the throes of the program’s worst season since the last century. They drew a Citadel team that was pretty good, with a funky offense, but not a world beater by most measures.
For offensive tackle Mason Zandi, who missed the game with an injury, it still drives him nuts.
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“It made it real for some guys,” Zandi said. “If they think, ‘Oh we’re a big Division 1 program, we’re the SEC, we should stomp these guys.’ Yeah we should, but it’s real, you can lose any given Saturday. That’s the stress. You come out with mental focus every single day. It’s important.”
That matters with Western Carolina coming to town for the SEC’s traditional FCS weekend. These Catamounts are not the Bulldogs of last season. They’re 2-8. They’re not contending for a playoff spot.
But the Gamecocks won’t focus on those factors.
Will Muschamp said WCU has an offense that can be problematic as it plays at a blazing speed and pushes that with a range of run-pass option plays against flustered defenses.
The players have a sense of perspective on this, and they’re also looking at how much is riding on this game.
“Last year wasn’t a very good season,” Zandi said. “We know that. But we’re not in last year, we’re in this year. Right now we have a record of 5-5 and we have chance to improve that record to 6-5 and move to a bowl game.
He also added, “Not going to one, that’s for the birds. I’m not watching bowl games at my house.”
He said he’s been hammering the sense of urgency to younger players, warning them the team they see on film will play twice as hard. This is their bowl, their big chance to get a dose of notoriety and attention.
And while the Gamecocks can’t go in believing they’ll win just because they should, their opponents have to take a different outlook.
“They’re coming here expecting to win,” safety Chris Moody said. “They say they can play with us, what they’re supposed to say. They put their pants on just like us.”