After nine straight weekends of football games, South Carolina finally gets a little rest and relaxation Saturday.
The No. 11 Gamecocks (7-2) will take their bye week before they play their final three regular-season games against Arkansas, Wofford and Clemson. Of the 25 teams ranked in the Associated Press poll, only three – South Carolina, No. 6 Ohio State (9-0), and No. 9 Florida State (8-1) – have gone without a weekend off.
“We’ll look forward to taking this week off and recharging our batteries now and get ready for Arkansas in two weeks,” said USC coach Steve Spurrier, after USC’s 38-35 win against Tennessee.
In addition to the knee injury to Marcus Lattimore, other smaller injuries have gradually piled up over the course of the nine-week run. Offensive tackle Mike Matulis, who has a shoulder injury, and cornerback Akeem Auguste, who has a groin injury, missed the Tennessee game. Defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles has missed two games with a shoulder injury.
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Offensive tackle Brandon Shell and defensive tackle Byron Jerideau both left the Tennessee game due to ankle injuries. Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney played through a foot injury against the Volunteers.
Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said he is happy his players are getting an opportunity to get healthy.
“It’s been a quick season playing nine games already without a break,” Ward said. “Hopefully, we can get all injuries healed up and get ready for another passing team. We know Arkansas is going to come in here and throw the ball. Hopefully, we can get Akeem back and get the defensive front well and get a chance to rest the front four. It’s coming at the right time.”
Clowney smiled at the prospect of not having to suit up this weekend, citing all “the bumps and bruises” on the team.
“Hopefully, this will give us some time to rest up,” Clowney said.
The bye week also will give the team an added week to prepare for the stretch run, which starts with an Arkansas team that always gives the Gamecocks fits. The Razorbacks have won five of the last six meetings, including wins in the past three seasons by an average margin of 18 points.
Given that the Gamecocks are coming off a difficult stretch of four consecutive SEC games, which included three straight Top 10 opponents in Georgia, LSU and Florida before the Tennessee game, the players view this week’s break with relief.
“We need a bye week really bad,” cornerback Victor Hampton said. “But now we get to give our bodies some rest, recuperate and get ready for Arkansas.”
While Lattimore will not be in uniform against the Razorbacks, Spurrier said he hopes the other injured players will be. Quarterback Connor Shaw, who had a career-high passing day despite playing with a foot sprain against Tennessee, said the bye week “comes at the right time. We have a lot of guys beat up. We’re thankful for a bye.”