South Carolina called 14 running plays Saturday against N.C. State. Those plays resulted in 34 rushing yards. A.J. Turner believes both those numbers will be bigger against Missouri this week.
“We know that we can run the ball against them,” said Turner, the Gamecocks sophomore running back. “We watched (Missouri’s) last game against Missouri State. They put up a lot of points. They also gave up a lot of points. So we are going to try to take advantage of it.”
Missouri gave up 492 yards, 139 on the ground, to Missouri State in a 72-43 win last week.
“Just seeing the game plan and seeing their defense, we feel like we can either run or pass,” Turner said.
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The Gamecocks couldn’t, or at least didn’t, run effectively last week against the Wolfpack. Overall, they had 21 carries for 31 yards, but that included five “carries” by quarterback Jake Bentley that consisted of scrambles and sacks. Starting running back Rico Dowdle, who was the leading rusher with 12 carries for 27 yards, said he wasn’t surprised by the anemic output because of the quality of the N.C. State defensive line.
“We expected not to be able to do much,” Dowdle said. “We did what we could do, I thought. I thought the O-line did a great job. At the end of the day we got the win, so that’s it.”
Like Turner, Dowdle expects the results to be different against Missouri.
“We think we should be able to run the ball on them,” he said. “We think we have the O-line to do it. I think we will run the ball a lot more this week.”
That would allow more running backs to get into the action, too. The Gamecocks entered the season planning to get Dowdle, Turner and Ty’Son Williams work in every game, but Turner carried the ball just once and Williams didn’t have a carry against the Wolfpack.
“You will see a better rotation this week,” Dowdle said. “You should see a lot more carries.”
Coach Will Muschamp defended his team’s running game, pointing out the Gamecocks had only three negative plays in that area. Right tackle Zack Bailey said he “definitely” felt South Carolina was able to run the ball when it wanted to last week.
“I would expect us to try to stay on the field as much as we can (this week), eat the clock, but that’s the coach’s strategy,” Bailey said. “People will probably doubt us all throughout the year. That’s for them to do. They can doubt us all they want, but we are going to try to run it down your throat every time.”
Missouri’s defensive line will give South Carolina an unconventional look, which the Gamecocks began preparing for during Tuesday’s practice. Dowdle referred to it as “crazy stuff.”
“They like to do a lot of movement into different gaps, so it kind of confuses you as a runner about where the hole is going to be or where you should hit the hole,” Turner explained.
Bentley would be fine with leaning more on the run game this week, if for no other reason than it might bleed the clock and keep Missouri’s offense off the field, Bentley said. That would work for the running backs, too, Turner said.
“We only had like 12, 13 run plays called. I feel like that says a lot,” Turner said. “Hopefully, this week we can do a lot more run plays; that’s just me as a running back.”