The Midshipmen’s triple-option attack has averaged an NCAA-best 400.5 rushing yards per game. South Carolina’s defensive coaches are not happy to see a team running the offense back on the schedule; the last team to run the triple option against the Gamecocks was Wofford, which ran 43 times for 185 yards and stayed within three points into the fourth quarter before falling 23-13. “We are going to have our hands full slowing down these guys,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “Navy might be as good an independent school as there is in the country.”
Oh, yeah? Take that
The Navy defense, which does not get nearly as much attention as the offense, has given up more yards on the ground than through the air. Navy runs a 3-4 defense, and its starting defensive linemen average 272 pounds. South Carolina’s starting offensive linemen average 309 pounds. Combine that with Spurrier indicating he’s going to lean more on the running game, and it could be a big day for Marcus Lattimore, who is second in the SEC in rushing with 144 yards per game. Surprisingly, Lattimore said he does not envy the Navy running backs even though they get to carry the ball virtually every play. “I like to catch the ball a little bit more,” Lattimore said. “I really wouldn’t like that kind of offense.”
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Where’s Bruce Ellington?
The Gamecocks’ do-it-all newcomer has not done much on offense. Ellington, who is fifth in the SEC in kickoff return yardage with an average of 23.4 yards per return, has two carries for 18 yards and has not caught a pass. With the passing game needing a spark and the Wildcat formation still mostly a rumor, this could be the day Ellington gets a chance to do more. “We’re trying to utilize all of our guys more,” Spurrier said. “Bruce is doing fine. He almost had one kickoff return (against Georgia), but one guy missed a block that might have broken one.”
The horror of 1984
All Gamecock fans have to hear is the year and a flood of bad memories come back. South Carolina was 9-0 and ranked No. 2 in the nation. It had beaten Georgia, Notre Dame and then-No. 11 Florida State and had its eye on playing for the national title. Then Navy, in front of fewer than 28,000 in Annapolis, Md., upset the Gamecocks 38-21. This year’s players have heard that story plenty this week. “We kind of have that in the back of our minds all week,” center T.J. Johnson said. “We can’t let them come in here and upset us.” Added offensive lineman Terrence Campbell: “I definitely have the utmost respect for the military, but they are an opponent. We are going to come out and play them just as hard as we played Georgia. Nothing different.”
Charmed, but for how long?
Each of its first two opponents has had crucial fumbles to help turn the tide in the Gamecocks’ favor. Those types of gifts will not keep coming forever, Spurrier said. “We can’t win 56-37, 45-42 every week,” he said. “It’s just hard to do. Auburn can do it. They know how to do it a lot better than we do. I guess Auburn won about two in a row like that, haven’t they? Usually, that’ll catch up with you after a while.”
GoGamecocks' Neil White and Josh Kendall preview South Carolina's game against Navy.