David Cloninger

USC vs. ECU: 5 gameday storylines, 5 key numbers

South Carolina defensive back Jamarcus King is expected to start Saturday vs. ECU.
South Carolina defensive back Jamarcus King is expected to start Saturday vs. ECU. dmclemore@thestate.com

1. MAN DOWN, MAN UP … IF USC CAN FIND HIM

Will Muschamp vowed changes, especially in the secondary, after last week’s poor showing. Yet there’s only so much he can do. The defensive backs were thin as it is and now they’re thinner, with Chaz Elder out for 3-4 weeks. Chris Moody and Steven Montac are moving back to safety while D.J. Smith and Jasper Sasser are possibilities, but moving around players against an offense averaging 355 passing yards and 11.5 yards per catch is not a pleasant thought.

2. PUT A BODY ON HIM

East Carolina can light the scoreboard in a hurry and keep doing it for 60 minutes. No matter if the Pirates are running or passing, the Gamecocks have to be able to stop them, and that starts with tackling. Not with the arm or trying to trip their feet, but facing a ball-carrier, squaring up and leveling him. USC did it against Vanderbilt and the technique was the same against MSU. The results definitely weren’t.

3. CRANK UP THE CRUE

The Gamecocks are back at Home Sweet Home. The Pirates haven’t had trouble winning at Williams-Brice Stadium in their history, and they have the momentum after topping NC State last week. Still, it’s USC’s field, it’s their fans and best of all – no cowbells.

4. FAMILIAR FACES

Former USC defensive line coach Deke Adams returns to Columbia with ECU, while USC’s Pat Washington was a Pirate for about a month in 2012. USC offensive line coach and former interim head coach Shawn Elliott interviewed for the vacant ECU position last year but the Pirates went with Scottie Montgomery.

5. IS IT TIME?

We all saw it in Starkville – USC’s line couldn’t block, and with that and the defense knowing Perry Orth wasn’t going to keep the ball on a read-option play, that sunk the offense. The line may not be fixed in a week, but the offense could get a jump-start with a mobile quarterback who can offer the threat of keeping the ball or handing off. Brandon McIlwain, the lights are on, and it’s your time to shine. Rumble, young man, rumble.

FIVE NUMBERS

124

National rank (out of 128) of South Carolina in rushing offense, helped by last week’s 1.1 yards per carry.

4-3

East Carolina’s record in its last seven games at Williams-Brice Stadium.

566.5

Average yards per game for the Pirates’ offense.

0

Times in the last 14 games the Gamecocks have led at halftime.

10

Rushing yards by ECU quarterback Phil Nelson this year. Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald had 11 on the season before galloping for a school-record 195 against USC.

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