A few weeks back, former South Carolina defensive back D.J. Swearinger showed what a flinch could mean.
After talking trash with a receiver, a little move had New York Jets receiver Terrelle Pryor flinching. Soon enough it was a viral video clip.
The lesson there is one the current Gamecocks are taking to heart, even if there’s not a direct connection.
No. 24 USC hosts No. 3 Georgia, national runners-up last season. There’s a lot of emotion wrapped up in there, but in a game that promises to be physical, there’s one big takeaway.
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“Whoever flinches first is going to lose,” safety Steven Montac said. “Can’t flinch, can’t soften up. Just got to be ready to throw punches every time we’re on the field.”
Tight end Jacob August perhaps summed it up more succinctly.
“Whoever flinches first (loses) the fight,” August said.
That’s been the message from the coaches, granted with punches being metaphorical. Every time Georgia comes downhill with those great backs and that big offensive line, it’s a punch at South Carolina’s defense.
How do they absorb it? How do they hold up?
On the other side, USC’s offense is going to have to make Georgia feel something. Per usual, the Bulldogs are loaded with talent, and it’s well-coached.
“This is going to be a physical game,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said. “You don’t need to get in this game and start flinching.”
The last two meetings have, arguably, fit that bill.
In 2016, Muschamp’s first year, a rag-tag squad that was rotating two quarterbacks (neither of whom was Jake Bentley) hosted the Bulldogs in a game moved to a Sunday by a storm. UGA trampled USC’s defense on the ground, but South Carolina stayed close enough to at least have a chance to tie things up late in the third quarter.
A year later, USC again spent much of the game within striking distance but could never close. The defense made the Bulldogs work, but Nick Chubb or Sony Michel were always able to break one extra key tackle in a big spot. (There were also a few big catches mixed in there.)
Chubb and Michel are gone, but the Bulldogs are their typically loaded selves. USC likely has more playmakers than a season ago, but things could come down to whether the Gamecocks can consistently compete on the line of scrimmage.
“Us and Georgia know it’s going to be a very physical game,” August said. “We know that we’re going to have to be able to bring the physicality. If we can do it and do things to our standard, it can be our day.”