South Carolina on Saturday will host a night game for only the fourth time in the Will Muschamp era. Williams-Brice Stadium under the lights can produce a special scene, but the setup hasn’t led to a ton of recent Gamecock success.
Since winning all five home night games in 2013, USC is 2-6 since in home contests that kick off past 6 p.m. The Gamecocks are 1-2 at night under Muschamp, including last season’s losses to Kentucky and Clemson.
Yet the likely spectacle of it all — 80,000 juiced-up fans from a daylong tailgate — is still enough to keep opponents on guard.
Tennessee (3-4, 1-3 SEC) is coming to Williams-Brice this weekend for a 7:30 p.m. clash with the Gamecocks (3-3, 2-3).
“We’ve got a tremendous challenge this week, and I think it’s a great opportunity for us,” Volunteers coach Jeremy Pruitt said Monday during a news conference in Knoxville. “It’s a hard place to win, in Columbia, especially at night. So it’s a tremendous challenge for our team moving forward.”
USC’s only home night win under Muschamp came against the Vols in 2016. That 24-21 victory was part of Jake Bentley’s first start against an SEC team.
Bentley, now a junior who’s coming off a roller-coaster performance in a loss to Texas A&M, was a topic of conversation Monday during Pruitt’s media session.
Some highlights from what the first-year UT coach had to say:
▪ “We recruited (Bentley),” said the former Alabama defensive coordinator who also coached at Hoover High School. “His dad, Bobby, used to be the head coach at Byrnes, so I’ve known him for many years. He used to bring his team down to Hoover High School, and we had 7-on-7 there.
“Jake, he’s a coach’s son. He understands what they’re trying to get done. He’s tough, he can get the ball out of his hand, makes all the throws.”
Bentley has completed 30 of 54 passes for 296 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions in his career against Tennessee.
“Very unique situation that he leaves — really, he could have played his senior year of high school — he leaves and goes to South Carolina and ends up being the (starting) quarterback. Says a lot about him. So we’ll have to find ways to affect him Saturday. Because if you let him sit there in the pocket, he can deliver to some really good players.”
▪ Pruitt on South Carolina: “They’re gonna be very well-coached. They’ll be hard-nosed, they always are. They are throwing the football a little more, probably, than they have in the past. I know Bryan McClendon and Dan Werner being there, they’re spread now. They got a good quarterback, good wide receivers, they’re balanced.
“But really, for us, we gotta fix us. I’ve kind of said it every week. That’s the thing. Our goal is to be at our best, play at our best and prepare to do that.”
USC has won five of its last eight games against UT.
▪ Pruitt on Tennessee’s quarterback situation after starter Jarrett Guarantano left the Alabama game with injury: “I think Jarrett’s going to be fine. He took a pretty good shot. He took a couple of good shots. So he’s a tough guy, and I expect him to be out there.”
Guarantano completed 11 of 18 passes for 133 yards in last season’s 15-9 loss to the Gamecocks.