By the time South Carolina and Clemson kick off Saturday night in Memorial Stadium, the temperature will be dropping into the 40s, and both coaches probably will be hoping the cliché that you have to run the ball to win in cold weather isn’t true.
The Gamecocks (6-5) are 106th in the nation in rushing with 140.5 yards per game. The No. 4 Tigers (10-1) are better, but still only 76th in the country with 165.3 yards per game.
“I could see the logic behind (the cliché), but I think with us, we are going to go with what we know,” South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst said.
For the Gamecocks, that means running the ball on 55.5 percent of their snaps. (Clemson runs the ball on 46 percent of its snaps.)
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“I think you need to be able to run the ball all the time, not just in the winter time,” offensive lineman Mason Zandi said.
South Carolina is coming off its best rushing performance in 36 years – 422 yards against Western Carolina – but the Clemson defense it will face is much more comparable to the Florida defense that held the Gamecocks to 43 yards on the ground two weeks ago.
“I hope (the cliché) is true,” USC running back David Williams said. “I hope we run the ball more finishing up the season.”
Hurst isn’t ready to turn the offense completely over to the running game, but he could see the sense in the old saying after a recent morning practice. With the colder weather comes a harder football and harder hands, Hurst said.
“Today was a big example of that,” he said. “When it gets cold, your hands kind of get hard. It takes a little while to get loose. It takes a little while (to warm up).”
South Carolina quarterback Perry Orth pointed out South Carolina winters might not be the best test of the run-the-ball-in-November theory.
“I don’t know when it will get too nasty down here,” he said. “If we were playing in the Big Ten, it would be different, but yeah it is different when it’s cold. It’s just harder to throw and catch, honestly. The ball gets slick and hard. Being able to run the ball is huge.”
The Gamecocks’ ground game is led by freshman tailback Rico Dowdle, who had 226 yards against Western Carolina and has 116 carries for 684 yards in seven games this season. He’s averaging 5.9 yards per carry. Clemson’s running game is paced by junior running back Wayne Gallman, who has 831 yards on 160 carries (5.2 yards per carry). Quarterback Deshaun Watson is the Tigers’ second-leading rusher with 422 yards.
In the past 10 years of the Carolina-Clemson game, the winning team has outrushed the losing team nine times, and it hasn’t been close. The winners have averaged 186.9 yards on the ground to the loser’s 104.8.
“You do what you have to do to win games,” USC coach Will Muschamp said.