Josh Kendall

Gamecocks think they have better handle on hostile environments

On the road again. There may not be four more frightening words for South Carolina football fans this time of year.

The Gamecocks will play their first true road game of the season Saturday against Missouri. South Carolina won its first game of the season on a neutral field in Charlotte, N.C., but that doesn’t approximate the feel of a truly hostile environment, several Gamecocks said this week.

That means this team still must prove that it can compete on the road better than it did a year ago. Or two years ago for that matter. South Carolina is 1-10 in its last 11 road games. The only victory in that span was last year’s season-opener against Vanderbilt. Before that, the last time the Gamecocks had won a road game was Nov. 15, 2014 against Florida, when their current head coach, Will Muschamp, was the Gators head coach.

“We know we have some stuff to work on, and we didn’t play that great on the road last year, but coach has done some things at practice with crowd noise and stuff like that,” tight end Hayden Hurst said. “We’ve definitely done better communicating and getting on the same page so I am not too worried about that.”

Tight end K.C. Crosby said he thinks another year of maturity for most of the Gamecocks’ contributors will be a key difference this season.

“Guys have been out there already, been in the situations. It’s just a matter of us going out and playing like we are capable of,” Crosby said.

In particular, quarterback Jake Bentley’s experience makes Muschamp more comfortable going on the road this year, Muschamp said. Bentley was a combined 25-of-50 for 254 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions in his two road starts last year, which came against two of the best defenses the Gamecocks faced all of that season in Florida and Clemson.

“I always felt that was an important factor on going on the road is having that position be a calming factor for your tea,” Muschamp said. “I certainly feel more comfortable there. I do feel like defensively that we have some experienced guys who have been on the road, understand the importance that this is an SEC East game and the first step to Atlanta. We need to do a good job of preparing right for the game. We talked about last year winning on the road the first week and the second week, we didn’t play very well. That’s something I’ll talk to our team about.”