Josh Kendall

Stopping Aggies’ three-headed running game key to South Carolina chances

USC defense prepares for explosive A&M offense

South Carolina defenders explain what they expect from the Texas A&M offense.
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South Carolina defenders explain what they expect from the Texas A&M offense.

Texas A&M has a dual-threat quarterback who was one of the nation’s most highly rated signees in the 2017 class, but that’s not the part of the Aggies running game that worries South Carolina the most.

“The backs. Both of their backs can hit it from anywhere,” Gamecocks linebacker T.J. Brunson said. “They are fast. They have good vision. They are really good backs, both of them.”

Aggies sophomore Trayveon Williams is second in the SEC in rushing with 109.3 yards per game. Oklahoma transfer Keith Ford is the thunder to Williams’ lightning and is 15th in the SEC in rushing with 58 yards per game. Throw in quarterback Kellen Mond’s 157 yards on the ground, including a 79-yard scamper, and Texas A&M has the second-best rushing attack in the SEC with 260.3 yards per game.

That’s the Big Deal for South Carolina on Saturday in College Station, Texas. If the Gamecocks can’t stop the Texas A&M running game, they won’t stand a chance against the Aggies.

“The two backs they’ve got are big-time runners,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said. “They are going to create space and get in one-on-one matchups. We have to tackle and get these guys on the ground.”

Last season, Williams had 98 yards on 14 carries against the Gamecocks while Ford had one carry for 3 yards. This season, South Carolina is eighth in the SEC in rushing defense, allowing 132.8 yards per game.

“They definitely have strong backs. We saw the same backs last year,” defensive tackle Ulric Jones said. “You have to play your box every play, you have to keep your eyes where they need to be.”

Mond will be the X-factor in the ground game. Last week, he became the second Aggies true freshman to have more than 200 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in a game. Mond is ninth in SEC in total offense with 649 passing yards and 157 rushing yards

Gamecocks linebacker Eldridge Thompson has a plan for how South Carolina can handle Mond, he said.

“I heard he’s kind of young so if we can get after him, I think we can make him fold,” Thompson said. “People don’t like getting hit a lot, so if you bruise them up, they start looking around.”

Game info

Who: USC (3-1, 1-1 SEC) vs. Texas A&M (3-1, 1-0)

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Kyle Field; College Station, Texas

TV: SEC Network

Radio: 107.5 FM

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