If South Carolina is going to have a chance to upset No. 2 Clemson next week, it’s going to be because an offense that finally has found a rhythm catches fire in an unlikely place.
The Gamecocks raced past FCS Chattanooga 49-9 on Saturday in Williams-Brice Stadium and can finally turn their attention to the Tigers, who have beaten them four years in a row and will be big favorites on their home field.
“The offense has to score the way they know they can, the way they have the past few weeks, and we’ll be fine,” South Carolina linebacker Danny Fennell said Saturday night.
The Gamecocks (6-4) put up 602 yards against the overmatched Mocs, the most yards they’ve gained since 2014. South Carolina had 33 first downs and scored touchdowns on seven of its first 10 possessions.
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“Certainly, we have a huge challenge and opportunity against Clemson,” Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp said. “We are going to need to play well to beat them. We understand the rivalry, and we understand we need to do a better job on our side of it.”
The Tigers (11-0) were No. 2 in the nation in total defense entering Saturday’s game.
“They are a great football team, and we have to play well and prepare the right way,” South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley said. “I think you take it the same as you do each and every week. One thing about Tom Brady is he never changes. I’m in no way comparing myself to Tom Brady, but he has the same disposition no matter who they play. I think that’s a great mindset to have.”
Bentley completed 25-of-29 passes for 339 yards and four touchdowns against the Mocs (6-5) before leaving early in the fourth quarter.
“Jake has played really good football for us,” Muschamp said. “He’s accurate with the football. He’s completing almost 70 percent of his passes, and we’re not throwing dink and dunk. We’re throwing the ball down the field. He’s played at a very high level since the second half of the Texas A&M game against some very high level defenses.”
The Gamecocks are averaging 44 points per game in their last three games. With a banged up defense that wasn’t playing all that great when it was at full strength, South Carolina might need that many again to compete against the Tigers.
“We think we’re going to score when we get the ball and things have been going good for us and hopefully we can keep that going,” Bentley said. “The past few weeks I think that each person on the offense has probably played their best games. Can’t really tell you why. I think it’s just guys staying persistent and getting better throughout the year. It’s starting to pay off for us here lately.”
It’s going to have to pay off at a lottery level next week.