There’s one thing South Carolina’s defense is especially worried about when it comes to facing Virginia. The Gamecocks’ offense, on the other hand, is worried about everything.
South Carolina (7-5) will meet the Cavaliers (7-5) on Saturday at noon in the Belk Bowl in Bank of America Stadium. The Gamecock defense’s main concern about Virginia is junior quarterback Bryce Perkins, a junior college transfer who set the school’s single-season record for total offense this year with 3,314 yards.
“Their quarterback is mobile, so you have to stay in coverage,” safety Steven Montac said. “Your defensive line can’t really rush up the field or he’ll head up the field so you have to be patient. He’s a really good player.”
Perkins has thrown for 2,472 yards and rushed for 842 this season. South Carolina linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams described him as “a bigger Quinton Flowers.” Flowers threw for 261 yards and rushed for 105 in 2016 when South Florida beat the Gamecocks 46-39 in the Birmingham Bowl.
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“We have to make sure we contain him,” Allen-Williams said.
Athletic freshmen quarterbacks Jay Urich and Dakereon Joyner have been simulating Perkins for the South Carolina scout team this week during practice.
“We have to understand the mindset you have to have with a mobile quarterback, understanding that we can’t rush upfield, understanding that you can’t do a lot of things you would do against a quarterback,” Allen-Williams said. “He’s a good mobile quarterback. It’s going to be a challenge, but for us, it’s all about we do.”
The Virginia defense also has a standout in junior cornerback Bryce Hall, who could be a first-round NFL draft pick in the spring if he forgoes his senior season.
“He’s a very instinctual player,” Gamecocks quarterback Jake Bentley said. “You will see a receiver get open and then him just close the distance and make a play. That’s what the great DBs do, they find a way to get back in the play. Their defense does a lot of different coverages. It’s going to be a challenge in preparation. The scheme that they have is unique, and they do a great job of running it.”
Several South Carolina offensive players said the Virginia defense is the most varied it will face this season. The Cavaliers were third in the ACC in total defense during the regular season, allowing 337.2 yards per game.
“They are very complicated in what they do,” Gamecocks tight end Jacob August said. “They never really are redundant about what they do. That’s pretty rare in college. Even pre-snap we can’t really decide what they are going to do, which is a testament to their coaching staff.”
The Cavaliers’ defensive line uses more twists and stunts than South Carolina usually sees, offensive lineman Dennis Daley said.
“We just have to stick to our game plan and come out and play,” tight end K.C. Crosby said. “They give you a lot of coverages and try to confuse you a lot, more than a lot of people we have played this year. It just takes more attention to detail and focus, locking in and knowing your little keys that they give you.”
Belk Bowl info
Who: South Carolina (7-5) vs. Virginia (7-5)
Where: Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina
When: Noon Saturday