Josh Kendall

Kendall’s pick: USC defense will face bigger challenge

gmelendez@thestate.com

For all of South Carolina’s faults in a season-opening, 17-13 win over North Carolina, the Gamecocks made two winning plays in the fourth quarter, one on each side of the ball.

Offensively, senior running back Shon Carson went 48 yards for a touchdown with 12:45 left in the game to put South Carolina ahead. Defensively, linebacker Skai Moore sealed the win with an interception in the opposite end zone later in the quarter.

That’s more winning plays than this team made in the first two months of the season last year, and it’s the best sign to come out of the first game of the season.

Now for the trouble spots heading into Week 2 against Kentucky on Saturday. The Gamecocks must get better in the passing game offensively and must "fit" the run better and tackle better defensively.

The Wildcats will provide a good opportunity to get the offense in gear. Kentucky gave up 479 yards and 33 points to Louisiana-Lafayette last week. If the Gamecocks can’t find a way to complete some passes against this defense, it’ll be a long season.

The Gamecocks defense will have a bigger challenge. Defensive coordinator Jon Hoke was surprised his team didn’t play the run better against North Carolina, which averaged 6.5 yards per rush. South Carolina’s defensive linemen and linebackers weren’t in the proper gaps often enough to suit Hoke, and Williams will make them pay if that happens again. He went for a 75-yard touchdown against ULL last week and went for 135 yards overall.

In balance, the edge goes to South Carolina this week and would even if the Wildcats hadn’t lost 22 straight road games coming into Williams-Brice Stadium.

Gamecocks 24, Wildcats 13

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