COLUMBIA — The way South Carolina beat Kentucky 10 days ago was like a dream come true for Will Muschamp.
Old-school SEC man that he is, the Gamecocks' head football coach still believes in a concept that keeps getting proven — if you run the ball well and stop the run, you’ll win a lot of football games.
“We were able to win on the line of scrimmage. We were able to limit the run game until there at the end. They didn’t really have anything,” Muschamp said after the Gamecocks piled up 247 rushing yards and held the Wildcats to 115 in a 24-7 romp on Sept. 28. “We were able to run the ball effectively throughout the game.”
With that kind of success, does USC finally have a team identity?
Left tackle Sadarius Hutcherson spoke for the room.
“I think we still got a few screws to screw in,” he said.
Muschamp isn’t married to the idea of always having to run the ball and stop the run to win. While he’d have no problem if that happened, the proliferation of spread offenses forces every team to adapt to the opponent.
If the Gamecocks play a heavy passing team, stopping the run may not matter. And it stands to reason USC won’t be able to run the ball as successfully as it did against Kentucky when it plays better teams.
Muschamp constantly preaches that the Gamecocks will do whatever they have to do to win the game, so one game didn’t determine a yearly trend. Yet it could definitely help beat No. 3 Georgia on Saturday.
“They want to run the football, but they do a really good job of throwing the ball down the field,” Muschamp said.
As usual, the Bulldogs have two tailbacks to lean on — D’Andre Swift (7 yards per carry) and Brian Herrien (6.3).
Then there’s quarterback Jake Fromm, a guy who never seems to get his due as an elite signal-caller because of the perception that all he has to do is manage the game. Fromm has completed better than 77 percent of his throws and hasn’t tossed an interception this season.
“Predictable” brings a negative connotation but Georgia runs that kind of offense. The Gamecocks know, like everyone else does, how difficult it is to stop it.
USC will try to lean on its own tailback tandem. Rico Dowdle, shaken up at the end of the Kentucky game, should be fully healthy to play and Tavien Feaster is coming off his best game.
“This week, we kind of went out there and imposed our will and we made it happen,” Feaster said after rushing for 107 yards and two touchdowns against Kentucky.
Georgia is allowing less than 60 rushing yards per game while posting a healthy 250 for itself. If the Gamecocks want or need their identity to be running the ball while stopping the run, they can claim it on Saturday.