South Carolina Football Looks to Rebound Against Arkansas on Saturday

Rob FowlerContributor INovember 6, 2009

TUSCALOOSA - OCTOBER 17:  Quarterback Stephen Garcia #9 of the South Carolina Gamecocks rolls out and looks downfield during the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 17, 2009 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  The Crimson Tide beat the Gamecocks 20-6.  (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

Hello and welcome back from your hole, Gamecock fans. Having just crawled out of mine after the horrifying Halloween we just endured, it's time to finally point out the obvious.

Carolina is still an average football team. While it may tease us with tantalizing talent and potential, the team has shown that it can struggle mightily against legitimately good opponents.

After handing out touchdowns to Tennessee like many of us were handing out candy to young'uns this Halloween, the Gamecocks stepped onto their Columbia bound buses with their tails between their legs.

Having spent the weekend in Jacksonville, Fla., taking in my second consecutive Florida/Georgia experience (in a Gamecock jersey, of course) I can honestly say I had a lot on my sports palate that weekend.

However, with the Carolina game on a 7,000-inch flat screen in the Jacksonville Landing, there was nowhere to hide from an eerily bad performance from the Gamecocks.

And while many women at The Landing were enjoying the party during Halloween in the least amount of fabric possible, Carolina ended up being the ones exposed.

Carolina fumbled the football three times in the first half in Neyland Stadium Saturday, all of which resulted in near immediate touchdowns for Tennessee.

Throw in an interception (or a badly missed catch, either's bad), the inability to fall on fumbles, and penalties that just leave you hanging your head in shame and you have the ugliest performance that I've ever watched on the biggest television I've ever seen.

Oh, and the best defensive end on the team has been wearing a sling all week and is projected to be out until at least the Clemson game.

However hope springs eternal as the Gamecock football team tries to leave Tennessee in the back of their minds as they travel to Arkansas to face the Razorbacks.

While this game may bring violent flashbacks of No. 5 streaking up and down the sidelines for same Gamecock fans, it will be the aerial assault of Ryan Mallett that they need to be concerned about.

Mallett has shown that he can throw the ball in the SEC after transferring to Bobby Petrino's squad two years ago. And he will be playing a big game at home this weekend against a battered defense.

Starting safety Chris Culliver is out with a shoulder injury. Freshman DeVonte Holloman serves as his replacement.

Starting pass rushing force at defensive end Cliff Matthews is out for two games. Clifton Geathers and Devin Taylor will look to tow the line with some spot duty from tackle Nathan Pepper rotating out.

Couple these recent injuries with Carolina's starting inside linebacker Rodney Paulk and defensive tackle Travian Robertson and that leaves four big time playmakers that will be standing on the sideline Saturday for the Gamecock defense.

Now I know SR safety Darian Stewart will be flying around on Saturday and more than likely putting his shoulder pads through people. And I know that Carolina's All-Everything Eric Norwood will be helping out with the pass rush and making big plays.

But with a quarterback like Ryan Mallett on tap, the loss of a safety and a defensive end the caliber of these two players could put the Carolina D in a tough spot.

However, if the replacements such as DeVonte Holloman can step up and the defense can get a boost from an unsung hero thus far such as Clifton Geathers, it could level the playing field a bit.

If the defense can hold strong for Carolina, there are some major flaws in the Arkansas defense that Stephen Garcia and Steve Spurrier will be able to exploit.

This is a young and inexperienced defense for the Razorbacks, especially in the secondary. With receiver man-children such as Alshon Jeffery, Tori Gurley, and Weslye Saunders at his disposal, Garcia should have a big day throwing downfield against the overmatched and undersized secondary.

With tackle/guard Jarriel King nursing a post-concussion injury, it will be up to Quentin Richardson to hold off the pass rush on the left side and keep Garcia in a clean shirt.

If the offensive line can finally mesh and come through with a big game for offensive line coach Eric Wolford, the Gamecocks could have a ginormous day throwing down the field.

Earlier in the year, Steve Spurrier spoke in a post game press conference wishfully saying "maybe we can win a 42-38 game around here someday," well Ball Coach, hello someday.

With so many defensive injuries and inexperience on the defensive side of the ball, I think we might see a shootout the likes of which this Carolina for one has never seen before.

I think Carolina will protect the ball a lot better than what they've shown and hopefully will show that Halloween was just some sort of cruel, heart-wrenching joke. If Garcia is able to manage the ball game well, I believe Carolina will slay their demons left over from Halloween and seal the game late in Fayetteville Saturday.

If Carolina's defense can surprise and maybe force some turnovers and provide the offense with a short field a couple times, all the better.

I think the key will be the play of the wideouts of Carolina. Jeffery, Gurley, and the tight end Saunders will need to use their size Saturday against a smaller Arkansas defense.

It should be a throw-it-up-and-go-get-it kind of day as soon as Carolina crosses the 50, and with the size squarely in Carolina's favor, I think they'll win a bunch of those matchups.

I think both scores will be in the 40s Saturday, and while Carolina allows Arkansas to pass on them, I see the defense making some big momentum shifting turnovers that will put the offense in a position to seal the game.

45-41 Carolina.



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