South Carolina travels to Kentucky this weekend to face the Wildcats in their last game of the 2020 season. It has been a tumultuous season in Columbia. Will Muschamp was fired after a three game losing streak that has extended to five the last two weeks. This has been a lost season for the most part, but there are still some things to work for in the Gamecocks final contest. There is plenty of negativity surrounding the program after back to back poor seasons. Getting a win to end the year would be the best way to head into an off season of change.
Gamecocks Final Game Still Holds Value
Last season South Carolina ended a five game losing streak to the Wildcats. Each of these teams comes into this match-up struggling down the stretch. The Gamecocks final game gives them a chance to end the season on a positive note. They have a host of players injured or that have opted out. This means chances for younger guys to see the field and make an impression. There are also some individual achievements within reach before the season comes to a close. Above all else, winning matters the most, and every chance for a n SEC road victory needs to be taken.
Feed the Bus
The one constant positive for South Carolina this year has been the play of Kevin Harris. The sophomore has carried this offense, and opposing defenders, at times this season. He is 72 yards away from the first 1000 yard season by a Carolina tailback since Mike Davis in 2013. Harris has a skill set similar to former Georgia star Nick Chubb. He runs with good power, excellent vision, and has an unexpected extra gear when he is in the open field. The speed is evident with his six runs of 40 yards or more. Coach Mike Bobo and multiple teammates have stated that getting Harris to 1000 yards has become a goal for this offense. The Georgia native has four 100+ yard games in 2020; including 243 yards and a school record five rushing touchdowns at Ole Miss.
Harris has five touchdown runs of 20 or more yards, but his most impressive run of the year spanned only two yards. Facing a 4th and 1 against Georgia last Saturday, he was grabbed in the backfield by a 300 pound lineman. The powerful tailback escaped his opponents grasp and fought forward to move the chains. The effort and toughness shown on that play exemplified how Harris has played all season. The Gamecocks final game gives him a chance to finish one of the more impressive individual seasons in garnet and black. Amassing over 1000 yards in a year with only ten games, all versus SEC opposition, would be a tremendous accomplishment.
Like most teams in this crazy 2020 season, South Carolina’s roster is getting stretched as thin as it can go. This makes things difficult on game days, but it also allows for some younger players to get experience. The Gamecocks final game will provide more chances for some underclassmen to get a taste of SEC football. The defense has been hit especially hard by injuries and opt outs. Last week there were between 10-15 guys from the early season two deep not available. Freshman Mohamed Kaba saw his most action of the year at linebacker, along with defensive end Rodricus Fitten getting his first start. The development of some of these younger guys should be beneficial moving into next season. Corners John Dixon and Cam Smith have also been leaned on heavily in a thin secondary.
Aside from Harris’ attempt to reach the 100 yard milestone, the biggest opportunity remaining is more action for freshman signal caller Luke Doty. The young quarterback came in to start the second half against Missouri and provided a spark to the Gamecock offense. He then got his first career start last weekend against Georgia. He has shown flashes in his limited playing time, but the learning curve at the position is still pretty step. His scrambling ability was evident versus the Tigers, but the Bulldogs took that away for the most part the next week. He is obviously still learning all the nuances of the position, but each snap taken in an SEC game is critical to his learning on the job.
The offense had become increasingly stagnant under Colin Hill, so a change was necessary. Doty’s ability with his legs gave him the nod with the offensive line’s struggles in pass protection. The Myrtle Beach native has brought more energy to the offense. Tight End Nick Muse has been the biggest beneficiary of the change with his best six quarters of the season coming since halftime against Missouri. As he develops, Doty can lay claim to the starting quarterback job for the next few seasons. The more he can play, learn, and grow can be of great value in an otherwise lost season.
The coaching search is still on going for South Carolina, with no announcement expected before the Gamecocks final game. This season has been a disappointment by all standards. However, there is still one opportunity left to compete and showcase the talent on this roster. Kentucky is a program in a similar situation as the Gamecocks, trying to work their way up the SEC East pecking order. South Carolina needs to take advantage of this chance to end the 2020 with a victory over a division opponent. Even in the midst of a lost season, winning still matters. This program needs show how much it matters by taking care of business in Lexington on Saturday. In a match-up of two struggling teams that means little in a big picture sense, focus and effort will go along way in determining who ends the year in a positive fashion.