South Carolina got its season off to a positive start with a 46-0 victory this past Saturday. Now the Gamecocks’ first road test is on the horizon, with a trip to East Carolina. The team in garnet and black opened as a two-point underdog to ECU. While this match-up won’t serve as a test to Shane Beamer’s long-term chances at success in Columbia, it will help gauge how this year’s team can compete. While there were positives to take out of the shutout win over Eastern Illinois, the talent gap was too great to make any real judgments about this team.
Gamecocks First Road Test
South Carolina travels to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for a noon kick-off with the 0-1 Pirates. After a dominant victory in week one, now they face a tougher test. It only gets harder from here on out, with the SEC slate soon to begin. The Gamecocks’ first road test of 2021 can serve as another litmus test to see just how far this program must go in terms of talent, depth, and execution. It will also show how much improvement this team can make between week one and week two. Looking crisper on offense and fewer penalties will be the main goals.
Back At It
Zeb Noland had an excellent first start for South Carolina. He had four first-half touchdown throws and looked comfortable and in control of the offense. Projected starter Luke Doty is back from a foot injury and should be 100% on Saturday. Noland’s performance will give the coaching staff something to think about when announcing this week’s starter under center. He showed he can lead this team to a victory. Doty was the clear-cut QB1 before he got hurt. While he may not start this weekend, he will need to play for sure. If Doty is the guy that Beamer and Marcus Satterfield want leading this team, he needs to get some game action before the week three trip to Athens.
Back At It Part 2
The other notable player missing from the season opener was Kevin Harris. Last year’s leading rusher in the SEC was held out more as a precaution after having just returned to practice late in fall camp. Harris is said to be 100% for the Gamecocks first road test. He is in full contact in practice this week. The three tailbacks that played in his place on Saturday all did some very good things. Zaquandre White led the way with 167 total yards rushing and receiving and two touchdowns. He plays with an energy and aggression that is infectious on the field. White also has the balance, agility, and hands to make him a tough match-up for defenses.
Marshawn Lloyd and Juju McDowell split the rest of the carries in the opener. Each of these freshman ball carriers has the staff excited about their potential. Much like White, these two rely on their shifty moves and speed. That will counterbalance well with the running style of Harris. He is much more of a straightforward runner, using elite vision and power to his advantage. The mix of the different styles should help this offense keep opponents off balance. All the tailbacks have shown they can also be factors in the passing game. While the roster may be thin in some areas, the Gamecocks running back room is as deep and talented as any in the country.
The defense appears ready for the Gamecocks’ first road test. They pitched a shutout over Eastern Illinois. The competition will take a step up this week, but the season opener was a good foundation to start from. The Pirates threw for almost 300 yards in their opener but struggled to get their run game going. South Carolina must be aware of where Keaton Mitchell is. He is East Carolina’s best playmaker, and they look to get him the ball through the air and on the ground. Kingsley Enagbare and Zacch Pickens affected the quarterback a lot in game one. They will need to do so again this week.
The back end of the defense will be tested more this week. Jaylan Foster had an interception on the first play for the defense and had another one called back for an offside. The secondary had question marks surrounding it heading into the season. The Pirates will test whether enough answers have been found. They like to pass the ball and will spread things out on offense. Cam Smith is back at the corner position will help. His injury also helped in a way, with Marcellas Dial and Darius Rush getting the opportunities in fall camp to show what they can do.