Five gameday storylines: Gamecocks vs. LSU

jkendall@thestate.comOctober 12, 2012 

South Carolina defensive end Devin Taylor (98) forces Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray (11) into an incomplete pass in the third quarter of their game at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC.

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com

On the road again

The Gamecocks will be going on the road for the third time this season, and their road wins have not been nearly as impressive as their home wins. South Carolina escaped Vanderbilt with a 17-13 win in the season-opener and then rallied to beat Kentucky 38-17 two weeks ago. The test is much tougher this week at LSU’s Death Valley, where live tiger mascot Mike will keep a close watch. “The tiger doesn't play defense or offense for them, not yet anyway,” coach Steve Spurrier said. “They keep him caged up, I think. It'll be very, very loud, just like it was loud for Georgia last week. That's part of the game, that the home crowd gets to yell and scream at you. Hopefully, when we pick up the foot, guys watch the ball and we won't have a bunch of offsides and things like that. We'll try and concentrate on playing our assignments as best we can. That'll give us plenty to think about.”

Affecting the quarterback

South Carolina’s defensive line is coming off its most impressive showing of the season, and the opportunity is there for another big game. The Tigers’ offensive line has lost its best tackle for the season and is dealing with injuries to two other starters, who may or may not play Saturday. However, it would be unwise to assume LSU will be a pushover up front, Gamecocks defensive line coach Brad Lawing said. “Every week is a new challenge,” Lawing said. “This is going to be one this week. This is a smash-mouth football team and protection-wise, you are going to see eight-man protections so there are going to be two blockers for every player we’ve got up front.” The Gamecocks lead the SEC with 25 sacks, and LSU has given up 15 sacks, the second-highest total in the SEC.

Protecting the quarterback

Just like the defensive line, the South Carolina offensive line is coming off its best game of the year. And, just like the defensive line, this week is a new challenge. The Tigers have four defensive linemen who could be NFL draft picks and three of them could be early NFL draft picks. Georgia, which South Carolina dominated last week, had plenty of NFL talent but plays a different scheme than LSU. “We are facing a totally different animal this week in LSU and their two defensive ends,” Gamecocks offensive line coach Shawn Elliott said. “Hopefully, it’s not the roller coaster ride we have been on. Hopefully we can find some consistency and put together back to back good games or decent games, but they are awfully good. I don’t know what we’re going to do to slow them down.”

Building on success

The Gamecocks have the longest current winning streak (10 games) in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Their 6-0 start is one of only three in school history, and one more win will give them their best start since the 1984 season, which opened with nine straight wins. The challenge will be handling the good times and coming out for Saturday’s game with the same intensity they showed early against Georgia at home last week. “The whole team has a challenge,” defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles said. “We need to come out on all cylinders and come out firing this week. Every time we play anybody on the road or at home we need to come out with that focus and ready to come out of the gate firing and just throwing blows with them and keep it going the whole game.”

The deep ball

LSU is expected to devote most of its attention to the run game, leaving just one safety deep to protect against long passes. Steve Spurrier won’t be able to help himself if he sees that look. He has taken plenty of shots down field already this season. Speedy sophomore wide receiver Damiere Byrd, who replaced D.L. Moore as a starter last week and made the most of the opportunity with a long catch on the opening drive of the game, will be a tempting target again Saturday. "It's a combination with him playing well and catching the ball, and D.L. dropping a few balls has obviously moved him down a little bit,” wide receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. said. Byrd “is the only receiver I can remember in a long time, he's played all four positions we have at receiver, and he's smart enough to do all that.”

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Head to head

South Carolina center T.J. Johnson vs. LSU defensive tackle Bennie Logan

Johnson, the Gamecocks' 6-foot-6, 319-pound senior center, handled himself very well last week against two mammoth nose tackles from Georgia. His reward this week is another stiff challenge. This one might be tougher in fact. Where Georgia’s John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers rely on bulk (more than 700 pounds of it combined) and strength, LSU defensive tackle Bennie Logan (6-3, 295 pounds) brings a little more to the table. Logan has plenty of strength but also adds a speed and athleticism the Gamecocks have yet to see from the defensive tackle position. Logan’s style could cause problems for Johnson, who is well-suited for a stationary battle of strength on strength but not as comfortable when he has to move around to find his target. Logan has 17 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss and a sack this year.

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