Practice report: Gamecocks will focus on stopping QB

nwhite@thestate.com and jkendall@thestate.comOctober 31, 2013 

When the South Carolina defense lines up Saturday afternoon against the Mississippi State offense, defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward believes his players will have some idea of how to corral MSU quarterback Dak Prescott.

Prescott, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound sophomore, has passed for 1,158 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for a team-high 490 yards and eight touchdowns while casting a resemblance to another SEC quarterback.

“(He’s) a lot like Connor Shaw, but a lot bigger,” Ward said. “He runs it well and he’s getting better and better throwing the football. We’ve got to do a good job of trying to stop him. They let him do it all.”

Prescott’s effectiveness at both parts of the game means the defenders can’t key on one phase over the other.

“If you look at the Auburn game, he comes out throwing the football. He comes out running the ball in certain games,” Ward said. “It just depends on what game plan they have. He does both very well. We’ve got to stop the quarterback. If we don’t stop the quarterback it could be a long day for us.”

Comeback

Ward liked how his defense played in the second half in last weekend’s win over Missouri that allowed the Gamecocks to come back. He hopes to see that solid play continue against the Bulldogs.

“I’d like to think we’re getting better each week,” Ward said. “We gave up a couple big plays last week that we shouldn’t have given up, but it happened. But the guys hung together. I think the biggest thing is we grew up as a team, as a defense, and we played better as the game went.”

Filling it up

Saturday’s game is a sellout, the athletics department announced Thursday.

It’s the fourth sellout in as many home games this season for the No. 14 Gamecocks, who have won 14 straight games at Williams-Brice Stadium dating back to 2011.

The upcoming Florida and Clemson games already have sold out, which gives USC six sellouts in one season, the most since 1981. The Gamecocks rank also 14th nationally in average attendance at 81,752.

Not so rushed

After facing the SEC’s leader in sacks last week, South Carolina will see the other end of the spectrum Saturday. Mississippi State has brought down opposing quarterbacks nine times this season, fewer than any team in the SEC. Missouri’s Michael Sam entered last week’s game against the Gamecocks with that many by himself.

MSU’s defensive line is “probably not as athletic as what we saw a week a ago, but they are big,” South Carolina offensive line coach Shawn Elliott said. “We have our work cut out for us to see if we can run the football a lot better than we did last week.”

The Gamecocks rushed for a season-low 75 yards last week (while throwing for 423, the most at the school since 1995). Mississippi State is seventh in the SEC in rushing defense, allowing 146.3 yards per game on the ground.

Milestone awaits

Sophomore running back Mike Davis needs 70 yards Saturday to become the sixth player in school history with 1,000 rushing yards in a season. Davis leads the SEC with 116.3 yards per game. He is on pace to rush for 1,512 yards, the third-highest total in USC history.

Up and at ‘em

Freshman center Clayton Stadnik has had trouble getting a shotgun snap off the ground twice in the last two weeks.

“He said both of them got caught in the ground,” Elliott said. “He lifted the tip up and never could get the tip out of the ground. It’s unfortunate, but we will try to get that corrected.”

Injury report

Shaw (illness) practiced again Thursday and is on track to start Saturday.

Defensive tackle Gerald Dixon Jr. (ankle) practiced Thursday and should be available to play, Ward said.

Other players who did not practice or wore yellow jerseys Thursday were: Cody Waldrop (ankle), Devin Washington (concussion), and Mike Matulis (shoulder).

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