COLUMBIA -- Missouri’s offensive numbers from last week’s season opener can make any defensive coordinator sweat: 72 points on 815 yards of offense and an average of almost 25 yards per completion.
Granted, it was against Missouri State, an FCS team, but putting up a score their basketball team struggled to get to last season (the Tigers’ men’s team put up at least 72 points just 14 times over 30 regular season games).
The Gamecocks, who gave up 28 points and 415 yards through the air last week, will have to contain the Tigers’ gun-slinging quarterback Drew Lock.
“We've got our work cut out for us. Offensively, (they’re) very explosive; 72 points last week, 815 yards,” head coach Will Muschamp said. “They're guys that can do a lot with it after the catch. Vertical threats down the field. Catch the deep ball and of course Drew throws the deep ball extremely well.”
Film prep for Saturday’s game started Tuesday with the defense getting a first look at what the Tigers can do offensively.
Two wideouts went for more than 100 yards: J’Mon Moore (187) and Johnat Johnson (116). Both caught two touchdown passes.
Missouri ran 75 plays last week, 25 more than South Carolina ran in its opening win over N.C. State. They had one 200-yard rusher, Damarea Crockett, who went for 204 yards and two touchdowns.
Muschamp said earlier this week it’s going to be key for South Carolina to get off the field on third downs because it preserves the defense for what could be a decisive fourth quarter.
“You eliminate tempo by getting off the field, and getting off the field on third down,” Muschamp said. “They’ll go for it, depending on the field position, in fourth-down situations, then you have to get off the field on fourth down and create some turnovers.”
Players this week said the Tigers could be the fastest tempo team they play all year with Lock and crew trying to get up to the line and get the ball into space quickly.
The Tigers averaged a play almost every 17 seconds they were on the field last Saturday and will likely try to do the same thing this week in SEC action.
Linebacker T.J. Brunson said the primary goal for him and the defense after each play is to line up quickly so the Tigers can’t catch the defense off guard. After that, it’s about getting to the ball as quickly as possible and limiting the big gain.
Missouri had at least four passes for over 20 yards and two over 50 yards.
“You’re looking at a window of 12 to 17 seconds coming off the 40-second clock until the next snap is happening,” Muschamp said. “Our guys have to have urgency on the line, got to have the eyes in the right spot because they’re going to spread the field on you, cover down, tackle in space and mix it up enough to where you’re not giving them the same thing over and over again."
The Gamecocks know it’ll be a tough challenge trying to defend a very potent offense at Missouri. Muschamp said Lock throws the deep ball “as well as anybody in the country,” and they can do damage quickly.
But South Carolina’s stopped it before. Last year, despite giving up 465 yards of offense, the Gamecocks beat Missouri 31-21 at Williams-Brice with in Jake Bentley’s third career start.
Lock threw for over 300 yards but was picked off twice and sacked three times. The defense, which registered four sacks against State’s Ryan Finley last week, will try to do the same against the Tigers.
They don’t want to be another team to fall victim to Missouri’s high-flying offense, and they don’t think it’ll happen.
“We played against the same group of guys,” Chris Lammons said. “That’s not going to happen to us.”