Kentucky another chance for young Gamecocks to gain footing

After Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks walked out of Bank of America Stadium Thursday night after a 17-13 victory, the Head Ball Coach said he was encouraged that his team didn’t play well and still won.

The team wasn’t hanging their hats on the tough, hard-nosed victory capped by two Skai Moore interceptions in the end zone, mainly because this week is still another test.

South Carolina (1-0) is returning to Columbia for its home opener against the Kentucky Wildcats in a game that could reveal how the Gamecocks play the rest of the season.

Yes, Kentucky has spent what seems like the past decade near the bottom of the SEC, but the Gamecocks’ first conference game of the season could be a good barometer for the 2015 season.

The Wildcats have a decent passing attack after returning their starting quarterback and both starting receivers, including their 2014 leading wide out Ryan Timmons. Last week against Louisiana Lafayette junior quarterback Patrick Towles threw for 257 yards and three touchdowns.

Kentucky is a middle-of-the-road passing attack in the SEC (ranking sixth in the conference last season), but if the secondary can improve its play against the aerial assault, then it could spell success later on against more vaunted attacks such as Tennessee or Clemson.

The more experience the better for a younger secondary, and getting to play an SEC team could be beneficial for the defensive backs to get their feet under them.

Kentucky’s game could be a big step forward for the defensive line as well. After a four-sack performance against the Tar Heels, the Gamecocks are facing a team that gave up three sacks to Louisiana Lafayette.

If the front seven gets pressure on the quarterback like they did last week, they could continue to gel and move closer to mid-season form. If the Gamecocks get three sacks, they would have seven sacks through two games, which is half what the team had all last season.

And with Kentucky coming in, it gives quarterback Connor Mitch another chance to impress fans.

Many Gamecock faithful weren’t impressed with the redshirt sophomore’s debut, and now his second collegiate start is his first start in conference. Mitch’s first SEC start comes at home against Kentucky and gives him another week to get on the same page with his receivers before traveling to Georgia.

If Mitch can test-drive the Porsche that is a Spurrier offense well, it could mean better performances down the road. Much like the secondary, it all comes down to more repetitions during games, and the Kentucky game provides that for Mitch.

It’s just another opportunity for Mitch to gain his footing as the starter.

The Kentucky game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and if the Gamecocks play well, Mitch and the defense can use this game as a game to learn how to play in the SEC, getting quality reps against conference opponents.

It could help them judge the speed they’ll encounter throughout the course of the season and, if they adjust well, could spell a few more wins down the road.