Last season, the Gamecocks adopted the catchy, pop song from Taylor Swift called “Shake it Off,” to symbolize the team playing away their cares and stressful season and just focusing on the play. This year, they may look to adopt the Tom Petty song “Free Fallin.”
The Gamecocks have been struggling through three games this season and look to be tapering off quickly, especially after surrendering almost 600 yards of offense to Georgia.
Over the first two games, the defense responded in the second halves against North Carolina and Kentucky and played stout, but that changed in Week 3 when they relinquished 253 yards of offense and 28 points in the second half to the Bulldogs.
The Gamecocks look to be falling and falling fast, and it may take more than a catchy beat and perky lyrics from a pop star to fix.
But, it could take a subpar team from a non power-five conference to get the Gamecocks on track.
Enter the University of Central Florida Knights.
If South Carolina is falling, the Knights have fallen and hit the bottom. The Knights are winless on the year and are fresh off a 16-15 loss to Furman, an FCS team.
They are averaging 12 points per game and giving up on average almost 21 points per game. The Knights are struggling mightily on offense, averaging only 250 yards per game.
Defensively they have been surrendering 384 yards per game to their opponents.
This, in relation to the Gamecocks, is described as ample opportunity.
The team could get on track this week with a weaker UCF team rolling in on Saturday.
If Perry Orth, Lorenzo Nunez or whoever is starting at quarterback gets to face less-talented cornerbacks, it could make for a big day and some easy confidence boosting.
And, a big game could wake up sleeping lion Pharoh Cooper. Cooper has been quiet by his standards. He only has 27 touches on the season (nine carries, two pass attempts, three punt returns and 13 receptions).
A team with a weapon has big as Cooper cannot succeed if he’s only touching the ball an average of nine times per game. So, against UCF, if Cooper could go back to being vintage Pharoh Cooper, it could mean big games later in the season.
And defensively, this game means a chance to (finally) get some pressure on the quarterback. It takes time to gel as a defensive unit and playing the Knights could help its cause.
Five sacks over three games isn’t ideal, but the defensive line now is facing a weak offensive line and an offense without their starting quarterback.
If the defense can gel, cornerbacks can get a better grip on the scheme and linebackers can continue their good play, it could mean better defensive cohesion the rest of the way.
Looking at the start of the season, fans and players alike probably wouldn’t have circled the UCF game as a must-win but the way the team is playing, it’s become that just because the Gamecocks need to build some confidence before the rougher part of their schedule.
And if they can put the pedal to the floor against the Knights, South Carolina could shake off the rust and stop the free fall.