With Troy visiting, South Carolina needs win before SEC run
The Troy Trojans, powered by a tough defense and a former SEC quarterback, will be looking for an upset on Saturday when they visit the South Carolina Gamecocks in Columbia.
Both teams are 2-2, and this will be the final “break” for the Gamecocks, whose next six games are against SEC opponents. South Carolina’s only other remaining nonconference game is its regular-season finale against in-state rival Clemson.
In other words, the Gamecocks — who enter Saturday on a two-game losing streak — need a win badly. They are 0-2 in league play.
Meanwhile, the Trojans, who are 0-1 in the Sun Belt Conference, enter Saturday coming off a 29-16 loss to Louisiana-Monroe.
“We’ve got to do some soul-searching and figure out what our identity will be,” Troy coach Chip Lindsey said. “We’ve got to get better. We’ve been shooting ourselves in the foot.”
The good news for the Trojans is that their defense ranks fourth in the nation in yards allowed per game (245.3). They are also tied for second in the nation with 18 sacks.
Troy defensive end Javon Solomon, a 6-2, 245-pound redshirt freshman, has 5 1/2 sacks, which is one-half sack off the national leader.
In addition, Trojans linebacker Carlton Martial has forced seven fumbles and picked off five passes in his four-year career. Martial, who has created two turnovers this year, is undersized at 5-9 and 210 pounds, but he is considered the best defensive player in his conference.
Offensively, Troy is led by quarterback Taylor Powell, who played two years for the Missouri Tigers, where he served as a backup to Drew Lock and Kelly Bryant.
At Troy, Powell has completed 69.3 percent of his passes for 1,008 yards, with seven touchdowns and three interceptions.
However, Troy’s running game produced just 67 yards on 23 carries last week.
Meanwhile, the Gamecocks, who opened as nine-point favorites against Troy, are now favored by just 7 1/2.
Like Troy, South Carolina has played tough defense. Gamecocks safety Jaylan Foster, for example, is tied for the national league with four interceptions.
Foster had a team-high 12 tackles in the 16-10 loss to Kentucky last week. R.J. Roderick, the Gamecocks’ other safety, is also a standout, and he had 10 tackles against Kentucky.
Up front, defensive end Kingsley Enagbare and defensive tackle Zacch Pickens may be the Gamecocks’ best two players.
“I love this new defense,” Enagbare said of South Carolina’s 4-2-5 alignment under first-year coordinator Clayton White. “The aggression isn’t just coming from blitzing. We attack everything.”
Offensively, the Gamecocks are led by quarterback Luke Doty, running back Kevin Harris and tight end Nick Muse. However, all three are underperforming.
Doty, blessed with a strong arm, has tossed two touchdown passes in two games. Harris is averaging just 2.9 yards per carry, and Muse has only six catches for 51 yards.
A bright spot for the Gamecocks’ offense is senior wide receiver Josh Vann, who is averaging 22.9 yards per reception. He leads the team in scrimmage yards (297) and touchdowns (two).
–Field Level Media