Why South Carolina absolutely cannot lose to Appalachian State
South Carolina gets an interesting test this week against Appalachian State, which was No. 20 last week before suffering a rivalry upset at home to Georgia Southern.
One thing also to keep in mind with the Mountaineers: Their 7-1 record includes a win at North Carolina, of course, the team that gave the Gamecocks a season-opening loss in August.
That’s why this is a potentially treacherous game for the Gamecocks as the Mountaineers have as much talent as most teams on South Carolina’s schedule, certainly most of the SEC East.
Sure, South Carolina could have more depth than App State, but what appears clear is the Mountaineers can put up points, and will put pressure on the Gamecocks to stop them or keep pace on the scoreboard.
Even last week, when the Mountaineers fell 24-21 with conditions that included wind gusts exceeding 40 mph, Zac Thomas threw for a season-high 271 yards, the 3rd-highest total of his career.
The other daunting task is the Mountaineers haven’t lost 2 consecutive games since 2017, and have only lost at all the last season and a half to Georgia Southern and Penn State. The loss snapped App State’s 13-game winning streak that was the 3rd-longest active streak in the country behind Clemson (24) and Ohio State (14). This was App State’s first home loss since Sept. 23, 2017, a 20-19 defeat to Wake Forest. It snapped a 14-game home winning streak that entered the week tied for 7th-best in the FBS.
The program has a winning culture, and it would like nothing more than to all but end South Carolina’s bowl hopes.
For his part, App State coach Eliah Drinkwitz said they’re trying to move on from the loss.
“No games are easy,” he said. “There are no easy games in football. Regardless of who the opponent is … we’ll put this behind us and keep moving forward. There’s a lot of season left. There are a lot of things still to play for.”
Before that loss, App State had the No. 9 scoring offense in the country with a 41-point average per game. The defense was also strong as it held the previous three opponents to 17 combined points. The Georgia Southern triple-option was a main problem for that defense.
For an average team, you might wonder how it would respond to a loss, and then going on the road to play an SEC team. But as coach Will Muschamp noted, 19 of the 22 starters for Appalachian State are juniors or seniors, and most of them have been redshirted. For perspective, South Carolina started 12 upperclassmen against Vanderbilt.
“Guys that have won a lot of football games,” Muschamp said on the Sunday night media teleconference, according to SportsTalkSC. “They’ve played a lot of really good football and they’re good at the quarterback position and the skill positions offensively. Defensively, they’ve got some very active guys up front and good cover guys in space. They’ve won a bunch of games and we certainly got our work cut out for us.”
There shouldn’t be a shortage of familiarities between the roster and recruiting among the coaching staffs. There are 10 players from South Carolina on the App State roster, and loads more from Georgia and North Carolina, primary recruiting grounds for Muschamp and his staff. But the programs haven’t met since 1988, when Sparky Woods was the coach at App State, ahead of his South Carolina tenure.
The bottom line is the Gamecocks will have to prove that their offensive problems are solved because they expect to get several key players back from injury. The Vanderbilt game was a classic “yeah, but” game that has not so far proven that the Kentucky and Georgia games were anything but outliers.
Some conversation from earlier in the season about Muschamp’s job status has shifted to offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon, and if he’ll be on the staff in 2020. McClendon is the 4th offensive coordinator to work under Muschamp, but none of the previous OCs have made it to a 3rd season.
For at least the second time this season, it’s time to quiet the critics to gain 2 wins for a bowl game. Because after all, how can a team go from losing to App State to beating Texas A&M and Clemson in order to be eligible for a bowl?