Unable to do so last week, South Carolina will need to find a way to win without its top playmaker in Saturday’s non-conference game against visiting Louisiana Tech. Junior wide receiver Deebo Samuel had six touchdowns in three games, including a 68-yard touchdown catch on the first play from scrimmage in last week’s loss to Kentucky, but suffered a broken left leg and was lost for the season for the Gamecocks, who are unbeaten in five games against the Bulldogs.
“I think we’ve got some capable guys,” coach Will Muschamp told the media on how he might replace Samuel. “Shi Smith is a freshman we are trying to train up. Bryan Edwards has been a dependable guy. Next man up has to be our mentality.” Limiting the mistakes of quarterback Jake Bentley, who threw for 304 yards against the Wildcats but also had a pair of interceptions, will help as would getting more production out of the running game. Ty’Son Williams (5.6 yards per carry) is the only player beside Samuel averaging better than three yards per carry and the unit has produced 257 yards and three touchdowns in three games. In contrast, the Bulldogs of Conference USA have gained nearly 500 yards on the ground, including 248 yards by Jarred Craft.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network. LINE: South Carolina -8.5
ABOUT LOUISIANA TECH (2-1): The Bulldogs and coach Skip Holtz, who spent six seasons as an assistant coach at South Carolina (1999-2004), can create big plays in the passing game but are still in search of consistency. Sophomore quarterback J’Mar Smith had thrown for 722 yards, including three plays of 53 yards or longer, but has completed barely half of his passes. Smith’s favorite target has been junior Teddy Veal, who has caught 15 passes for 133 yards, but the Bulldogs’ most explosive receiver is sophomore Rhashid Bonnette, who has averaged 37 yards per catch, aided by an 87-yard touchdown.
ABOUT SOUTH CAROLINA (2-1): Despite finding success on the ground in the season opener with 78 yards on 14 carries, Williams, a sophomore transfer from North Carolina, did not receive a single carry in the last two games. Bentley and Rico Dowdle, who had 764 yards and six touchdowns last season as a freshman, have combined for the bulk of the rushing attempts for the Gamecocks and neither has had much success. Dowdle has carried 34 times and has averaged 2.9 yards and Bentley has produced only 1.6 yards per carry on 16 attempts.
1. The Gamecocks have proven to be a second half team defensively, allowing fewer than half the points in the second half (19) than it has in the first half (45).
2. Junior WR Kam McKnight has nine career rushing touchdowns on 18 attempts for the Bulldogs, who haven’t played the Gamecocks since a 68-21 loss in 1995.
3. At 65 percent, Bentley currently has the second highest completion percentage in South Carolina history behind Connor Shaw (65.5 percent).
PREDICTION: South Carolina 34, Louisiana Tech 20