Gamecocks suffer first key injury in final scrimmage

uscfoot-17practiceSouth Carolina football squad scrimmaged on a steamy Saturday morning at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia.

After being fortunate on the injury front throughout much of the preseason camp, the Gamecocks suffered a blow when junior starting right guard Mike Matulis had to be helped off the field with a left knee sprain.

“Mike Matulis sprained his knee fairly severely,” said head coach Steve Spurrier. “They’ll wait and check it out and let us know how severe that was. We’re hoping it’s not as severe as it appeared. Other than that, I think everybody got out healthy.” Coach Spurrier indicated that if Matulis is unable to play, Cody Waldrop would most likely slide over to guard with Clayton Stadnik handling the center duties.

The Gamecock offense looked sharper than it did last week, as the starting unit, led by senior Dylan Thompson, went right down the field on its first drive for a touchdown. The drive featured eight runs for 58 yards, including five by Brandon Wilds for 43 yards, capping off with a two-yard scoring plunge.

“The offense did some good things today,” noted the Head Ball Coach. “We ran the ball. We came out and ran it, ran it, ran it. Our D-line didn’t play near like they played the first scrimmage, or our linebackers. For us to be successful we know we’ve got to run the ball.”

Shon Carson added a three-yard touchdown run for the second of three offensive scores on the day. The final touchdown came when Perry Orth and Damiere Byrd hooked up on back-to-back completions, the first gaining 18 yards, and the second covering 20 yards for a score. Elliott Fry capped the scoring with a 48-yard field goal.

“Dylan (Thompson) hit about everything and made some nice checks,” said Coach Spurrier. “He’s ready to play. We’ve got to keep him healthy, but he’s ready to have a big year I believe. The O-line played well today. Perry (Orth) had an excellent day. He had three drops. He threw the ball very well, stayed in the pocket, got rid of it, avoided sacks. If we had to put somebody in today (to replace Thompson), there’s a good chance he would probably be in there. But we’ll let them practice all through the week. He and Connor Mitch will keep fighting for it. (Michael) Scarnecchia got in there at the end and he played like a freshman, but he’s going to be a good player. It’s just all new to him right now. He’s capable. Hopefully, if we don’t have to play him, he’ll redshirt and be ready to compete for the starting job next year.”

The defense came up with a pair of interceptions. Connor Mitch threw a pass into the midsection of Sidney Rhodes that Rhodes was unable to handle, but the ricochet was picked off by defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth. Later, D.J. Smith intercepted a deep ball thrown by Scarnecchia.

“I thought we were ok (defensively),” said defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward. “I thought we made some plays. I feel like we got better. They had some rush yards in the first series. We didn’t give up any deep balls. I think we had one penalty back there, so that was better than last Saturday’s scrimmage.”

Coach Ward indicated the staff is closer to identifying who the first and second team players are heading into the season opener on August 28 against Texas A&M. “I think after we watch video today we’ll have (a depth chart). It’s close at the safety spot. Right now it would be Chaz (Elder) and (Chris) Moody, with T.J. (Gurley) and J.J. (Marcus) real close. At corners it will probably be Brison (Williams) at one corner and Al Harris Jr. at the other. I’m comfortable with any of the seven linebackers we can put on the field,” added Ward, “and that’s not counting the two Spurs.”

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