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Inside the Game: Western Carolina at South Carolina

November 18, 2016

It may be a Football Championship Subdivision opponent, but still plenty for South Carolina to play for with a bowl berth on the line against Western Carolina. It’s also Senior Day for a class that’s been through an awful lot, and memories of last year’s upset at the hands of The Citadel remain vivid for the players who were part of it. No shortage of reasons for the Gamecocks to be on guard, even against a 2-8 FCS foe.

The defense rests

This has been a surprisingly disappointing season for the Catamounts, who had won seven games in each of the past two seasons, and were picked to finish high in the Southern Conference this year. That didn’t happen, in large part because of a defense that’s given up league-worst averages of 35 points and 515 yards per game. USC’s Jake Bentley and Rico Dowdle should have ample opportunity to put points on the board.

Adams arises

Western Carolina lost the best quarterback in program history when Troy Mitchell graduated after last season, but found a nice replacement in freshman Tyrie Adams, who has passed for 2,437 yards, sixth-most in school history. He threw for a WCU single-game record 510 yards against Gardner-Webb, and has also rushed for 265 yards. If the Catamounts keep it close early, Adams will be the reason why.

Solid at skill positions

WCU has some nice skill-position pieces in addition to its young quarterback. Junior running back Detrez Newsome was the SoCon’s preseason offensive player of the year, and ranks third in program history in career rushing touchdowns and fourth in career rushing yards. Receiver Terryon Robinson averages 72.9 receiving yards a game. The Catamounts will spread it and throw the ball, forcing USC to make tackles in space.

You’re no Citadel

But let’s face it: this Western Carolina team isn’t The Citadel, which came to Williams-Brice last season on its way to the FCS playoffs, brimming with confidence, and armed with an option offense hard for anyone to stop. This is the Catamounts’ last game in a down season, and while all FCS teams try to step it up against power-conference competition, this game shouldn’t be close for more than a quarter.

Prediction

South Carolina 41, Western Carolina 17