South Carolina Football: Gamecocks Must Stop Wisconsin Running Game

Charles BennettContributor IDecember 23, 2013

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney will be playing his last game for the Gamecocks.
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney will be playing his last game for the Gamecocks.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

South Carolina's defense knows exactly what to expect from Wisconsin's offense in the Capital One Bowl but the Gamecocks also realize knowing it and stopping it are separate concepts.

Wisconsin features the eighth best running game in the nation, and the Badgers aren't some slippery option team relying on quarterback sleight of hand.

This ain't no shell game. It's power football coming at you.

"We've got to go in there with our big boy pads on," said South Carolina defensive end Chaz Sutton. "We've got to use our speed, and we've got to play with great leverage, fit the gaps right and play assignment football. If we can execute, we can win the game up front."

The Badgers average 283 yards rushing per game. South Carolina ranks 33rd against the run, allowing 142.3 yards per game.

Something, as they say, has to give.

The Gamecocks are determined it won't be them.

"They can run the ball pretty well," said South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. "They've got a good running team. They're going to try and pound it at us. We've got to be ready to stop the run. We'll be ready to stop it. I think we're going to go out there and do well and stop the run and win the game."

Wisconsin has two running backs who account for most of the yardage. Sophomore Melvin Gordon has rushed 181 times for 1,466 yards and 12 touchdowns, while senior James White has 1,357 yards and 13 touchdowns on 209 carries.

A third running back, Corey Clement, has 515 yards and seven touchdowns on 66 carries.

"They have two good backs and they have a big offensive line," said South Carolina defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles. "You have to stay in your gaps, stay low and stay in your lanes. I feel like if we go out there focused and play the scheme and don't play outside the scheme, contain and do your job, we'll be perfectly fine.

Quarles says the Badgers are similar to the Nebraska team the Gamecocks played in the 2012 Capital One Bowl.

The Gamecocks won that game 30-13.

"That's what Big Ten football is all about," Quarles said. "Big, physical guys coming off the ball and just road grading people. That's what they're known for. When we were getting ready to play Nebraska, we knew what we were getting into.

"We're ready for it. We play teams in the SEC that run the ball week in, week out. I feel like we're going to be very prepared for their running backs."

South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward says the Badgers also have a solid passing game.
South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward says the Badgers also have a solid passing game.Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward also has concerns about the Badgers' passing game.

"They do a good job running the football," Ward said, "but don't be misled. They throw the football awfully well also."

Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave has completed 61.6 percent of his passes for 2,414 yards and 20 touchdowns.

On most of those passes, he went to Jared.

Senior wide receiver Jared Abbrederis leads the team in receptions with 73 for 1,051 yards and seven touchdowns.

White is a distant second with 37 catches for 292 yards and two touchdowns.

Aside from not spreading the ball around, the Badgers have another weakness in the passing game. Stave has thrown 12 interceptions this season.

Anyway, it's highly unlikely the Badgers are going to beat the Gamecocks with the passing game.

It's not hard to figure out where this game is going to be won or lost.

"They'll run zone, run power," Ward said. "You know what you're going to get. You just have to stop it."

Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes obtained first hand.