Q&A with The Daily Gamecock

Garrison thinks the Gamecocks will beat Missouri by seven points.

Missouri begins Southeastern Conference play this week, travelling to play the South Carolina Gamecocks. The Maneater talked to Danny Garrison, the sports editor at The Daily Gamecock, about the matchup.

The Maneater: South Carolina has seemed pretty inconsistent this year — getting spanked by Texas A&M, beating Georgia and then playing it close with Vanderbilt — what gives?

Danny Garrison: Even though we're already on the fifth game of the year, I don't think anybody knows the identity of this team; including the team itself. The Gamecocks are young in a lot of areas, so that inexperience often leads to mental mistakes and that can help inferior teams hang around in games. I maintain that Texas A&M and East Carolina are very good teams, so I'll call it a wash going 1-1 against those two, but the best explanation I have for the first quarter debacle against Vanderbilt is overconfidence after the win against Georgia. South Carolina matched up well with the Bulldogs, since the passing game is the Gamecocks' area of weakness and the run defense is a little bit more polished. It would be ideal if no one told the team the score of Missouri's game against Indiana, because I don't want South Carolina going into Saturday's game feeling itself too much.

ME: What have you thought of Dylan Thompson in his first year as the starter?

DG: Looking at the pure numbers Thompson has put up so far, he's been stellar. He's second in the SEC in passing yards and third in touchdowns, which are, in a vacuum, astounding for a first-year starter. But his progress has been more slow and steady than that throughout the year. I think the way he stepped up against Georgia went a long way in helping him settle down, because it looked like he was a little shaken up after the Texas A&M and ECU games. Thompson's got a great arm, probably better than former South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw's in terms of pure passing, but he has his moments when he'll get the wheels going. I think he'll get better and better as the year goes on, and I'm happy with where he is at this point.

ME: Which South Carolina player do you think will have a big game against Missouri?

DG: South Carolina hasn't gotten any pressure on the quarterback this season, and there will be a concerted effort to get the linebackers involved in the pass rush this week, so I'll go on the defensive side for a breakout player. Freshman linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams has been praised by the coaches for his pass-rushing capabilities, so I think South Carolina could get the young fella more involved Saturday than he has been so far this year.

ME: What's the biggest weakness on this South Carolina team, and how can Mizzou take advantage of it?

DG: South Carolina's biggest weakness is its pure, unadulterated inability to tackle anyone holding a football. The Gamecocks have enough trouble covering opposing receivers, but once the ball gets in their hands nothing gets easier. Mizzou sophomore quarterback Maty Mauk would be well-served to mix up the distances of his passes to keep the defense on its heels. Short screens to any of the Tiger playmakers could give South Carolina fits while it waits for all 11 defenders to get over to the ballcarrier and help make the tackle.

ME: What have the Gamecock coaches said about Missouri this week, following the Tigers loss to Indiana? What have the players said?

DG: There's been a good bit of Mauk talk leading up to this game. Everyone around the South Carolina program knows he leads the conference in touchdown passes, and that's not good news for the Gamecocks. South Carolina's pass defense has looked horrendous at times, so the coaches will make sure to try and contain him. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier also has a huge respect for Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, so the Head Ball Coach will make absolutely sure South Carolina doesn't count out a team with him on the sidelines.

ME: Has there been any talk this week among the team about last year's matchup between these two schools, when South Carolina came back and won in overtime?

DG: There's no way to avoid talking about that game. Regardless of who South Carolina is playing on a given week, you can expect, "Remember last year against Missouri?" to come up in casual conversation. So with the Tigers actually on the schedule Saturday, the reminiscing is in full swing.

ME: What's your prediction for the game? Why?

DG: Even though Missouri suffered a disappointing loss last week, the Tigers still have a relatively clean slate without any SEC games played. For this reason I don't think Missouri will hang its head and let South Carolina roll all over it. But with the atmosphere at Williams-Brice Stadium and the scope of this game in the SEC East race, I don't think the Gamecocks will trip up in this one. I'll take South Carolina to win 38-31.

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