SHREVEPORT, La. – The Duck Commander Independence Bowl on Saturday features two strong offenses that will challenge two relatively weaker defenses.
South Carolina’s defense is ranked 91st nationally, allowing 433.6 yards per game. The Gamecocks (6-6) are also 91st in scoring defense (31.2 points per game allowed) and 101st in red zone defense.
The Hurricane’s defense, despite being ranked 14th nationally (327.6 yards allowed), has had its share of struggles this season in holding teams in the red zone, sometimes deficient tackling, often playing opponents too far off the ball to dominate and in getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Thus, UM coach Al Golden was asked after Wednesday’s practice how he can prevent his players from being caught up in the pressure of a back-and-forth shootout.
“Just enjoy it,’’ Golden said. “They’re going to make plays. We’ve got to make more plays. And when adversity strikes, don’t let one play define us or determine the game.”
Offensive coordinator James Coley said UM’s objective is simple: score points.
“We tell our guys that every possession ends in a kick,’’ he said. “As long as we don’t give them the football, we’re going to play some good football.
“Really, there’s no frustration. Hey, you should be happy if you have the ball. Go match. …You’re out there. It’s your time to shine.’’
RAY LEWIS III
Defensive back Ray Lewis III, a redshirt freshman who is the son of former UM linebacker great Ray Lewis, has not practiced or been involved with the team since mid-October – but is still on the roster, Golden said.
“Ray’s taking care of his grades right now,’’ the coach said. “We’re in constant communication with him and the family. When he’s ready to talk about it, or we’re ready to talk about how we’re going to move forward, then we’ll do so.’’
Golden said UM is “giving him the best opportunity to move forward academically,’’ and that whether he returns in the spring is “up to him.
“We’re just giving him his space.’’
Lewis has yet to play.
Freshman left guard Nick Linder (knee, wrist) will practice Thursday without the yellow, non-contact, jersey given to injured players, Golden said. “I expect him to be ready to play, be available to play. We’ll see how he does Thursday and Friday.’’
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN