Previewing UT Martin
The Gamecocks will face a stout opponent in their first game in conference foe UT Martin.
Martin went 6-5 last year, but won 4 of their last 5 games and captured the coveted Sgt. York trophy.
The Gamecocks defeated Martin 30-20 in 2010. The Gamecocks led the game 30-6 with only 11:41 remaining in the 3rd, but had to hang on for a narrow 30-20 victory. The problem of losing big leads haunted the Gamecocks in several games last year, including Georgia State, Eastern Illinois and finally the disaster in Cookeville.
Also notable from the 2010 contest– JSU was actually outgained by Martin by almost 200 yards. The Gamecocks’ offensive woes may have been caused by injuries to leading rusher Calvin Middleton, starting quarterback Ivory and the fact that tight end Cory Freeman was forced to start at guard.
Returning Starters/Playmakers for Martin
UTM returns nine starters on offense including their top 2 rushers (J. McNair -598 yards) and Tevi Barksdale (493 yards), their two leading receivers and starting quarterback, Derrick Carr (2543 yards passing). The only starters lost are on the offensive line, but Martin Coach Jason Simpson says: “Top to bottom this is the the best offensive line we have had.” This should make for a great challenge against the Gamecocks’ heralded 2011 defensive line.
The Skyhawks losses on defense were more significant where they lose four starters, including five of their six leading tacklers. The most notable loss is Josh Bey who had 91 tackles last season. Hopefully, this should bode well for what is supposed to be a potent Gamecock rushing attach.
Newcomers for Martin
Martin is excited about corner T.J. Drakeford a transfer from Marshall and Quentin Sims, a transfer from Georgia Tech. Sims actually carried the ball twice against the Gamecocks in the 2009 matchup.
Martin’s AD doesn’t like JSU, perhaps dating back to the whuppings JSU used to administer in the old GSC days. He got really mad when the JSU tennis team won the conference at Martin this year and also allegedly yelled at Coach Crowe after the 2009 game because he thought JSU scored too many points.
Another intriguing aspect of this matchup is that Gamecocks’ defensive coordinator Chris Boone coached at Martin for several years. Boone will have a keen understanding of Martin’s personnel, but Coach Simpson is very familiar with Coach Boone’s scheme.