FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — South Carolina might have a quarterback capable of beating any team in the nation on a given day, but only with a sufficient level of play around him.
Spencer Rattler was 24-of-39 passing for 376 yards at Arkansas, the most talented player and dangerous weapon in Razorbacks Stadium on Saturday.
But for all of Rattler’s arm strength, accuracy, field vision, mobility and athleticism — skills that made him a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate last year at Oklahoma — it wasn’t enough for South Carolina in its 44-30 loss.
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“A lot about the quarterback is a lot about who is around you,” Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said Saturday after the game.
“You have to have protection, you have to have guys get open, and he’s got a big tight end from Oklahoma, but if he has those things, he’s really good, and he makes really good plays.”
“Each week is different with how we are going to try and win football games,” Beamer said. “Today, we liked our matchups in the passing game.”
There’s a lot to like about Rattler, who will once again give his team its best chance at victory when the Gamecocks play their SEC home opener against No. 2-ranked Georgia at noon on Saturday in Williams-Brice Stadium.
The challenges against the Bulldogs will be similar for Rattler.
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“He’s accurate with the ball and he can scramble, (and) he won a lot of games early at Oklahoma,” Pittman said of the former Freshman All-American.
“But at quarterback, you have to be upright, and you have to have good receivers and all those things.”
Georgia coach Kirby Smart will surely have his defense prepared to limit the sort of momentum-inducing plays Rattler can convert.
Rattler connected on four passes that went for 38 yards or more against Barry Odom’s Arkansas defense, and he was 3-of-7 passing for 102 yards on third downs.
Rattler knows better than anyone it’s going to take more balance against Georgia.
“We put up 30 points, threw for almost 400 yards, but we have to run the ball better,” Rattler said, per 247Sports.
“We rushed for 50 yards (29-40) and that is just not us. It can’t be us. We are not going to win games if we can’t run that ball.”
The Gamecocks have to be able to stop the run, too -- Arkansas pounded out 295 yards behind an offensive line comparable to the one they will face with Georgia.
Losing three defensive starters to injury in the Arkansas game won’t make things any easier.
South Carolina senior outside linebacker Jordan Strachan, junior middle linebacker Mohamed Kaba and junior nickleback Cam Smith all went down. Senior safety R.J. Roderick didn’t make the trip after leaving the Gamecocks’ opener against Georgia State holding his right arm.
Beamer didn’t sound optimistic in his postgame assessment.
“Jordan and Mo, we’ll see when we get back to Columbia but right now it does not look good going forward,” he said. “Cam should be fine. He had an upper-body injury and I would hope he would not be long-term at all.”
With Rattler and a typically ferocious home crowd in Columbia, Beamer knows his program has a puncher’s chance on any given Saturday.
“We told our team after the game last week, we are better than we were, but we are not as good as we are going to be,” Beamer said. “I feel that way right now as well. We lost today, but I feel like we are farther along offensively than we were but still not as good as we are going to be.”