By PETE IACOBELLI, AP Sports Writer
Louisiana Tech’s Skip Holtz finally gets to coach a game at South Carolina. Some thought the opportunity for the one-time Gamecocks offensive coordinator might come much earlier than this.
Skip Holtz and the Bulldogs (2-1) face South Carolina (2-1) on Saturday.
Holtz joined his father, Lou, at South Carolina in 1999, guiding the offense for the first five seasons and considered for much of that time the de factor successor to Lou Holtz as Gamecocks’ coach .
But when Holtz retired after 2004, it was Steve Spurrier who returned to the college game at South Carolina and the younger Holtz resumed his head-coaching career at East Carolina. He also coached at South Florida before coming to Louisiana Tech.
Skip Holtz wants this week to be his team trying to topple a Southeastern Conference opponent, something it failed to do two weeks ago in a 57-21 loss at Mississippi State.
“It was an exciting time at South Carolina. I made a lot of friends and remember how passionate the Gamecock fans are,” Skip Holtz said in a phone call to The Associated Press. “It’s going to be fun to see all that’s changed.”
Skip Holtz was part a South Carolina staff that went 17-7 and won two Outback Bowls over Ohio State in 2000 and 2001, at the time the best two-year stretch in school history. He also knows how it all ended: His demotion from running the offense after the 2003 season and a benches-clearing brawl in what became the final game of the 2004 season at Clemson. Both teams gave up bowl bids as punishment.
“That’s the way life is,” Holtz said. “There are positive things and negative things that we all have to deal with. I’ll remember how special it was to coach there.”
The Gamecocks are adjusting to the loss of injured receiver Deebo Samuel , who broke a bone in his left leg last week in a 23-13 defeat to Kentucky. Samuel had accounted for an SEC-leading six of South Carolina’s 11 touchdowns this year. But he had surgery Sunday and it’s unknown how long he’ll be out.
“It’s been a tough deal for him,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said.
Things to watch for when Louisiana Tech faces South Carolina:
REPLACING DEEBO: South Carolina has looked at multiple options to fill in for injured receiver Deebo Samuels. Coach Will Muschamp said freshman OrTre Smith, whose first career catch last week was an nine-yard touchdown, will see more playing time as will fellow first-year player Shi Smith. The Gamecocks also get back often-injured receiver Randrecous Davis, who missed most of last season with a hamstring problem.
MONEY MAN: When Louisiana Tech kicker Jonathan Barnes hit a 21-yard field goal with two seconds left to beat Western Kentucky, it was just the latest clutch kick the senior’s made in his career. Barnes has made all seven field goals in the final two minutes of regulation or overtime in his career. He is third among active kickers with 62 field goals made.
WHERE’S THE RUN?: South Carolina coach Will Muschamp spoke much during the offseason how his team needed to pick up its running game this season. So far, that hasn’t happened. The Gamecocks are 13th in the Southeastern Conference at 85.7 yards per game. North Carolina transfer Ty’Son Williams had the best single-game showing with 78 yards rushing against Missouri. But he didn’t get a carry last week as the Gamecocks rushed just 54 yards.
FOUTH QUARTER RUSH: Through three games, Louisiana Tech has outscored its opponents 38-0 in the fourth quarter. South Carolina has not done as well, outscoring its three opponents just 14-13 in the final period.
PASSING GAME: Despite the Gamecocks problems on the ground, quarterback Jake Bentley moved the ball well through the air. He connected with Samuel on a 68-yard TD on the game’s first snap and completed 16 straight passes during one stretch against Kentucky. Bentley finished with 304 yards passing and two touchdowns. “Looking on film, there’s a lot of positive things,” Bentley said. “You really try and focus on that and continue to grow our offense.”
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