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South Carolina anxious to play after storm forced week off

September 18, 2018

FILE - In this Sept. 1, 2018, file photo, South Carolina running back A.J. Turner (25) carries the ball against Coastal Carolina during the second half of an NCAA college football game, in Columbia, S.C. South Carolina has had two, long weeks to stew about its loss to No. 2 Georgia and the cancellation of a potential bounce-back home game with Marshall due to Hurricane Florence. The Gamecocks are anxious to get back on track. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford, File)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina receiver Bryan Edwards spent the weekend concerned about family in friends in the path of Hurricane Florence — and longing to get back out on the football field after the Gamecocks football game was canceled.

South Carolina called off its matchup with Marshall last Saturday night as the once-powerhouse storm made its way through the Palmetto State.

The Gamecocks (1-1, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) play at Vanderbilt (2-1, 0-0) on Saturday.

Edwards is a junior receiver from Conway, South Carolina, an area in the northeast corner of the state close to Myrtle Beach. He said his family was doing well and it was time to focus on football and its road game with Vanderbilt on Saturday.

“It’s been a long time since that Georgia game,” Edwards said. “I want to get that taste out of my mouth.”

Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp will treat the time off like the team is coming off a bye week when it comes to the preparations.

“We got a lot of fastball work, so I feel very comfortable about that preparation,” said Muschamp, who wore a “One Carolina” T-shirt in support of storm victims.

Edwards and the Gamecocks last game was a demoralizing 41-17 loss on Sept. 8 to No. 2 Georgia, a showdown for the top of the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division that devolved into a blowout.

The players worked early last week with the goal of returning to win column. But Florence’s approach forced university officials to cancel the game, giving the Gamecocks two weeks to stew about the Georgia loss.

“It’s definitely given that fall camp feel back to the team, where you feel you’re ready to hit somebody else,” quarterback Jake Bentley said. “But it’s gotten us better and given us a sense of what we need to fix. It’s also got guys anxious to get back out there.”

That was apparent at South Carolina’s practice this past Thursday, which Muschamp told the players was their best in-season practice in his three years.

Players worked out in the weight room on Friday, then had Saturday free (South Carolina had canceled classes since last Tuesday) before returning Sunday.

“We’ve had three good practices so we’ve put that behind us and we’re ready to go now,” Bentley said.

Many Gamecocks took the free Saturday to watch college football, including Vanderbilt’s near upset at No. 8 Notre Dame where the Commodores held their own in a 22-17 defeat.

“I thought they played pretty well,” South Carolina defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw said.

Commodores coach Derek Mason said the Gamecocks will be rested and prepared to play their best.

“They’re going to be a football team that’s had an opportunity to watch our game, look at us, I mean, figure out exactly where they want to go,” he said.

Gamecocks QB Bentley said players were disappointed with the cancellation, but “it was understandable due to the hurricane and the safety of families.”

Center Donell Stanley is from Floydale, South Carolina, in the state’s PeeDee region in the northeast corner of the state that was one of the most affected by Florence.

Staley said his family had a few power outages , but no serious damage. Now, he’s hungry to play football. “But we can only control what we can control,” Stanley said. The storm is “not one of them.”

South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner has said the school will look for a potential 12th opponent. Its scheduled bye week is Oct. 20 and Muschamp has said he’s not sure playing 10 straight weeks is the best thing for his team.

Muschamp said he and Tanner have talked about potential make up games in October or Dec. 1.

The coach spent a rainy Saturday watching football with his family.

“I was nervous before every game and we weren’t even playing,” Muschamp joked.

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AP Sports Writer Teresa Walker contributed to this report from Nashville, Tennessee.

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