USC FOOTBALL

Time to man up: Carolina 'D' expects challenge from physical Michigan rushing attack

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The University of South Carolina defensive unit has been strong against the run throughout most of their 8-4 season. The Gamecocks have allowed an averaged of 146.7 yards a contest.

When USC takes on Michigan in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., on Jan. 1, the members of that unit expect to receive a stern test to its run-stopping ability.

"They're a big, physical team," said Carolina defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth. "They're going to try and test our manhood. We're preparing for that."

The Wolverines, like South Carolina, are also 8-4. They are averaging a solid 186.3 yards rushing a contest. However, that number comes with a bit of a caveat.

In its eight victories, all against losing teams, Michigan averaged 234 yards. In its four losses, Michigan rushed for 91 yards a game.

Karan Hidgdon has rushed for 929 yards and 11 scores, while Chris Evans has rushed for 661 yards and six TDs.

While the Gamecocks are allowing 374 yards of total offense a game, they are allowing just 20.8 points a game. The Wolverines are scoring at a 25.8 clip, but scored just 53 points in their four losses.

Michigan has been hindered by quarterback problems all season. It has started three quarterbacks, and John O'Korn and Brandon Peters are expected to split time in the Outback Bowl.

Korn has completed 83 of 156 passes for 956 yards but with just two touchdowns against six interceptions. Peters, who missed the 31-20 loss to Ohio State while recovering from a concussion, has hit on 37 of 64 passes for 486 yards with touchdowns and no interceptions.

USC defensive end D.J. Wonnum doesn't see any issue with that.

"It's not really that difficult," Wonnum said. "We just prepare for both, get ready for both."

Wonnum, who is a sophomore, has risen to be a leader of the team with an outstanding season. He is fourth on the team in tackles with 52, but leads in tackles for loss with 13 and quarterback sacks with six. He's also broken up five passes and has two quarterback hurries.

That has led him to be voted a permanent team captain.

"It's a great honor to be voted by your teammates," Wonnum said. "I've got to keep it up, keep working and just fill the captain role.

"I wouldn't say it was a surprise. I thought by coming in, working and putting up my best effort, playing to the best of my ability, I might get that."

Stallworth will be playing his final game as a Gamecock. He had 29 tackles in the middle of the line and had no sacks. However, he had nine quarterback hurries and broke up two passes.

While his last game, Stallworth sees the importance of a victory over the Wolverines.

"When it's time to practice, we're locked in," he said. "We're focused on getting the win."

Wonnum, who is back next season along with the vast majority of the USC roster, sees a win as a major stepping stone.

"It's a big opportunity for us," Wonnum said. "Just going into next season, just showing next season that we will be ready for bigger things. These practices are big for us. Coming into the game, we're going to play to the best of our abilities."