For two weeks, South Carolina’s football team benefited from the quirks of the game.
Twice the Gamecocks were outgained in total yardage, twice they were outgained on a per-play basis. They made up the difference with special teams scores, standing tall in the red zone and cashing in on turnovers.
That’s a hard way to win consistently, but the Gamecocks seemed poised to become more consistent on offense with a lot of young talent.
Instead, South Carolina got bit by those quirks. Hard.
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USC had an edge in total yardage, and its average play went a yard and a half farther. But the Gamecocks let chance after chance slip away, watching Kentucky’s defense bow up the way USC’s had in the first two games.
“We jump offsides four, five times,” Muschamp said. “We have two short fields offensively, can’t get anything going, have a hard time in short yardage in the game to convert a 1-yard run on two separate occasions, defensively can’t get off the field on third down in the first half.”
The Gamecocks got to 2-0 by playing clean. They fell to 2-1 by not doing it. South Carolina’s defense watched Kentucky do what USC had done to others.
Eight of South Carolina’s 12 possessions got inside Kentucky’s 40. Those drives produced 13 points, and one was a 68-yard play. The Gamecocks allowed Kentucky to convert 56.3 percent of its third downs, including four of 7 yards or longer.
Now the Gamecocks have to turn to a tricky road ahead. The majority of the rest of USC’s opponents have showed vulnerabilities. There will be more youth with Deebo Samuel out for the season, but if the offense can’t find consistency, can’t outgain opponents and make its chances count, there’s a definite ceiling to what the team can do.