South Carolina’s offense finally stumbled in the red zone Saturday, and it almost cost the Gamecocks.
The No. 12 Gamecocks failed to score on two of their five trips inside the 20-yard line during a 24-21 win over Navy in Williams-Brice Stadium.
“That’s what really made the game close,” coach Steve Spurrier said Sunday
South Carolina was 7-for-8 in the red zone entering the game. Saturday’s missed opportunities were due to an interception thrown by senior quarterback Stephen Garcia and a missed assignment by freshmen tight end Rory Anderson.
Spurrier took the blame for the Garcia interception, which came under heavy pressure.
“We messed up the protection on that one,” Spurrier said. “He was trying to throw it away and hesitated just a hair.”
The other red zone flub came when the Gamecocks attempted a fourth-and-2 from the Navy 5-yard line late in the game. Anderson blocked for the wrong play, Spurrier said.
“A little mistake like that could have cost us the game if Navy had been able to drive the field there,” Spurrier said.
The Gamecocks remain one of the country’s most efficient touchdown teams in the red zone. All 10 of their 13 red zone scores have been touchdowns. Only three teams in the country have more red zone rushing touchdowns than South Carolina’s nine.
SPECIAL TEAMS ON SIDELINE
First-year special teams coordinator John Butler got a little bored Saturday night, it seems. The Gamecocks did not punt in the game and Navy only punted twice. Each team had four kickoffs, and Jay Wooten had only one field goal attempt, although it was a big one, a 48-yarder as the first half ended that proved the difference in the game.
“Coach Butler said it’s the fewest special teams plays he can ever remember being involved in,” Spurrier said.
Defensive lineman Kelcy Quarles, who did not dress out for the Navy game due to a concussion, is expected to return this week for the Vanderbilt game, Spurrier said. Linebacker Damario Jeffery returned against Navy after missing the Georgia game but remains limited by a sprained ankle, Spurrier said.
Jeffery, who was moved to linebacker in the spring but played spur against the Midshipmen, has only three tackles this year.
The Gamecocks are 11th in the SEC in scoring defense (33.3 points per game allowed) and 10th in total defense (372 yards per game allowed) after Saturday’s game.
“I’m thinking we could play a little faster, a little more sound,” Spurrier said. “I keep believing we are better than all the stats tell us we are doing. We have (opponents) wide open here and there. (Navy) has fourth-and-15, and they float one down there and hit it.”