David Cloninger

Offensive decisions are producing enough to win

It’s always how it works, in any walk of life.

If your idea works, you’re a genius. If it doesn’t, you’re a fool.

So Will Muschamp and Kurt Roper, fighting an uphill battle when it comes to how their preferred offense will always be judged, know the deal. But they’re calling plays to help South Carolina win … and South Carolina’s won three in a row.

Like it was last week, “it could have backfired!” Sure.

But it didn’t.

The Gamecocks had the ball, up 21-14, with 1:34 in the half and two timeouts. Missouri had the ball first in the second half and was slicing USC’s defense into the cheese Muschamp and strength coach Jeff Dillman placed on mousetraps throughout Williams-Brice all week (it’s a long story).

USC played it safe against Tennessee despite the Volunteers also having the ball first after halftime and being a second-half team. It worked (albeit with some chewy fingernails).

So they played it safe again. Two runs begat a Missouri timeout with 52 seconds to go, but then David Williams broke for 12 yards and a first down and USC was in business.

Roper reversed course and decided to go for it, to at least get Elliott Fry onto the field for a field goal at the end of the half.

“When we popped the run on third down, we were going to go fast. And then we got the sack,” Muschamp said.

Jake Bentley was dropped for a loss on the next play with about 40 seconds to go. Hold everything, strike that, reverse it.

USC ran out the half.

“At that time of the game, I didn’t want to go back out defensively,” Muschamp said. “Had we had had an incomplete, or gotten the ball down the field, we were going to go fast.”

Not going for it again in the third also nearly cost USC. The Gamecocks faced fourth-and-1 at the Missouri 38-yard-line and went to Fry in a tie game. He hooked a 46-yard field goal left and the comeback was on.

Until Rashad Fenton had the play of the game, intercepting Drew Lock on a pass to the end zone that begat USC’s lead-taking 98-yard drive.

The Gamecocks retained that 28-21 lead until the fourth and again faced fourth-and-1. No question what they had to do this time, and Fry booted the field goal for a two-score lead. USC won the game.

There’s always going to be a better way it could have been done if the first one hasn’t worked.

Thus far, there’s no need to second-guess.

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