Put aside that it was Vanderbilt. Put aside that the Commodores had their issues the past two seasons. Put aside the fact there’s still plenty the Gamecocks have to clean up.
This looked like on Saturday, just maybe, the offense South Carolina football fans have been waiting for.
The numbers from USC’s 37-14 win are pretty good: 534 yards, 7 per play, nearly 80 snaps, even after the rain made things more run-heavy and sloppy for the final quarter and a half. But there was something beyond that, something apparent in the first drive of the second half.
“It’s all on film,” Bentley said. “We had the opportunity to really use tempo against them, and that’s what we did coming out in the second half. That was our plan going into it.”
That theme of moving the ball was something South Carolina’s players returned to. The ball moves, the tempo picks up and the high-speed attack works.
South Carolina opened the third quarter going 61 yards by lining up and snapping at great speed (a few miscues shore circuited things). The Gamecocks were doing the same on their second possession, before a lightning delay brought things to a halt.
And that’s to say nothing of the game’s opening drive: 75 yards in three plays (plus a penalty) not even taking a full minute off the clock.
What helped was the chunk plays. Against Coastal Carolina and even against Georgia, the Gamecocks weren’t bad at moving the chains. But there weren’t the long gains, the ones that bail a team out from making 10-plus play drives.
Five USC passes gained 15 or more yards. Eight runs got 10 or more. The tempo helped wear down the Commodore defense and get it out of position at times.
“You hit some plays, you get the chains moving, and then you see the defense may be fatigued,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said.
That’s to say nothing of a tidy 273 rushing yards on 5.7 yards a carry.
The question now turns toward doing it consistently. The Gamecocks did all that with a smattering of self-inflicted wounds. Next week at Kentucky will be a challenge to say the least, and the SEC slate will have plenty more after.
And getting to that level takes everyone. It takes backs breaking tackles like they did Saturday. It takes receivers winning battles. It takes Jake Bentley orchestrating it all, and it takes the five men up front, not only plowing people over, but doing the smallest thing to make speed ball go.
“The linemen did a great job of getting set,” Bentley said. “It really all starts with them.
“However fast we’re going depends on them. … It was a great job by everyone to just execute all the time. It’s something we practice all the time. Being able to execute that fast, it’s going to be a big force for us going forward.”