South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp brandished the rough number: around 52 points.
Initially, that number lacks context. Then one realizes the Gamecocks have only scored 173. They’ve only allowed 155. So the gap is 18 across six games, three wins and three losses.
So where have these 52 or so points swung? Not being careful with the ball in the red zone.
“We’ve had three interceptions in the end zone,” Muschamp said. “That’s something we can’t afford to have happen. You look at the point swing that we’ve had, turnovers in our red zone, or in the opponent’s red zone, is about a 52-point swing on our football team this year. That’s very difficult to overcome.”
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The exact math on those 52 points is a little hard to nail down, but the point in many ways stands. South Carolina has 12 turnovers on the season. A high number have come either in scoring position or in position to set up an opponent’s score:
▪ Jake Bentley threw a fourth-down interception into the end zone from the Georgia 5-yard line late in a home loss
▪ Bentley threw an interception from the USC 25 that set Vanderbilt up on the Gamecocks 23, and the Commodores scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive.
▪ Rico Dowdle fumbled on the Vanderbilt 2-yard line, taking three or seven points off the board
▪ Dowdle fumbled on the South Carolina 7 against Kentucky, and USC needed a big offensive stand to only allow three points
▪ Bentley threw a second-down interception from the Kentucky 13 into the end zone late in a loss to the Wildcats
▪ Against Texas A&M, Bentley threw an interception from the Texas A&M 8 into the end zone as USC got shut out in the first half.
That might be a little generous when describing the red zone, but it’s between 18 and 38 points lost.
Then USC has had three more notable turnovers that cost or created points:
▪ Against Missouri, a mishandled punt was fumbled and lost, setting up the Tigers inside the USC 35 for what ultimately became a field goal.
▪ An early interception against Georgia was returned for a touchdown.
▪ After a 15-yard run, A.J. Turner fumbled inside the Vandy 30, taking another scoring chance away.
That could be between 13 and 17 more points potentially in the balance. All told, that means of USC’s 12 turnovers, nine took away a good scoring chance, or provided one for an opposing team, to say nothing of Bryan Edwards fumbling a punt he’d returned to the opponent’s 41-yard line.
Though USC probably hasn’t lost enough close games for these plays to deeply matter (although they probably swing the Texas A&M game), it would make USC look a good bit stronger and have made the losses to Georgia and Kentucky considerably more competitive.
The Gamecocks are back in action Saturday against a Tennessee team that is tied for 84th nationally in turnovers forced.