South Carolina’s offense will only go as far as the offensive line lets it, Cory Helms believes. That explains why South Carolina went nowhere in the first half against Vanderbilt on Thursday night.
“Honestly, we feel like we are the leaders of the offense, so if we’re on, our offense is on,” said Helms, a junior who plays center and guard.
The offensive line was decidedly not on in the first half against the Commodores. Offensive linemen committed three penalties in the first two series, and South Carolina finished the first half with 88 yards.
“I know in the first half everybody was a little antsy,” tailback A.J. Turner said. “They were really jumpy. I had a run called back for about 40 yards, mistakes we can’t have. We all have to be on the same page. We all have to do our assignments and do it cleanly. We just all have to get our minds right for the next game.”
The offensive line, which had to replace starting right guard Donell Stanley (high ankle sprain) after the first series against Vanderbilt, got it issues figured out at halftime and led the way to 220 second-half yards and a 13-10 come-from-behind win.
“It was really the tale of two halves,” Helms said. “In the first half, they just played a little different than our defense (plays in practice), and we had some different play calls in the second half that were a lot better.”
The Gamecocks gave up two quarterback pressures and no sacks against Vanderbilt, despite having to insert sophomore Blake Camper at right tackle and move regular right tackle D.J. Park to right guard because of Stanley’s injury. Senior left tackle Mason Zandi was named the team’s offensive lineman of the week.
“I want to compliment Blake Camper, a guy that went in and played extremely well for us,” coach Will Muschamp said. “D.J. Park probably took a grand total of probably 25 snaps though camp at the guard position. He goes in there and has zero busted assignments over probably 60 plus snaps at right guard. That says a lot about how they’re getting coached and developed, but also, man down, man up, taking advantage of an opportunity. They did a good job for our team.”
Muschamp wouldn’t commit to a starting lineup for Saturday’s game against Mississippi State, but Helms worked at right guard with Alan Knott at center and Park at right tackle during Tuesday’s practice, Helms and Park said. Knott, who has started 17 games in the last two years, missed the Vanderbilt game because of a one-week suspension.
Offensive line coach Shawn Elliott, who wasn’t made available to the media this week, praised the offensive line for its performance against Vanderbilt, Park said.
“He just told us, ‘Good work. You have to keep working and fix those penalty problems,’ ” Park said.
South Carolina’s 121 rushing yards against the Commodores were the ninth-highest among SEC teams in the first week of the season.
“There is always room for improvement with all of us,” Camper said. “We played a really good game, but it’s going to be a different type of defense. It’s never going to be the same. Overall, we can always improve on something.”
USC at Mississippi St.
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field (55,082), Starkville Miss.
Line: Miss. St. by 6 1/2