Josh Kendall

USC’s offensive numbers depressing but players maintain hope

South Carolina Gamecocks tight end K.C. Crosby (3) sits dejected after a loss to Texas A&M.
South Carolina Gamecocks tight end K.C. Crosby (3) sits dejected after a loss to Texas A&M. gmelendez@thestate.com

All the numbers are bad.

The worst is probably this: South Carolina is last in the FBS in points per game (14). Or this: Alabama’s defense and special teams have scored as many touchdowns as the Gamecocks offense (nine).

But the rest of them are bad, too. Halfway through the 2016 season, South Carolina is 126th in the country in rushing offense with 92.33 yards per game. Only one Power 5 team in the country (UCLA) averages fewer yards per carry than the Gamecocks’ 3.01. The passing game ranks No. 87 in the country with 212.2 yards per game, and the team’s 6.04 yards per attempt is 100th in the country. That all adds up to the 123rd ranked offense in the country in total yards (304.5).

“The bye week comes at a good time,” head coach Will Muschamp said. “We have six games to go, and we’re looking forward to those six games to continue to improve our program.”

A lot of that time will be spent trying to figure out how to improve the offense. The Gamecocks have tried two starting quarterbacks, two starting tailbacks, seven starting offensive linemen and a continuously changing cast of pass catchers, and nothing has worked so far.

Muschamp has talked several times about getting “more creative” with the team’s running game, and when he walked out of a press conference following the team’s 28-14 loss to Georgia, it felt like nothing was off the table in terms of options.

“With Coach Muschamp, I expect anything,” offensive lineman Mason Zandi said. “It could be dramatic. It could be just fine-tuning. Whatever coach wants us to do is what we’re going to do.”

What the options are is less clear. Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, like the rest of the team’s assistant coaches, has not spoken to the media since the season began.

“Coach Roper is a very positive guy,” Zandi said. “We’re struggling on offense right now and it’s easy to fly off the handle. I mean he does get after us, I’m not saying he doesn’t, but it’s easy to be negative and be down and he’s not like that at all. He’s progressive and wants to continue to get better.”

In earlier meetings with the media, Roper said he is a big believer in the value of explosive plays, which is another thing his group is struggling with this year. South Carolina ranks No. 120 in the nation in plays of 10 or more yards.

“We are getting close, I believe that,” senior quarterback Perry Orth said. “We just have to keep working and get ready for UMass. There has been improvement in different areas as the season has gone along. It just hasn’t come together yet. I believe it’s going to. Right now we’re still working, still figuring things out. We have so many young guys who haven’t played and are still learning how to play, it’s challenging at first, but I believe we are turning it around.”

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