Josh Kendall: The good news, bad news from USC's 3-1 start
South Carolina improved to 3-1 overall with a dramatic, come-from-behind 17-16 win over Louisiana Tech on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium. Despite the win, the game might have resulted in more questions than answers, but there are five things we learned from the game.
The offensive line is in flux
South Carolina probably will be play at Texas A&M on Saturday with only one lineman in the position he started the season in, that being center Alan Knott. The Gamecocks opened the season with Malik Young at left tackle, Donell Stanley at left guard, Knott at center, Cory Helms at right guard and Zack Bailey at right tackle. Here’s what Saturday probably will look like: Dennis Daley at left tackle, Sadarius Hutcherson at left guard, Knott at center, Stanley at right guard and Young at right tackle. Bailey and Helms both are questionable this week with ankle injuries. After struggling against Kentucky and the first half against Louisiana Tech, the re-assembled offensive line played well enough in the second half against the Bulldogs to help push the Gamecocks to a 17-16 come-from-behind win.
The red zone offense has to improve
Parker White’s dramatic game-winning kick covered up a lot of red zone issues for the offense. The Gamecocks were 1-for-2 in the red zone without any touchdowns against Louisiana Tech. For the season, South Carolina is last in the SEC in red zone offense, converting 67 percent of their chances inside the 20-yard line (6-for-9). The Gamecocks’ touchdown percentage in the red zone is also last in the conference at 44 percent.
Ty’Son Williams could make a difference
The sophomore running back has had a roller-coaster start to his South Carolina career. The North Carolina transfer didn’t get a carry in the first game, was the team’s leading rusher with 78 yards in the second game, didn’t get a carry in the third game and then was the team’s leading rusher again (95 yards on 13 carries) against Louisiana Tech. Williams, who is averaging 6.75 yards per carry, made his first collegiate start against the Bulldogs and figures to get his second against the Aggies, especially with Rico Dowdle battling a quadriceps bruise. “He’s a heavy back and as the game goes on, people get tired of hitting him,” head coach Will Muschamp said.
The SEC East is a mystery
South Carolina’s loss to Kentucky two weeks ago didn’t look so bad when the Wildcats almost beat Florida this weekend. Of course, Florida (2-1, 2-0 SEC) may not be any good either. The Gators are in first place in the division with a 2-0 conference record but switched quarterbacks on Saturday and haven’t looked exactly unbeatable. Tennessee, which also lost to Florida, barely beat UMass 17-13 this week. Vanderbilt’s fast start was put into perspective by a 59-0 thrashing by Alabama. The only sure thing in the SEC East right now seems to be that Georgia (4-0, 1-0 SEC) is pretty good. The Bulldogs beat previously unbeaten Mississippi State 31-3 on Saturday. The Gamecocks (3-1, 1-1 SEC) are tied for third in the division at the moment.
There are plenty of passing targets
The Gamecocks aren’t going to replace what Deebo Samuel brought to the lineup, but they have plenty of people who can catch passes. Ten different players, including five wide receivers, caught passes against Louisiana Tech. Bryan Edwards led the way with a career-high 122 yards, including the 41-yard grab that set up the game-winning field goal. OrTre Smith, who has two touchdown catches in the last two weeks, Shi Smith, Randrecous Davis and Chad Terrell also caught passes. “The receivers knew this week that they had to step up,” quarterback Jake Bentley said. “A lot of guys stepped up and made some plays for us. Just throw it to the open guy. There’s nothing more to it than that.”