Josh Kendall

The many reasons for South Carolina’s struggles to score

When South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp was asked Saturday night what was hindering his team’s offense, he said he wanted to watch the tape before commenting. After watching it, he found plenty of answers, from a bad snap here, to a missed block by a running back there, to a costly penalty in another spot, etc.

There’s also this: the team’s best wide receiver (Deebo Samuel) and best offensive lineman (Zack Bailey) are out for multiple games due to injury. Another starting offensive lineman (Cory Helms) was hurt last week and could be out again this week, necessitating a shuffling all across the offensive front.

Add it all up and a South Carolina offense that had high hopes this season is struggling to get going the last two weeks. The Gamecocks head back on the road this week to play Texas A&M (3-1 overall, 1-0 SEC) in College Station, Texas.

“The last two weeks we have had some self-inflicted issues, and we all take the blame, starting with me and our entire offensive staff and our players,” Muschamp said. “That’s what you do. I’d like to be further along. I’d like to be 4-0 to be honest with you. That’s where I’d like to be.”

For the season, the Gamecocks (3-1, 1-1) are 11th in the SEC and 101st in the nation in total offense with 350.3 yards per game. They are 12th in the SEC and 97th in the nation in scoring offense with 24 points per game. They have gone from posting 35 points and 31 points in their first two outings to 13 points and 17 points in their last two.

South Carolina is coming off a 17-16 win over Louisiana Tech, a game it was favored to win by 9.5 points. Instead, it trailed 13-0 in the fourth quarter and had to rally for a last-minute field goal to win. The Gamecocks had 438 yards and 23 first downs against the Bulldogs but didn’t score until the 11-minute mark of the final quarter.

“It really wasn’t anything they did,” sophomore quarterback Jake Bentley said. “It was just a matter of execution, and we have to get better at that. That’s the big thing, just go get better. We won and that’s really all that matters. That’s the first goal of any game, score more points than the other team and that’s what we did.”

Bentley is third in the SEC in passing this year with 250.3 yards per game. He has seven touchdowns and four interceptions, the interceptions mark tying his number from last year in seven starts. Bentley’s completion percentage of 63.8 percent is fifth in the SEC.

“Would he like to have some throws back? Absolutely, I think he’d be the first one to tell you that,” Muschamp said.

However, Bentley is not concerned about the occasional misfire, he said.

“I don’t think it’s anything that major,” he said. “You’re going to miss some throws, and we have to do a better job of hitting those. I have to do a better job. It’s not a big deal. We hit them all week at practice, and we just happen to go 9-for-10 and the incompletion happens to be on Saturday.”

The running game showed some signs of life against Louisiana Tech with 143 yards but still ranks 12th in the SEC and 118th in the nation with 100 yards per game. The Gamecocks are 12th in the SEC and 103rd in the nation in yards per attempt at 3.54.

“I don’t think anybody can say we can’t run the ball anymore,” Bentley said after the last game.

Red zone offense has been a particular struggle. The Gamecocks are last in the SEC and 119th in nation in scoring percentage inside the 20-yard line at 66.7 percent. Their touchdown percentage of 44.4 percent is last in the SEC and 116th in the nation.

“We have to do a better job in the red zone offensively of scoring touchdowns,” Muschamp said. “We have to score in those situations in our league. We have to score in the red zone.”

Field goal kicking woes have contributed from that distance. The Gamecocks are 2-for-8 on field goal attempts this season, a 25 percent success rate which ranks 121st in the nation.

“We have left 16 points on the field in the last two ball games,” Muschamp said. “That’s hard to do in our league and when you play the schedule we’ve got. We have to be more productive scoring points.”

Game info

Who: USC (3-1) vs. Texas A&M (3-1)

When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: College Station, Texas

TV: SEC Network

Radio: 107.5 FM

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