Josh Kendall

South Carolina offense going in circles as season hangs in balance

No football coach wants a one-dimensional offense, but one dimension would seem like progress for South Carolina at this point.

By the end of Saturday’s 24-17 loss to Texas A&M, the Gamecocks were down to no dimensions, unable to run the ball for so long that they were unable even to throw it in the second half, and powerless to stop the Aggies from grinding away what had been a 17-7 South Carolina lead.

“We have to figure out ways to generate more points,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said.

Even consistent first downs would be progress at this point. South Carolina (3-2, 1-2 SEC) didn’t have a first down in the first quarter. Then it found a rhythm, gaining 271 yards and scoring all 17 of its points in a five-possession stretch that covered the second and third quarters. Then it lost it again, totaling minus-2 yards on its final five possessions of the game.

Saturday was the kind of game that gets “For Sale” signs stuck in the yard of offensive coordinators, and Gamecocks OC Kurt Roper was the target of plenty of online ire by the time the Texas A&M game was complete.

“It’s all of us. It’s no one person. It’s no one coach. It’s just a matter of execution,” quarterback Jake Bentley said. “We give it everything we’ve got, and coach Roper busts his tail all week developing the game plan he thinks is going to work. We all fully believe in him and what he does for us. We just have to find a way to score more points and that’s on all of us. We have to execute better, and that’s the bottom line.”

There is a thread that runs through most of the Gamecocks offensive struggles. It starts with the lack of a running game. South Carolina rushed for 23 yards on the night, just 3 in the fourth quarter. That inability allowed Texas A&M (4-1, 2-0) to turn its attention to the pass rush against a Gamecocks offensive line that was without three starters after Malik Young left with an ankle injury in the first quarter.

“We couldn’t run the football in the first half and they noticed that, so of course they brought more pressure because they knew we were going to throw the football,” center Alan Knott said. “It’s just something we have to handle. We saw it. We knew what they were doing. It’s something we have to get done.”

The Aggies were the ones that got it done though, sacking Bentley seven times.

“We have to be able to stay balanced,” Muschamp said. “You can’t get into a launch pad on the quarterback and that’s what happened late in the game.”

Next week, South Carolina plays an Arkansas team that rushed for 226 yards against Texas A&M last week.

“We’ve got a lot of football to play and our guys will rebound and regroup,” Muschamp said. “Our guys played extremely hard in the game. I’m extremely proud of their effort, but we came here to win the game and we didn’t.”

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