USC vs. Arkansas a bigger physical or mental challenge?
Instead of scrapping its entire plan in the running game and starting from scratch, South Carolina wants to figure out what is working and build on that.
It might take a while to find it.
The Gamecocks (3-1 overall, 1-2 SEC) are 12th in the SEC in rushing with 84.6 yards per game. They are one of only 10 teams in the country that doesn’t average 100 yards per game on the ground, and their 3.04-yards per carry average ranks 122nd in the nation.
Three times since last week’s loss to Texas A&M, South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp has referred to his running game as “nonexistent,” and that’s barely an exaggeration.
“I really don’t know what the problem is,” sophomore running back A.J. Turner said. “I really just feel like we have to do what we’re told. We haven’t really been sticking to our basic rules and basic fundamentals. We just have to do what we’re told and when we do we move the ball. We just have to be consistent with it.”
Most of the Gamecocks players questioned about the running game said they didn’t see any evidence of impending changes during this week’s early practices, although Turner alluded to “some wrinkles in some of our blocks for our basic plays.”
Anything beyond tweaks to the run game isn’t realistic midseason, Muschamp said.
“I don't know that you make wholesale changes in a week,” he said. “There are some things, bright spots, we've been able to accomplish this year.”
South Carolina averaged 0.9 yards per carry against Texas A&M, rushing 23 times for 26 yards, but that includes sack yardage of minus-46 yards. By the Gamecocks calculations, they had 17 carries for 73 yards, a more respectable 4.3 yards per carry, all of that coming from starting running back Ty’Son Williams.
“You take away the sack yardage, which has nothing to do with rushing offense, there are some positive things,” Muschamp said. “Are we where we want to be? No. It isn't good enough. It's not productive enough.”
Still, the Gamecocks feel like they must continue trying. They are 12th in the SEC in carries with 27.8 per game.
“You can't become one dimensional,” Muschamp said. “After the second series of the second half (against Texas A&M), it became a throwing game and a launching pad for the quarterback. The running game was nonexistent, and they're teeing off on the quarterback. So when you get in those situations, it's extremely difficult, so we’ve got to find some sort of balance.”
After South Carolina scored a touchdown to go ahead of Texas A&M 17-7 with 9:24 left in the third quarter, the Gamecocks had five more possessions that totaled minus-2 yards combined. They called three run plays during that time, which went for a total of 4 yards, and Bentley was sacked five times during those possessions.
Offensive lineman Dennis Daley said he couldn’t tell that any run game changes were coming.
“No sir, same plays,” Daley said.
That’s as it should be, Bentley said.
“I think the stuff we are running is good,” Bentley said. “We have good run plays that can work for you. We are just going to grind it out on the practice field and try to execute them better.”
Who: South Carolina (3-2, 1-2 SEC) vs. Arkansas (2-2, 1-1)
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium
TV/radio: SEC Network, 107.5 FM