South Carolina lost 41-17 to No. 3 Georgia on Saturday in Williams-Brice Stadium. Here are five things we learned from the loss:
The Gamecocks still need a run game in big games
South Carolina only ran the ball 20 times against the Bulldogs, which didn’t make coach Will Muschamp happy even though Muschamp signed off on an offensive game plan he knew was going to be pass-happy at least at the start. Offensive lineman Zack Bailey also expressed his frustration postgame that South Carolina didn’t try to run more against the Bulldogs. Whether it was an unwillingness or an inability to run the ball, the Gamecocks only had 54 rushing yards. They averaged 2.7 yards per carry and only picked up one first down via the ground game. In the five games against South Carolina’s biggest rivals (Clemson and Georgia) in Muschamp’s tenure, the Gamecocks have now been outrushed 1,273 yards to 319 yards. Muschamp felt his offensive line played well enough to have run the ball better against Georgia. “I thought in the run game, for the most part, we had a hat on a hat,” he said.
Jake Bentley is going to have to carry a lot of weight
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The Gamecocks junior quarterback had a career-high 47 pass attempts, completing 30 of them for 269 yards. The problem was he ended with two interceptions and one touchdown, which gives him 11 interceptions and two touchdowns in his career against the Bulldogs, Clemson and Florida. Bentley didn’t play poorly on Saturday, but that statistic is going to stick with him until South Carolina gets a win in a game like this.
Jaycee Horn is going to be a star
But he’s still a true freshman. Horn was at least partly to blame on Mecole Hardman’s 42-yard catch, but those are the kinds of mistakes Muschamp is willing to forgive because of everything else he gets from Horn. The true freshman nickel back was in the middle of the action all night and finished with five tackles, including one for a loss. “He played better as the game went on,” Muschamp said. “The ability is there. We just have to continue to take the reps and improve, and he will.”
The defensive line is in trouble
With starting defensive end D.J. Wonnum out for “about a month” because of an ankle injury, the Gamecocks can expect more opponents to do what Georgia did, attack the edges in the run game. Saturday against the Bulldogs, South Carolina often had ends on each side of the line who didn’t top 250 pounds. Aaron Sterling, Keir Thomas and Javon Kinlaw are going to have to play more snaps in the next month than South Carolina coaches would prefer, which is only going to exacerbate the issue. You can be sure the coaches who are left on the Gamecocks schedule will take note of this.
Georgia is going to win the SEC East
The Bulldogs are just ahead of everyone else in the division at the moment. South Carolina absolutely could have played better than it did Saturday, but it’s not clear that it could have played well enough to beat Georgia on its best day at the moment. And the Gamecocks were rightfully considered the second-best team in the division heading into this year. Any South Carolina fans who hate seeing the Bulldogs succeed probably need to avert their eyes for a few years.