In the first half against Texas A&M last week, South Carolina’s running backs averaged 6.8 yards per carry. In the second half, those backs got a combined six carries.
That was not the plan, which is becoming something of a problem for the Gamecocks offense. South Carolina offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon called eight run plays that turned into pass plays because of the team’s new run-pass-option scheme in the second half of that 26-23 loss to the Aggies, head coach Will Muschamp said on his weekly “Carolina Calls” radio show.
“We’re calling runs and we feel like we’re running the football and we end up throwing the football,” Muschamp said. “We’re not getting in the run game as much as we need to.”
In fact, the Gamecocks are running the ball less than anyone in the SEC. South Carolina has run the ball on 48.9 percent of its offensive plays this year, the lowest percentage in the conference.
South Carolina finished the Texas A&M game with 18 rushes, seven each for running backs Rico Dowdle and Ty’Son Williams and four for quarterback Jake Bentley. It was the third time in the last 10 years the Gamecocks have finished a game with fewer than 20 rushing attempts.
“I don’t want to leave the ballgame again with the running back position having 14 carries,” Muschamp said. “We need more than that, and that’s something we’ve talked about as a staff and will continue to work through.”
The Gamecocks have run 421 plays this year, 215 pass plays and 206 run plays. Vanderbilt is the only other conference team with more pass plays than run plays this year (230 to 222).
That reality has convinced Muschamp to tinker with South Carolina’s offense during the open date. The Gamecocks will remove some of the passing options from their RPO scheme for the second half of the season, he said.
“We are looking at having more run-to-run and taking some tags off the RPOs,” he said. “We’re going to still do the RPOs, that’s been very good for us, but sometimes we’re getting too far away from the run game and not sticking with it.”
The 18 rushing attempts were the second-fewest of Muschamp’s tenure at South Carolina. The Gamecocks ran the ball 17 times last year in a 24-10 loss to Georgia. Dating back to 1962, the time period in which complete South Carolina football records are available, the Gamecocks have had fewer than 20 rushing attempts in nine games. They are 1-8 in those games.
For the season, South Carolina is 13th in the SEC in rushing yards (153.7 yards per game) and rushing attempts per game (34.3).
SEC Rush Percentage
South Carolina has run the ball on 48.9 percent of its offensive plays this season, the lowest percentage in the SEC. Here’s how the rest of the conference stacks up:
Mississippi State 60.0
Texas A&M 55.4
Ole Miss 50.7
South Carolina 48.9