Josh Kendall

South Carolina shoots for big plays. The Gamecocks are missing too often

Jake Bentley talks confidence after tough start to season

Jake Bentley speaks to the media during a press conference Tuesday Oct. 23, 2018, in Columbia, SC.
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Jake Bentley speaks to the media during a press conference Tuesday Oct. 23, 2018, in Columbia, SC.

South Carolina’s offensive players and coaches feel like they’ve been more aggressive this season. The Gamecocks just don’t have much to show for it.

“We have been much more aggressive as far as taking shots,” head coach Will Muschamp said. “We’ve done a good job of being aggressive as far as giving our guys the opportunity to make plays down the field.”

Muschamp’s evidence is this: Through six games this year the Gamecocks have nine more explosive plays than they had through six games last year using the metrics they used last season. In 2016, South Carolina counted pass plays of 20 or more yards and running plays of 15 or more yards as “explosive.” They had 27 through the first six games of last season.

This year, they have 36 such plays, although this year in the team’s official stats, the Gamecocks are counting all running plays of 10 or more yards as “explosive.” Using that figure, South Carolina has 46 explosive plays.

However the numbers are spliced, the Gamecocks’ offense is being held up by an inability to hit big plays down the field.

“That’s the biggest thing that shows offensively, that and turnovers, that we have to get better at,” quarterback Jake Bentley said. “There are a lot of yards that we left out there. That’s one thing we really broke down this off week.”

South Carolina is sixth in the SEC in plays of 10 or more yards per game (15), but the numbers drop rapidly for larger chunk plays, the kind that help offenses pile up easy yards and turn the momentum of a game. The Gamecocks are eighth in the league in plays of 20 or more yards and last in the league in plays of 30 or more yards.

“We’ve had our chances to make them,” Bentley said.

The numbers are even worse using advanced statistics. South Carolina is 115th in the nation in “marginal explosiveness,” an indicator compiled by SBNation.com.

The Gamecocks replaced offensive coordinator Kurt Roper with Bryan McClendon in the offseason and predicted a more explosive offense than they had in the previous two seasons under Roper. They point to plays like the throws more than 40 yards down the field against Texas A&M that ended with dropped passes by Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards as proof that they are trying to make that promise a reality.

“I think the (play-calling) is more aggressive,” said Bentley, who is 10th in the SEC in yards per attempt (6.9). “We have challenged the defense. We had some drops or some bigger numbers would be there, but we’ve attacked the defense more than last year.”

Will Muschamp speaks to the media during a press conference Tuesday Oct. 23, 2018, in Columbia, SC.

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