Malik Young was asked what is the most vexing question about South Carolina football at the moment: Why do the Gamecocks keep starting games so slowly?
“I can’t answer that question, I’m sorry,” the senior offensive lineman said.
Young was not dodging the question. He hadn’t been told by his coaches not to answer the question. He literally does not know the answer, and neither do any other South Carolina players or coaches.
“There is no concrete answer,” quarterback Jake Bentley said. “We are going to keep trying and figuring out what we can do.”
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South Carolina is 91st nationally in first half scoring (12 points) and 124th nationally in first half time of possession share (43.12 percent). The Gamecocks (4-3 overall, 3-3 SEC) play Ole Miss (5-3, 1-3) on Saturday in Oxford, Miss., at noon. The Rebels are third in the SEC in scoring with 38.4 points per game.
“They can score in bunches and they can score quickly,” South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp said of the Rebels. “They have shown that over the last two years, been very effective scoring points on everybody. Getting out of the gates strong is very important, playing real well in the middle is strong and finishing up is pretty strong too. We need to do all three.”
It starts with the opening kick, though, and that’s been a problem for South Carolina of late. The Gamecocks have been outscored a combined 74-26 in the first half of the last four games.
“When you’re looking at it, sometimes guys are emotionally somewhere else,” offensive lineman Zack Bailey said.
South Carolina has shown the ability to play well coming out of the locker room. They are outscoring opponents 79-37 in the third quarter this year.
“I guess that’s a good thing,” running back Ty’Son Williams said. “The second half is where you start to finish the game. It’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish. Of course, if we do like we do in the second half, that’ll be great. Of course, we want to start faster but if we don’t we have to keep fighting.”
Bentley, who has two touchdown passes and five interceptions in the first half of SEC games this year, does have a suggestion.
“I think coming out up tempo may help us more,” he said. “Sometimes it feels we go to up tempo to get us started. I do know we are going to need to come out playing well, especially this week knowing they are really good on offense.”