Josh Kendall

The five things South Carolina believes it must do better to win more game

South Carolina’s coaching staff has identified five factors it believes are critical to the Gamecocks’ success on the field. The 2018 season proved their point, head coach Will Muschamp said.

In the seven games South Carolina won three or more of its critical factors, it won. In the six games it lost, it did not.

“That’s indicative of kind of how we were, very inconsistent at times,” Muschamp said.

Again this year, starting with the spring practice, the Gamecocks will pour their energy into coming out on top of each of these five factors — turnover margin, explosive plays, field position, red zone and the fourth quarter. Here’s a look at how the 2018 season went in each of those areas:

Turnover Margin

The Gamecocks’ No. 1 emphasis throughout spring practice and much of fall camp will be reversing their turnover fortunes. South Carolina was 101st in the country last year in turnover margin, giving the ball away 21 times and only getting it back 16 times. The Gamecocks had finished in the nation’s top 25 in turnover margin the previous two seasons.

“It’s not something we don’t always emphasize, but it obviously really hurt us last year,” Muschamp said.

South Carolina 49, Coastal Carolina 15 – Won turnover battle 1-0

No. 3 Georgia 41, South Carolina 17 – Lost turnover battle 2-1

South Carolina 37, Vanderbilt 14 – Lost turnover battle 3-2

No. 17 Kentucky 24, South Carolina 10 – Lost turnover battle 4-1

South Carolina 37, Missouri 35 – Won turnover battle 2-0

No. 22 Texas A&M 27, South Carolina 24 – Lost turnover battle 2-0

South Carolina 27, Tennessee 24 – Lost turnover battle 1-0

South Carolina 48, Ole Miss 44 – Won turnover battle 1-0

No. 19 Florida 35, South Carolina 31 – Tied 1-1

South Carolina 49, Chattanooga 9 – Won turnover battle 2-0

No. 2 Clemson 56, South Carolina 35 – Tied 1-1

South Carolina 28, Akron 3 – Lost turnover battle 4-3

Virginia 28, South Carolina 0 – Lost turnover battle 2-1

Explosive Plays

The installation of Bryan McClendon as offensive coordinator seemed to pay off in 2018. The Gamecocks offense had 107 “explosive plays” as measured by the South Carolina staff — meaning a run of 10 or more yards or a pass of 20 or more yards. The bad news is they gave up 104 such plays, including an average of 12 per game against the five ranked teams they played. No team in the SEC gave up more plays of 10 or more yards than South Carolina last year.

“We gave up way too many explosive plays,” Muschamp said.

South Carolina 49, Coastal Carolina 15 – Won 12-1

No. 3 Georgia 41, South Carolina 17 – Lost 11-2

South Carolina 37, Vanderbilt 14 – Won 11-4

No. 17 Kentucky 24, South Carolina 10 – Lost 11-7

South Carolina 37, Missouri 35 – Lost 10-6

No. 22 Texas A&M 27, South Carolina 24 – Tied 8-8

South Carolina 27, Tennessee 24 – Won 8-4

South Carolina 48, Ole Miss 44 – Lost 12-9

No. 19 Florida 35, South Carolina 31 – Lost 10-5

South Carolina 49, Chattanooga 9 – Won 15-4

No. 2 Clemson 56, South Carolina 35 – Lost 20-10

South Carolina 28, Akron 3 – Won 7-4

Virginia 28, South Carolina 0 – Won 7-5

Field Position

Muschamp felt good about how the Gamecocks did in this category but does wonder how replacing Deebo Samuel’s 24.8-yard kickoff return average will affect field position in 2019.

Looking back at last season, the most glaring problem was against Kentucky as the Wildcats started on average at their 42-yard line in their fifth straight win over South Carolina.

South Carolina 49, Coastal Carolina 15 – South Carolina at its 28, Coastal at its 27

No. 3 Georgia 41, South Carolina 17 – South Carolina at its 28, Georgia at its 25

South Carolina 37, Vanderbilt 14 – South Carolina at its 34, Vanderbilt at its 26

No. 17 Kentucky 24, South Carolina 10 – Kentucky at its 42, South Carolina at its 20

South Carolina 37, Missouri 35 – South Carolina at its 33, Missouri at its 33

No. 22 Texas A&M 27, South Carolina 24 – Texas A&M at its 25, South Carolina at its 23

South Carolina 27, Tennessee 24 – Tennessee at its 30, South Carolina at its 29

South Carolina 48, Ole Miss 44 – South Carolina at its 34, Ole Miss at its 28

No. 19 Florida 35, South Carolina 31 – Florida at its 28, South Carolina at its 24

South Carolina 49, Chattanooga 9 – South Carolina at its 33, Chattanooga at its 22

No. 2 Clemson 56, South Carolina 35 – Clemson at its 25, South Carolina at its 24

South Carolina 28, Akron 3 – South Carolina at its 40, Akron at its 21

Virginia 28, South Carolina 0 – Virginia at its 35, South Carolina at its 34

Red Zone

The Gamecocks were next-to-last in the SEC in red zone scoring a year ago at 76.8 percent. Their touchdown percentage in the red zone wasn’t much better, ranking 11th in the conference at 57.1 percent. The defense also ranked 11th in the conference in touchdown percentage allowed in the red zone at 59.7 percent.

South Carolina has to reverse both of those trends this year, Muschamp believes.

“It’s a dagger for the offense to go down there and have to settle for a field goal or no points,” he said.

South Carolina 49, Coastal Carolina 15 – South Carolina 4-for-4, Coastal 1-for-3

No. 3 Georgia 41, South Carolina 17 – Georgia 3-for-4, South Carolina 1-for-3

South Carolina 37, Vanderbilt 14 – South Carolina 3-for-7, Vanderbilt 2-for-4

No. 17 Kentucky 24, South Carolina 10 – Kentucky 2-for-4, South Carolina 0-2

South Carolina 37, Missouri 35 – South Carolina 3-for-4, Missouri 3-for-8

No. 22 Texas A&M 27, South Carolina 24 – Texas A&M 2-for-5, South Carolina 1-for-2

South Carolina 27, Tennessee 24 – Tennessee 3-for-4, South Carolina 3-for-6

South Carolina 48, Ole Miss 44 – Ole Miss 5-for-9, South Carolina 4-for-6

No. 19 Florida 35, South Carolina 31 – South Carolina 4-for-5, Florida 4-for-6

South Carolina 49, Chattanooga 9 – South Carolina 5-for-7, Chattanooga 1-for-2

No. 2 Clemson 56, South Carolina 35 – Clemson 7-for-8, South Carolina 2-for-4

South Carolina 28, Akron 3 – South Carolina 2-for-5, Akron 0-for-0

Virginia 28, South Carolina 0 – Virginia 4-for-5, South Carolina 0-for-1

Fourth quarter

The Gamecocks named their offseason program the “Fourth Quarter Program,” which suggests the amount of importance they place on the final 15 minutes of each game.

“In our league most every game is going to come down to one or two possessions in the fourth quarter, so we talk about winning the fourth quarter,” Muschamp said. “It’s critical we are able to do that.”

They were able to outscore their opponent in the fourth quarter five times last year. Overall, the Gamecocks outscored their opponents 72-69 in the fourth quarter.

South Carolina 49, Coastal Carolina 15 – Coastal 9, South Carolina 7

No. 3 Georgia 41, South Carolina 17 – South Carolina 7, Georgia 0

South Carolina 37, Vanderbilt 14 –South Carolina 7, Vanderbilt 0

No. 17 Kentucky 24, South Carolina 10 – South Carolina 0, Kentucky 0

South Carolina 37, Missouri 35 – Missouri 12, South Carolina 6

No. 22 Texas A&M 27, South Carolina 24 – Texas A&M 10, South Carolina 7

South Carolina 27, Tennessee 24 – South Carolina 3, Tennessee 0

South Carolina 48, Ole Miss 44 – South Carolina 14, Ole Miss 7

No. 19 Florida 35, South Carolina 31 – Florida 14, South Carolina 0

South Carolina 49, Chattanooga 9 – South Carolina 14, Chattanooga 6

No. 2 Clemson 56, South Carolina 35 – South Carolina 14, Clemson 14

South Carolina 28, Akron 3 – South Carolina 0, Akron 0

Virginia 28, South Carolina 0 – Virginia 7, South Carolina 0

Josh Kendall has covered SEC football for almost 20 years. He has covered the Gamecocks since the 2010 season. Have a question? Shoot him an email or find him on Twitter, and he’ll be happy to respond.
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