Josh Kendall

USC trying to find its offensive identity

South Carolina gained 118 yards on the ground in the final 15 minutes against North Carolina.
South Carolina gained 118 yards on the ground in the final 15 minutes against North Carolina.

South Carolina’s offense needs an identity.

That’s not a restless Gamecocks fan base saying that. That’s quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus.

“You have to be good at something,” Mangus said. “Every good offensive team has an identity of what they do, and you are going to run those (plays) come hell or high water, no matter what defenses run. I think that goes for everybody in the country that has an offense that works.”

The Gamecocks (1-0) are still trying to figure out what their “hell or high water” plays will be for the 2015 season.

“You have to have something to hang your hat on,” Mangus said. “For us, it’s been some different things.”

In a season-opening 17-13 win against North Carolina, it was a strong fourth-quarter running game. The Gamecocks gained 118 yards on the ground in the final 15 minutes and scored the decisive points on a 48-yard run by Shon Carson.

“I feel like the running game is going good,” senior tailback Brandon Wilds said. “Of course, I want the ball more. Hopefully, we will be able to run the ball a lot more this coming week.”

The Gamecocks were not expecting North Carolina to play such a soft zone defense, allowing a lot of room for the running game, said junior wide receiver Pharoh Cooper, and head coach Steve Spurrier made it clear he wants to improve his passing game this week and beyond.

Cooper, a first-team All-SEC wide receiver last season, had more carries (four for 20 yards) than catches (three for 45 yards) against the Tar Heels.

“We hope we can get the ball downfield at some receivers and hit some passes as we go along and not just have to snap it to him,” Spurrier said. “We're hoping we can get, really all the receivers, but again, that's the way the game turned out.”

South Carolina is 11th in the SEC in total offense after the first week, although that statistic is misleading considering many conference teams played non-Power 5 opponents in their opening games. Kentucky played a non-Power 5 team, but it didn’t help the Wildcats’ numbers.

The Wildcats (1-0) are 12th in the conference in defense after allowing 479 yards to Louisiana-Lafayette, so this might be a good week for South Carolina to find an identity and identify playmakers beyond Cooper.

“I think we are still trying to figure out some guys in some positions, what we can and cannot do,” Mangus said.

The Gamecocks do not script any plays to begin games, Mangus said. (Although Spurrier said they might script at least one this week to avoid starting the game with a delay of game call like they did last week.)

“Everybody has a game plan and then you stay flexible and go from there,” Spurrier said. “Try to find out what’s working, what’s not working. I think most coaches adjust according to the score, according to how you’re doing and so forth.

“That little sweep around right end seemed to work pretty well, the one Shon Carson scored on. Then we started running it over and over. It was also the key play that Brandon Wilds ran 10 or 12 yards to help run out the clock there at the end of the game. Most coaches, if something is working, you try to do it over and over until the other team stops it.”