South Carolina football: Beamer reaches crossroads as offensive troubles fester
Shane Beamer has reached a crossroads of coordinator turmoil as the Gamecocks look for answers, and Beamer increasingly fields questions about play-calling and production on offense.
The weak link in Saturday’s 45-20 loss at Tennessee was again the offensive line, which was shuffled during the game as 3 starters were replaced. The unit overall was guilty of several false start penalties. Then there was the glaring and controversial play call.
On 2nd and goal from the Tennessee 2, defensive lineman Jordan Burch threw a pass that was intercepted on a play that Beamer said was predetermined, meaning the Gamecocks planned to use it the 1st time they got inside the 5-yard line. Burch apparently had the option to run if the pass wasn’t there, making Tennessee defenders bring him down and tangle with a frame that goes 6-foot-6 and weighs 268 pounds.
Of course, looking back, Beamer said the Gamecocks should have just kept running the ball.
“The mechanism is me, as the head coach, to overrule the call when I hear it on the headphones. I liked the call,” he said. “It didn’t work. We all got to play and coach better, starting with me.”
This is not the first time play-calling by Marcus Satterfield has come into question. In fact, he admitted that not using Juju McDowell against Georgia was a mistake.
The problems on offense have been at a low boil for much of the season, as the Gamecocks now have 6 touchdowns on offense in 5 games against FBS competition. Yet without the defensive prowess, and even the special teams success, such as the fake punt touchdown on Saturday, would the offensive troubles be more alarming?
The Gamecocks started Saturday’s game very much like the No. 116 offense in the country they entered the game as. The first 6 possessions went punt, punt, interception, fumble, punt and punt.
“I mean, what do you want me to say? That I think it’s been terrible?” Beamer said. “Are there plays that Marcus would like to have back, yeah. Every single coach and player in that locker room would like to have plays back. Today is no (different). With hindsight being 20-20, there’s a lot of plays we’d like to have back.”
The Gamecocks went 3-and-out on their 1st drive of the game, then managed only 1 1st down on the 2nd drive.
Beamer also looked to spread the responsibility away from Satterfield, and he brought up defensive coordinator Clayton White.
“There’s a lot of calls that Clayton would like to have back,” Beamer said. “Whatever we are offensively right now, it’s not good enough. We have to be better, we have to continue to coach and play better. Special teams, defense, we all had a hand in this thing today. When you give up 472 yards of offense and let a team go 12-of-17 on 3rd down, we have to be better on defense.”
The tricky thing about the Satterfield situation is it’s not stale, it’s just that the Gamecocks don’t seem to return to what’s working. To refer to McDowell again, he rescued the Gamecocks in the East Carolina win, and then wasn’t part of the plan against Georgia the following week.
This time, for the 2nd straight week, Satterfield offered several wrinkles, including offensive lineman Trai Jones in as a blocking fullback, as well as tight end Jaheim Bell — and, of course, the Burch goal-line package. But the running game, specifically Kevin Harris, was working and effective.
Beamer was asked early last week about a comparison to Josh Heupel and Tennessee after this game, since they’re both 1st-year coaches at their programs, and the organizations are in similar spots. He said it would be fair.
But after this showing, it’s fortuitous timing that the Gamecocks have something of a tonic arriving in the form of Vanderbilt. Still, this strikes as a similar circumstance as the Troy game after the Kentucky loss. Will next week show marked improvement, or will it be another unnecessary struggle?
Then before the bye week, the Gamecocks still travel to Texas A&M, which is now one of the most talked-about teams in college football following its upset of Alabama.