South Carolina football: After another missed opportunity, Gamecocks enter bye grasping for answers
A huge opportunity sputtered away quickly into the Louisiana night.
South Carolina had a chance to build its first three-game winning streak since 2017, and it was all but lost by halftime at LSU in a 52-24 loss on Saturday.
“It was a huge opportunity for us,” quarterback Collin Hill said. “Came off two wins, and I think we were ready to go, just didn’t make enough plays. We all felt like it was a big opportunity for us, especially heading into a bye week, back half of the season, but they outplayed us tonight.”
On the one hand, there were plenty of positives, as Hill led an offense that averaged 7.9 yards per play. Running back Kevin Harris turned in another solid performance with 126 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns on just 12 carries, including a 49-yard run. On a team that has been short on consistency, Harris has been one of the most dependable players, next to linebacker Ernest Jones and receiver Shi Smith.
Harris has a rushing touchdown in all five Gamecocks games this season and now has three 100-yard-plus games. Meanwhile, Jones had a career-high 19 tackles two weeks after he had 13 against Vanderbilt. The last Gamecock to have at least 18 tackles in a game was Aubrey Brooks against Arkansas in 1995.
“To me, that doesn’t even matter,” Jones said. “I would rather have had 4 tackles and a win. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the job done, and what I’ll tell the guys is, ‘Man, we’ve got to keep fighting, pick it up and keep going.’”
Hill was 12-of-22 for 234 yards and a touchdown, but coach Will Muschamp admitted that Hill held the ball too long. There was also a pick-6, part of 14 points that South Carolina gave up, as Muschamp put it, “without the defense on the field.”
“It wasn’t all on the offensive line. We held the ball too long at times,” Muschamp said. “We had a few busted routes. We’ll go back and evaluate the film on where the pressure was from. We ran the ball extremely well in the game.”
There were 3 missed field goals, and Muschamp admitted that one was his fault because it was too long to attempt.
Perhaps the most troubling part of the game was the run defense, as LSU rang up 276 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns on 54 carries.
“We got pushed around. We got to be able to stop the run,” Muschamp said. “I was not pleased last week with how we stopped the run, I wasn’t pleased at Vanderbilt with how we stopped the run. It’s been an ongoing issue for three weeks.”
Luke Doty entered for a short time later in the game, but Muschamp wasn’t ready to announce a major quarterback move, if one is to be made at all.
“Well, Mike (Bobo) and I will have conversations on the headsets about what he wants to do at the quarterback position,” Muschamp said. “That’s why I hired him, and we’ll have that discussion when it’s appropriate.”
Last week in a win over Auburn, South Carolina gave up 209 rushing yards on 36 carries.
“I’m frustrated more than anybody because I’m right in the middle of it,” Jones said. “When any runs hit in the middle, I think it’s my fault.”
South Carolina hasn’t won three games in a row since it beat Arkansas, Tennessee and Vanderbilt in 2017. Since then, they have won two straight games three times, most recently last season against Kentucky and Georgia. Entering a bye week with what could have been loads of momentum, the Gamecocks are left looking for answers across the board, except for a couple of skill position players.
“It’s very frustrating,” Jones said. “I felt like we came in with a good game plan, and we just didn’t execute. We definitely as a team wanted to win this game, and we just didn’t get it done.”