Shane Beamer has reached a plateau in his program development. At least on offense.

The Gamecocks roared out of the gate and appeared to be on solid footing as they transitioned to the Beamer era with fulfilling wins over Eastern Illinois and East Carolina. Yes, the Georgia loss was humbling, but the Gamecocks reached for optimism by not giving up and battling to the end. And Luke Doty got in for some solid action, and he hit some big throws to Josh Vann and Jalen Brooks.

Now we arrived to Week 4 with a more realistic barometer against Kentucky. Both teams had new offensive coordinators and are somewhat in the same tier of teams in the SEC East jockeying for position after Georgia and Florida. What resulted for USC was a pedestrian offense and not much to promote.

Remember, Beamer made a passionate plea for the fans to show up and create a spirited atmosphere. They did. The defense delivered plenty of chances for the offense to take the baton. Yet the offense left so much to be desired.

There was the drive early in the second half when everything seemed to click and South Carolina scored in 10 plays over 75 yards, with 4 runs. But outside of that drive, the offense was in a malaise, and the running game was hardly even lukewarm.

Do you have any answers as to why the offense struggled and couldn’t consistently run the ball?

“I don’t know. There’s a lot,” Beamer said. “We ran the ball 26 times for 58 yards. Not good enough. Each week’s different, and right now, it ain’t good enough.”

It wasn’t just running the ball. Kevin Harris ran for no gain on a fourth-down attempt, but the Gamecocks also dropped 2 fourth-down passes.

“We’ve got to help them as coaches and get this offense better, quickly,” Beamer said. “… When our defense is playing like they’re playing and getting turnovers for you — and not just getting turnovers, but giving us great field position — we have to capitalize. It wasn’t good enough in the end.”

The offense had drives start at the Kentucky 44- and 40-yard lines. The more you dissect the offense’s opportunities, the faster the excuses run out.

“Whenever we go out there, our mindset is always to score,” Doty said. “We put everything out there to go out there and score, and we came up short. I think that goes back to me going out there and doing my job and making plays where they need to be made. That’s on the offense as a whole. We’re going to come back tomorrow, get those things corrected and move on.”

It is difficult to comprehend how the Gamecocks can look so smooth on the opening drive of the second half, and be so inept on almost every other offensive series, especially on third and fourth downs.

If there was an area of strength entering the season, it was the running game, even after the season started with Juju McDowell’s emergence as a third or fourth option.

Yet South Carolina entered Saturday dead last in the SEC in rushing touchdowns (1), and it didn’t do anything to change any minds about the state of the rushing attack.

By almost any metric, the Gamecocks are next to Vanderbilt as the worst rushing offense in the SEC. Mississippi State came into Week 4 dead last in yards per game, but it put up 115 yards against LSU. The Tigers, meanwhile, another team near the bottom in rushing production, have had injuries and academic issues sideline their running backs. The Gamecocks are largely healthy and available at running back

Questions abound, but what Beamer and company must do is come up with answers in the coming weeks that aren’t “I don’t know.”