South Carolina football: Stock report after Week 3
Shane Beamer’s bunch certainly put a scare into No. 1 ranked Georgia on Saturday, as the Gamecocks led the Bulldogs 14-3 at halftime. In the end, UGA clawed its way back into the game thanks to some offensive adjustments from the coaching staff and turnovers from South Carolina, and Kirby Smart yet again took down South Carolina by a 24-14 margin.
Against the vaunted Georgia defense, Spencer Rattler and the South Carolina offense held their own in the first half before being stumped in the second. Now, the Gamecocks sit at 1-2 with a difficult schedule ahead of them. Here’s the major points to take away from the loss, as well as what the outlook of this team is moving forward.
Player of the Week: Debo Williams
The junior linebacker led all defenders with 11 total tackles in this game, and he tacked on another 1.5 tackles for loss as well. Williams was flying all over the field, matching the Georgia offense’s physicality and laying some lumber of his own. He leads the Gamecocks with 29 total tackles thus far this season, and Williams figures to be putting his hat into the ring for an All-SEC honor at this rate.
Freshman of the Week: Jason Kilgore
A true freshman and former 4-star recruit, Kilgore has made an instant impact on this team. He recorded 5 of his 23 total tackles (second on the team) on Saturday, and he also assisted on a tackle for loss. The 6-foot-1, 204 pound safety looks the part of an SEC defensive back, and he appears to be well on his way to becoming the next great DB to come from South Carolina (see Stephon Gilmore, Israel Mukuamu, Jaycee Horn, Rashad Fenton, DJ Swearinger, etc.). Playing at that high of a level against a team like Georgia is rare for someone who is playing in just his third collegiate game and his first in the SEC.
Biggest surprise: First half offensive show
In the opening half of Saturday’s game, South Carolina looked in control of this game in every way, striking fear into the hearts of every UGA fan that remembered the 2019 debacle in Athens. Spencer Rattler led a 10-play, 65-yard touchdown drive on the game’s opening possession, stunning the home crowd into silence. Then, to take even more momentum into halftime, Rattler and Co. manufactured a 5-play, 80-yard scoring drive thanks to a facemask penalty and some chunk plays.
Against a Georgia defense that is as stingy as they come, the Gamecock offense looked as comfortable as it had all season in the first half.
Biggest concern: Continued inconsistency from Spencer Rattler
The biggest knock on the former Oklahoma quarterback has always been his streaky play. Throughout his career, Rattler has had games where he looks like the former 5-star recruit and potential NFL quarterback that he has been labeled to be, yet in others he struggles to make simple throws and take care of the ball.
The tale of 2 halves against UGA was a microcosm of that reality for Rattler. The Gamecock quarterback threw both of his interceptions on the team’s final drives of the game, and the offense could not sustain drives in the second half. This South Carolina team has always gone as far as Rattler can take them, and his continued struggles in year two in Columbia are concerning.
Developing trend: Running game struggles
Very few teams have found much success on the ground against the Georgia defense in recent years, but Saturday’s 53-yard performance was only the most recent example of South Carolina’s inability to field a balanced offense.
The offensive line has been unable to generate much push in the running game thus far, as the Gamecocks ran for a net -2 yards against North Carolina and only mustered 108 against Furman last week. Shane Beamer has shown a tendency to abandon the run game in favor of letting Rattler throw this team back into games at times, and that strategy has yielded very mixed results.
Key stat: Georgia wins the time of possession battle 37:13-22:47
In a slightly related statistic to the running struggles, South Carolina consistently maintained possession of the ball on Saturday. After a solid first half, the Gamecocks went 3-and-out on 2 occasions in the second half and also threw a pair of interceptions. Add on the fact that this team struggles to run the ball and you have an offense that will generally not be on the field for very long. The most notable consequence of this is that the South Carolina defense has to be on the field for the bulk of some games, which causes them to wear down in the fourth quarters of matchups with physical teams like Georgia.
First impression about Week 4: Mississippi State
Luckily for South Carolina, it will be taking on another reeling program this weekend. Mississippi State carried plenty of momentum from its overtime victory over Arizona into a key matchup with LSU in Starkville last Saturday. But, the Bulldogs fell victim to the Jayden Daniels show in that game, as he and Malik Nabers lit up Zach Arnett’s secondary and the Tiger defense absolutely dominated Will Rogers and the Bulldog offense in every facet.
Thus, MSU sits at a similar crossroads as the Gamecocks. The victor of this game breaks water in the SEC and stays on a positive track towards its season goals. The loser of this one will be faced with a plethora of question marks, as well as the reality that it may fall into the cellar of the SEC this season. Make no mistakes, this is a game between two programs with their backs against the wall.
The quarterback duel between Rogers and Rattler should be entertaining to watch, and Williams-Brice Stadium is always rocking for a night game. The key to this one may be whichever running game can get going after paltry Week 3 performances.