South Carolina football: Why can't the Gamecocks run the football? Well, there are several reasons, actually
South Carolina’s offensive line had a tall order Saturday, but the Gamecocks still fell short of expectations even against Georgia’s vaunted defensive front.
The damage was ugly for the Garnet and Black: 3 sacks allowed, 6 tackles for loss, and even more hurries, pressures and quick throws. But this issue is not a one-time problem. The Gamecocks are tied for 12th in the SEC with 7 sacks allowed this season. The Gamecocks netted just 96 rushing yards, and 2.8 yards per carry. Coach Shane Beamer has tried to explain it but has not pinpointed a specific area.
“It’s hard to say,” Beamer said on his media teleconference on Sunday evening, per SportsTalkSC. “We didn’t do a lot of good last night, just to be honest, and that’s all of us — coaches, offensive line, tight end, wide receivers, running backs and quarterbacks, we have to be able to run the ball more effectively. It was a combination of things last night, and give Georgia a lot of credit.”
Some Gamecocks might recall that it wasn’t that long ago that Will Muschamp called the group the best of his tenure in Columbia. In fact, it was only in June 2020 that Muschamp made that statement. And remember, the Gamecocks returned 4 starters entering this season, and almost the entire two-deep has starting experience.
“Not that we haven’t before, but we have to continue to look at what our offensive line does well, what our running backs run well, what they have confidence in running and continue to work on that,” Beamer said. “Last night, we ran some different types of schemes, not different in that we haven’t done it before, but multiple schemes. We’re still learning a lot about our football team and our running backs are still, not to make excuses for them, knocking the rust off in some ways and continuing to learn us as well.”
Perhaps most alarming is it’s Week 4 and the Gamecocks are still trying to find a bread and butter set of plays, even with the likes of Kevin Harris, MarShawn Lloyd, and even mild breakout star Juju McDowell, who rescued them at East Carolina. The running backs were supposed to be not only one of the best units on the team but in a favorable light among the best duos or groups in the SEC.
“This is a big week from that standpoint,” Beamer said. “We need to be able to hang our hat on something that we can run, and we’re not quite there yet, but we will be.”
The Gamecocks sit at No. 10 in the SEC in rushing offense at 153.3 yards per game. Only ZaQuandre White has rushed for 100 yards in a single game, and he did it against Eastern Illinois.
“I’ve said all along that that I feel like our offensive line can be a strength of this offense because of the guys we have returning, our running backs can be a strength of the offense because of the guys we have returning. I don’t feel any differently today,” Beamer said.
Beamer referred to the Kentucky game being a “big week” for running the ball, but he declined to put all the emphasis on the offensive line. And he didn’t forecast personnel changes as the main stalwarts have been Dylan Wonnum, Jovaughn Gwyn, Eric Douglas, Jaylen Nichols and Jakai Moore. Though Jazston Turnetine started the first 2 games instead of Moore.
“We’re not running the ball effectively enough,” he said. “We want to be efficient running the ball each week and we’re not right now. That’s on all of us, not just the offensive line.”
Losing to Georgia and having the offensive line experience major problems is one thing. Having it happen a second straight week to Kentucky is quite another, especially at home.
This was a unit that Beamer reasonably shouldn’t have had to worry much about. Now it’s sending off alarm bells. This is the week to get it fixed before it spirals and becomes a major storyline.