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Gamecocks suffer through another offensive no-show in rivalry loss

November 26, 2017 GMT

COLUMBIA – The question has come back around, as it has in every loss this season and really since Will Muschamp was hired.

Why isn’t South Carolina better offensively?

The Gamecocks came into Saturday’s rivalry game with Clemson ranked 104th in the country out of 129 teams. Nobody was making a federal case out of it because after all, USC won eight games with that offense.

Yet it is curious to see an offense that has outstanding skill players fail to get anything consistent going during any game. Injuries have played a part – the Gamecocks lost their most electrifying player in their third game, lost their starting running back and had three offensive linemen missing chunks of playing time. And Saturday was an outlier as well – the Tigers’ defense is outstanding.

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But this was always going to be the question with a Muschamp offense. It was forever a question when he was at Florida, even when he had an 11-win second season; it’s a question at USC, where he has a surprising eight-win second season.

There wasn’t much USC could do when tailback A.J. Turner was hurt early and couldn’t come back in the game. When Jake Bentley started the game roughly – which has been a problem all season – that further limited what the Gamecocks could do.

The problem seems to be the predictability of the schemes, and how defenses seem to know what’s coming almost all the time. With so much to count on coming into this year, USC has seemed to regress.

“I think we need to work on the small details,” receiver Bryan Edwards said. “We lose sight of the small things and it kills us.”

A miscommunication caused Edwards to run a sideline route early Saturday, where he was supposed to cut back. Bentley threw to the spot where he was supposed to be and the only player there was Ryan Carter, who returned it for an easy pick-six.

Bentley was never on afterward, until it didn’t matter. He was often too high or well over his intended receivers.

Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper has drawn much of the fans’ criticism, but Saturday, again, what could he do? His QB was off, his best running back was out and Clemson’s defense wasn’t yielding. Perhaps the Gamecocks could have gone for it on fourth-and-1 at midfield on the first drive and gotten an early boost, but they haven’t been great at short-yardage pickups this year.

Which brings the microscope back around to the entire offense. Is there one main problem and is it going to be fixed?

“Going back to the fundamentals and drill those,” Bentley said, describing USC’s mission for the offseason. “Getting back to running the ball well, executing at a high level. We’re going to work and just get better.”