‘Evaluate everything’: Gamecock offense reaches new low in routing at Texas A&M

·4 min read

Bye weeks are, by design, a break.

South Carolina won’t take the field on a Saturday for the first time in a month. The Gamecocks who’ve been bumped and bruised after eight consecutive weeks of competition will get a brief respite.

But for a team whose offensive struggles came to a head in Saturday’s 44-14 throttling at No. 17 Texas A&M, a week off might prove a reckoning for a unit that reached new levels of low in Aggieland.

“There’s a lot there,” head coach Shane Beamer said postgame of what has to improve down the stretch. “I mean, when you perform like we did tonight you’ve got to evaluate everything.”

That South Carolina struggled offensively isn’t anything new. The Gamecocks rank in the bottom of the Southeastern Conference in nearly every offensive category. USC quarterbacks Zeb Noland and Luke Doty had only passed for more than one touchdown in a game twice entering the weekend. Former SEC rushing champ Kevin Harris has been listless at best.

But Saturday was different. South Carolina’s offense wasn’t just manhandled in College Station — it was embarrassed.

The Gamecocks recorded just 15 yards of offense through three quarters. Center Eric Douglas, who’d largely been productive and consistent, snapped balls high, wide and around Noland and backup quarterback Jason Brown. USC’s oft-maligned offensive line was blown off the ball with startling ease. Even attempts to bring running backs or tight ends into formation to aid in pass protection proved feeble.

South Carolina finished the night with 185 yards, but don’t let that fool you. Almost 92% of those came in the final quarter. The Gamecocks only managed two first downs — one of which came via penalty — through the game’s first 45 minutes. They didn’t even record a third down conversion until six minutes were gone in the fourth quarter.

“They were definitely heating us up, but then they were also sacking us when they were rushing four as well and not having to bring pressure,” Beamer said. “We’ve got to be able to block. We’re SEC football players, too. We’re an SEC football team. We’ve got to be able to block guys when they bring four.”

Beamer has largely avoided questions about offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield’s play-calling, and rightfully so. What head coach is going to march into a press conference and throw one of his assistants under the bus publicly? Yet against a Texas A&M defense that was in the middle of the pack defensively in the SEC entering the matchup, South Carolina looked closer to a Mid-American Conference team than a squad based out of college football’s almighty league of champions.

So what is South Carolina to do?

On paper, this roster has playmakers. Running backs ZaQuandre White and Juju McDowell have done well in spurts. Harris, too, is still the SEC’s reigning rushing champion despite a down campaign. Receiver Josh Vann and tight end Jaheim Bell have also looked like game-breaking talents at points this season. That’s not to mention an offensive line that brought back more than 100 appearances among its projected starters entering the fall.

There is a foundation for success. But nights like Saturday have too quickly become the norm.

“I think just need to take a look ourselves internally, tune out any bad noise and just put our heads down and try to get better for Florida,” Noland said.

South Carolina has plenty left to accomplish entering its much-needed bye week. After all, it only needed to win two of its final five games to reach bowl eligibility.

Speaking with reporters postgame, Beamer was a tad testy when asked about evaluating play-calling duties and whether the coaching staff fell under his “evaluate everything” declaration.

But on a night in which South Carolina was downright demolished from the get-go, questions are there and they need to be answered.

Beamer told reporters he’d peek at his iPad and evaluate game film as soon as he got on the team’s charter flight back to Columbia late Saturday night. What he’ll see is what we all just watched — an offense that eight games into the season is an absolute catastrophe.

It’s also a unit that may afford South Carolina plenty of down time come holiday season.

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