South Carolina hasn't played well the last few weeks. Even Coach Steve Spurrier, usually full of quips and quick-witted responses, was somewhat philosophical at his press conference Tuesday. The offense, which was expected at the beginning of the season to be the Gamecocks strongest unit, has failed to put any opponent away this season. Meanwhile, the defensive play has been dreadful at times: USC ranks at the bottom of the SEC in almost every statistical category. With the second half of the season set to begin, here are a look at the stats that could tell the tale of a team on the brink.
Offense: The offense for the Gamecocks was expected to be very potent this year… and has been less than that. The Gamecocks can’t seem to find a rhythm, nor can they fully commit to the run or the pass. Most fans have been wondering why the Cocks haven’t run the ball more. Carolina currently averages 4.6 yards/carry, and 171.8 yards/game. Although that seems great, it still is way behind the curve for the SEC, with teams like Arkansas, Georgia, and Mississippi State leading the pack, each with over 1500 yards on the season. Carolina is ranked 9th in rushing offense, and the difference in number of rushes isn't much: Arkansas has only run the ball 42 times more than the Gamecocks.
Quarterback Dylan Thompson was named one of the permanent team captains this week (along with A.J. Cann, J.T. Surratt, and Sherrod Golightly). The fifth-year senior has been putting up great numbers in a less-than-dramatic fashion. His career completion percentage sits at 5th all-time for the Cocks, but he is currently 13-6 TD-INTs. That aside, Thompson is projected to finish second on the all-time list in passing touchdowns in a season (26), finishing second only to Steve Taneyhill. Kentucky game aside, Thompson has done a relatively good job of protecting the football, giving up only three interceptions in the first five games.
Although the run game doesn't look impressive by the numbers, it may be far from that. Junior Mike Davis is currently the 16th best rusher in Carolina history, with over 2,000 yards rushing already in his career. Davis has also joined the elite list of backs with 10 or more 100-yard games. The list includes Heisman winner George Rogers (27), Gamecock legend Brandon Bennett (11), and current 49er Marcus Lattimore (11). Davis is currently averaging 5.3 yards/carry and has 6 TDs on the year. However, to effectively use Davis he may need to see the ball more. His career high in carries is 26, which came last year at UCF. Davis is coming off of his best rushing performance: he carried the ball for 183 yards against Kentucky 2 weeks ago.
Defense: Coming into the season, most fans would agree that the defensive unit may need a little work. With a young, but highly improved linebacking corps, and a young, unproven secondary, most fans hoped that D-Line coach Deke Adams and Defensive Coordinator Lorenzo Ward would put together strategies that allowed the Gamecocks to compensate for any of these short comings. So far, fans have been disappointed. Although there have been several bright spots, the overall play of the defense has not been to par with the high expectations Gamecock defensive units of the past have set.
2nd year coach Deke Adams has not made a big splash in the SEC. The main highlight of his first few games was his fight with Kirk Botkin. Since then, and with the loss of Jadeveon Clowney, the Gamecock defensive line has struggled to find consistency…or sacks. Carolina currently ranks last in the SEC (and 112th in the nation) in sacks. The Gamecocks aren’t much better in turnovers: the Gamecocks only have 3 on the season.
Although it may seem dismal, there is a break in the clouds. The Gamecocks have had an opportunity to take a week at the middle of the season. Although they come back to SEC play next week against Auburn, they have an opportunity to ramp up against a 2-4 Furman team that is on a 4 game losing skid. Hopefully, the Gamecocks can loosen up, work out any kinks this week, and reset for the second half of the season.
South Carolina plays Furman this Saturday at noon, at Williams-Brice Stadium. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.