After a 3-3 start, many fans are wondering what’s ahead for South Carolina football, and can the Gamecocks finish the season strong? August 28th seems so long ago at this point, but it’s only been seven weeks. There was probably no one on that date who thought the Gamecocks would have 3 losses already this season. Certainly, no one would have imagined they would come like they did. First, a huge loss to Texas A&M that probably created more question marks than it answered. Then, just as things seemed to be moving back towards it’s winning ways, the Gamecocks lost back to back SEC games after leading both of them in the fourth quarter. The only thing worse than that was that one of those losses was to a team who had only won 1 SEC game in almost 3 years.
So now what?
Fortunately, the team has had their bye week to give them a chance to re-group and figure out where to go from here. Granted South Carolina probably had one of the toughest schedules to this point of the season, but nonetheless they know they have to finish the season strong. With Auburn, Tennessee, Florida and Clemson still ahead, they have to play much better if they don’t want to end up with more losses than wins.
Here’s some keys to the back half:
First, defense. Duh. You don’t have to be an expert to realize that. Many local media and even coaches kept downplaying the defensive stats, saying it was the teams we played, or just that first game that threw off the stats. Well last in the SEC after 7 weeks should help end all that talk. The last two games proved that the defense can’t make stops when it wants to. The line cannot get a pass rush on their own, so it’s going to require better schemes and disguises to try and disrupt the opponents. Even with the young corners and safeties, sometimes they’re going to have to blitz and trust them to stay in coverage. Lorenzo Ward has said he’ll move up top to the coaches box for the first time against Furman to see if that can change things.
Second, they have to improve the passing game. This was supposed to be a strength, but if you’ve watched the games, you’ve seen the struggle is real. Dylan Thompson and his receivers have been out of sync, especially early in many games, whether it’s overthrown balls or dropped passes. It’s not all on the quarterback either, because when Dylan gets pressure the receivers have to do a better job of getting open. Also, the third down calls and routes have to be better as there have been way too many third downs not converted.
Finally, the Gamecocks have to get better at the hurry-up offense, or maybe just the gotta-have-a-touchdown offense. Whether it’s the end of the half, and definitely at the end of the game, this offense and Dylan Thompson crack under pressure. There have been forced throws, dropped passes, and ultimately lack of ball movement.
These coaches are the same ones who led the team to three consecutive 11-win seasons, so they can certainly make things happen. But this break couldn’t have come at a better time, probably as much for them as the players. We’ll just have to wait till Saturday to see what all is going to be different, but you can count on the fact that there will be changes.