With the University of South Carolina football team suffering a 31-17 season-opening loss to No. 20/21 North Carolina on Saturday – a lot of heat is falling on the Gamecock offense. Particularly its offensive line. Prior to the game, I wrote that the key to South Carolina containing Tar Heel quarterback Drake Maye – a preseason All-American and consensus top five 2024 draft pick – was to keep its offense on the field.
“The more first downs South Carolina can amass, the longer Maye will be forced to watch from the sidelines,” I noted.
How did that work out for the Gamecocks?
Not well. South Carolina’s offense fell woefully short when it came to protecting quarterback Spencer Rattler against the Tar Heels’ defense – which was one of the worst in the nation a year ago. The Gamecocks also failed to generate even the semblance of a rushing attack to take the pressure off of Rattler.
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The 22-year-old transfer from Oklahoma was sacked a total of nine times by North Carolina’s defense – a unit which totaled only 17 sacks during the entire 2022 campaign (tied for seventh-worst nationally). In addition to the nine sacks, the Gamecocks also gave up 16 tackles for loss (TFLs).
Perhaps the worst stat of them all? South Carolina’s rushing “attack” – which generated -2 yards on 31 carries.
The Gamecock offense still had a shot, though – finding itself in the red zone on two separate occasions in the second half. Both times, South Carolina came away empty-handed.
Third-year head coach Shane Beamer took it upon himself to shoulder the blame for his team’s inability to protect their quarterback.
“It’s ridiculous to give up a sack rushing three people, so that starts with me,” said Beamer. “We obviously didn’t do a good enough job of preparing our guys.”
Former South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia didn’t agree that it was one section of the teams’ fault, though. Garcia, who played for the Gamecocks from 2008-2011, went to Twitter to defend his former team’s offense.
“We lost,” he tweeted. “There’s no need to place blame on any sector of the team.”
Garcia also defended the performance of the offensive line.
“Lots of (sh*t) talk about the line,” he tweeted. “There were several times (Rattler) could’ve gotten rid of the football a lot quicker to avoid sacks/ running for his life.”
Garcia also said Rattler got “happy feet” – a reference to quarterbacks who are uncomfortable when subjected to a pass and fail to set their feet properly prior to throwing the football. Failure to set one’s feet results in weaker, less accurate throws downfield.
As for Maye, he was deadly accurate – completing 75 percent of his passes and registering 269 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday’s game, his first start against an SEC defense. Maye also threw two interceptions, however South Carolina only netted three points off of those turnovers. The Tar Heels also scored their first touchdown against a South Carolina defense which had two extra players on the field.
According to The Spurs Up Show on Twitter, North Carolina was just the better team when it came to dominating South Carolina.
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“South Carolina was dominated in the trenches against one of the worst (teams) on both sides of the ball in college football a season ago,” they tweeted. “There’s absolutely zero percent chance the Gamecocks win nine games this season with real deficiencies they have on this football team.”
Perhaps … but some Gamecock fans believe this statement to be an overreaction.
“There were times last year where lots of folks thought we wouldn’t win another game,” South Carolina fan Cameron Smith. “Especially after Mizzou. We had back-to-back top 10 wins. The overreaction here is hysterical.”
South Carolina begins its bounce-back bid as the team prepares for its home opener against Furman at 7:30 p.m. EST this Saturday, September 9 at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina. The game will be televised on SEC Network Plus and ESPN Plus.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Erin Parrott is a Greenville, S.C. native who graduated from J. L. Mann High School in 2021. She is currently a junior at the University of South Carolina majoring in broadcast journalism. Got feedback or a tip for Erin? Email her here.
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