Against Furman two weeks ago, South Carolina ran for 267 yards, its second-highest rushing total of the season.
Then, the next week, the Gamecocks threw for 416 yards, while rushing for a modest 119 yards.
Finding consistency in the offense is one of many things South Carolina has failed to do well this season. It can be examined alongside its deficiencies on defense and placed next to the team’s tumultuous turnover rate when exploring just what exactly has gone wrong this year.
Granted, in Furman’s case, the Gamecocks didn’t need to keep throwing the football. They were already up big at halftime. All South Carolina needed to do was milk the clock and go home.
And against Auburn, South Carolina found itself in a shootout, and putting up points in a hurry was a priority. Passing the ball took precedence over pounding the ball down the Tigers’ throats. That’s understandable.
But lately, it seems as though when the passing game thrives, the running game suffers. And when the running game thrives, the passing game suffers — as evidenced by the Kentucky game, when South Carolina racked up 500 total yards, but barely etched over 200 passing yards.
Even after watching his offense play arguably its best game of the season last week, head coach Steve Spurrier remains its harshest critic.
“Our offense didn’t have that good of a game. You guys think we had a good game just because we got five touchdowns,” he said. “Hell, we had a chance to score eight touchdowns.”
And, though Spurrier was adamant that last week’s loss was a team loss, he also noted that the Gamecocks' red zone offense was “the worst we’ve had around here in a long time.”
The red zone offense begins and ends with the team’s signal caller, especially when he throws two interceptions when the team is just a few yards from punching it in.
Senior quarterback Dylan Thompson has usually been first to accept blame for his mistakes this season, and has also been first to redirect praise away from him, altering it in the direction of his teammates.
“Hopefully we’ll be better [this week],” Thompson said about the offense. “We missed some chances, as everyone knows, to put up more points. I feel like we probably should have scored 50. I made mistakes down there.”
Finding success against Tennessee’s defense will almost assuredly be a tougher task than against Auburn.
Senior linebacker A.J. Johnson broke Tennessee’s record for most assisted tackles in a career two weeks ago against Ole Miss when he shattered Andy Spiva’s record of 193. Johnson recorded five assisted tackles against Alabama last week and moved his career total to 199. His eight total tackles against the Crimson Tide is actually his lowest of the season.
“They got a linebacker, No. 45, I think leads the SEC in tackles. He is all over the place making tackles,” Spurrier said. “It was amazing. We watched one play, he blitzed on the left side, the running back broke a run and he ran him down about 40 yards down the field.”
Johnson is the SEC’s leading tackler with 73 combined tackles. He also has one and a half sacks, an interception and two forced fumbles on the season.
The Gamecocks feature a trio of offensive playmakers near the top of several SEC categories also.
Thompson is second in the league with 2,241 passing yards, junior running back Mike Davis is fifth with 750 rushing yards and sophomore wide receiver Pharoh Cooper is the SEC’s third-leading receiver with 553 yards.