The South Carolina Gamecocks have the opportunity to turn their offense around after a tough loss to Texas A&M on Saturday.
After falling to an SEC opponent for the third time this season, critics, fans and the team agree that the problem lies with the offense. Coming into the season, one of South Carolina’s reported strengths was having wide receivers that can catch the ball in difficult situations. However, that was not seen against Georgia, Kentucky or Texas A&M.
Head coach Will Muschamp said the receivers' recent performances surprised him. The Gamecocks dropped six balls against the Aggies, which ultimately cost them the game.
Despite the rut that the Gamecocks are in mid-season, Muschamp and team leaders are looking to overcome the offensive struggle with better execution. Quarterback Jake Bentley in particular recognized errors in his performance against Texas A&M.
"Self-inflicted stuff, whether it was missing a throw or dropping something or missing a block just things here and there that just can’t happen and obviously can’t throw interceptions in the red-zone," Bentley said.
Despite Bentley's lackluster performance against A&M, teammates such as wide receiver Chavis Dawkins have faith in Bentley's strengths. Dawkins scored his first career touchdown from a pass Bentley threw to tie up the game.
“He’s a fighter man,” Dawkins said. “He’s not just going to sit out because of a knee. He told me on Monday that he’s going to play if his leg was even broken. That’s just the kind of guy he is and I look up to him for that.”
It seems that faith goes both ways. Muschamp acknowledged that the two aspects of the team that will receive criticism are his coaching and Bentley's performance, but he said that criticism is something both he and Bentley know how to deal with.
Many experts agree that quarterbacks get the most flak after a lose, but this week the offense as a whole has been under scrutiny. Even with the pressure riding on the offense to get better, Bentley still has full confidence in his receivers.
"They know that I'm going to keep throwing to them and I got all the faith in the world,” Bentley said. “Maybe it’s something that we as a group got to work on in practice, throw more after practice and do whatever it takes to kind of stop this from happening.”
Muschamp did not point the finger at anyone after Saturday's game, but he said the team knows there is a problem with execution on offense.
“We hold ourself to a high standard in the receiving room, but we just gotta prepare better ... get more throws outside of practice and just get the timing down,” Dawkins said.
Part of the offensive struggle, according to Bentley, is mentality. He said players have to battle the negative energy that comes from botching a play and stay focused on completing the play that comes next.
“Honestly, I just wanted to win for my teammates and do whatever it takes, whether it’s jumping over a guy, running through a guy, just whatever it takes to win," Bentley said. "I think that's the mindset of everyone on the team, and that’s what’s frustrating when you lose, ‘cause you want to do whatever you can to win."
From now on, Bentley said that his teammates will look to "strictly focus" on their team and what it takes to win games, especially executing timely plays and preventing contagious plays.
Bentley said he will continue to throw to his receivers regardless of the past three losses because it takes both the receivers and the quarterback to win games.
“It’s been tough," Bentley said. "It hasn’t been easy but I have unbelievable teammates and they're there to support me all the way and I’m there to support them and that’s all you can ask for as a quarterback and as a football player ... there’s a long season ahead and we’re going to keep fighting.”