COLUMBIA, Mo. -- When asked about the team's offensive output Saturday, Bryan Edwards sat back and took a long swig of the Gatorade he brought into the media room.
The Gamecocks were coming off a devastating 34-14 loss to Missouri where their postseason chances took a big hit, and Edwards spent about 10 seconds thinking and couldn't really come up with an answer.
“I mean, I really don’t know," he said. "We just couldn’t get the ball moving whether or not it was in the run or the passing game. I really don’t know. We just couldn’t get in sync for some reason. We have to fix it. We can’t keep coming out slow and then relying on our defense and getting behind.”
The Gamecocks, after over 30 first downs and a SEC Freshman of the Week performance from Ryan Hilinski limped to just 30 yards and a first down in the first half before putting up just 14 points on 271 yards of total offense.
It started with a weird play early in the first quarter with Ryan Hilinski batting down a deflected pass and it being ruled a catch, fumble and, subsequently, a Missouri touchdown.
It's something Will Muschamp and Edwards both said they've never seen before.
“He thought he was batting the ball down and thought he was doing the right thing in his mind. We just have to let the referee make the call," Rico Dowdle said. "They reviewed it. it is what it is.”
That was the start of Hilinski's rough day, going 13-for-30 with 166 yards, a touchdown and a pick-six. He'd battle elbow soreness all week—which was bad enough to keep him out of practice Wednesday—but Muschamp said the team didn't do enough around him to help offensively.
“We didn’t help Ryan today much. We didn’t get anything in the run game," he said. "There were a lot of pressures—whether that’s four or five-man pressures that they brought. We didn’t do a lot to help Ryan. That’s the disappointing part of that."
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The Gamecocks (1-3, 0-2 SEC) finished with just 16 yards rushing, the lowest rushing total since finishing with zero against LSU in 2003.
A big reason for it was Missouri bringing a lot of pressure defensively and the Gamecocks getting "whipped" up front.
“I’m disappointed because I knew we prepared all week and we felt confident in what the game plan was," Donell Stanley said. "We didn’t execute it. That’s the disappointing thing. We have to just move on.”
The Gamecocks—who operate in a RPO-heavy offense—seemed like they made a few mistakes on reads and it cost them.
Hilinski's interception inside the Missouri five-yard line, which resulted in a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown, came off an RPO and the Gamecocks appeared to have a few misreads reading the box up front.
“We turned the ball over in the red zone. It’s like a cardinal sin," Edwards said. "I mean, it is tough. It’s a big swing.”
Muschamp said after the game he doesn't want to talk too much about it until he sees the film but said they'll continue to evaluate options and see if they need to read other keys on their RPO calls.
"We run a lot of RPOs, which have been good for us," he said. "We probably need to evaluate that a little bit and look at it and make sure we’re making the right decisions and how we’re fitting it.”
The Gamecocks have just one win on a year and still face over half of the nation's toughest schedule, meaning they'll need to pull a few upsets along the way if they want to make a bowl game.
It starts next week trying to clean things up as they face Kentucky in a big game at Williams-Brice.
“Lets get back to work. That’s all we can do. Let’s get back to work and try to find a way to get a win,” Muschamp said. “We'll have a great crowd at Williams-Brice on Saturday night in our stadium. I know our fans will be there and excited about it and we’ll be there too. We need to get back to work, find some answers on what we can do to play more consistently as a team. we haven’t been very consistent in anything.”