COLUMBIA -- There was a point in Saturday’s loss to Appalachian State where the Gamecocks’ receiving options were Bryan Edwards, Chad Terrell and Dakereon Joyner.
With Shi Smith and Chavis Dawkins out with hamstring injuries, South Carolina struggled to put together any consistent offensive flow and it showed in the final score and on the stat sheet.
“You become very predicable, obviously, when you don’t have a vertical threat people have seen,” head coach Will Muschamp said. “Obviously Xavier (Legette) is a young player who’s very promising and has a huge upside and is going to be a very good football player. He just hasn’t done it consistently on our level. It certainly limits you. Some of the run boxes you’re going to face aren’t going to be favorable. We have to be able to get people off of us.”
The total yard and passing yard numbers look good — 346 yards, 325 through the air — but they averaged just 4.1 yards per play and Hilinski averaged 5.6 yards per attempt.
With Edwards out for long stretches with a knee injury, the Gamecocks were literally and figuratively hamstrung on what they could call offensively.
With no real downfield passing threat, Appalachian State loaded the box and dared the Gamecocks to run the ball, and it didn’t work. South Carolina rushed for 21 yards.
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They finished with eight explosive plays, just two in the first half with Edwards dealing with that knee sprain.
“Obviously it’s tough,” Edwards said. “Injuries do play a part and limits what you can do. We don’t use that as an excuse here. We just have to work with what we do have and make the best of it. “
Injuries have plagued the Gamecock receiving corps this season with Dawkins missing the majority of last week’s game, Smith missing the last two games, along Nick Muse and Josh Vann having season-ending surgeries.
Inconsistency at the position hasn’t been the entire reason the offense has stalled for the majority of the season; play calling, poor offensive line play and lack of execution have all contributed.
“From a practice standpoint, it’s a little uncertain when you get into a Wednesday or Thursday whether or not who’s going to be up for you. So you have some new faces in there,” Muschamp said. “Obviously it takes turns and reps to learn things at times, to block different looks — whether it’s middle field, whether it’s split safety, whether it’s cover two or quarters — whatever the case may be, how are we going to run the route based on the leverage of the safety? We have to be on the same page as the quarterback. There’s certainly some issues with that.”
There is a sliver of good news with the Gamecocks expecting Smith and Dawkins back into the fold this weekend and Edwards expected to play as he works closer back to 100% after the knee injury.
The Gamecocks (4-6, 3-4 SEC) have to win their next two games if they want to go to a bowl, and that starts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Texas A&M.