COLUMBIA -- It’s been a season to forget for South Carolina’s offense, and Saturday night against Appalachian State, the much-maligned group hit rock bottom.
They've struggled to put up points, and to really understand what kind of year it’s been for this unit, the final drive of the game is a perfect microcosm of what this year’s offense entails.
“Their defensive scheme was pretty good but a lot of the things were us shooting ourselves in the foot,” Rico Dowdle said. “It’s very frustrating. It happened. It’s over with and we just have to move forward."
The Gamecocks got the ball back after stringing together their two best drives of the night — a 78-yard touchdown drive followed by a forced three-and-out -- and had great field position at their own 45-yard line with 1:50 to play and no timeouts.
What happened next was 12 plays of absolute inconsistency that sums up what the offense has been this season.
“Yeah, I think with Ryan’s ability to throw down the field with guys like Bryan (Edwards) and Xavier (Legette) who are guys who can high point the football and finish on plays down the field, sure you felt great about it,” head coach Will Muschamp said.
It started with a dropped pass — one of over 10 on the day — followed by a quick strike to Legette before an offside penalty gave the Gamecocks a first down and the ball in App State territory.
After another incompletion, Ryan Hilinski took a sack before another incompletion to Kyle Markway. They showed some resolve with a 20-yard completion to Dowdle before three straight incompletions.
You have free articles remaining.
But, like three plays earlier, they recovered for a 26-yard gain to Dowdle to put the Gamecocks in prime position for the game-winning score at the 9-yard line with less than 10 seconds left.
That would give them two shots into the end zone.
But before they could do anything, Dylan Wonnum held, backing them up 10 yards and, on the final play of the game, Wonnum held again and ended any chance of a comeback.
Those were the final two of eight penalties the Gamecocks (4-6, 3-4 SEC) were called for, including two personal foul calls.
“The whole game penalties killed us. We killed ourselves. You can’t do that, no matter who you’re playing,” Donell Stanley said. “I thought we were in a good spot and we got a holding call. In desperation mode, no timeouts and 10 seconds left, we just have to be better.”
The failures on that drive weren’t for lack of trying, because the players absolutely were, but the lack of execution, drops and can’t-get-out-of-your-own-way attitude of this team permeated the final 12 plays of the game.
It ended, like it usually does, with their best player in Edwards, who was hobbled for almost all of the game, trying to make a circus catch in the end zone. But he was out of bounds and the holding would have nullified the touchdown anyway.
“I think I caught it,” Edwards said. “I don’t know if I was inbounds or not. It was one of those bang-bang plays. It’s one of those plays I have to go back and make.”
While the offense struggled, the defense, playing a team averaging almost 40 points and 438 yards per game, gave up just 13 offensive points and 202 total yards.
“I would say we have to continue to do our job,” Ernest Jones said. “We can’t go into a game thinking they’re supposed to do something and put up a bunch of points. We have to do our job. We let them score a touchdown. We shouldn’t let them score a touchdown.”