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South Carolina vs. Troy: Three Keys to Victory

Taking a look at how to get back in the W column.

Hopefully, this man is involved.
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The South Carolina Gamecocks are facing their first true gut-check of the season, after a frustrating and winnable game against Kentucky slipped away in hard-to-watch fashion. With the Troy Trojans now on deck, there’s an opportunity for USC to right the ship and possibly keep dreams of a five- or six-win season alive. And yes, that might be a stretch — but it definitely doesn’t happen without an encouraging performance today.

Establish the run. I keep going back to this because it just keeps being an issue, and it’s an especially glaring one given how successful South Carolina’s ground game was last season with largely the same personnel. Now, running on Troy will not be a given — much like USC, the strength of this Trojans squad is its defense, so these could be some hard-earned yards. But the Gamecocks desperately need to figure something out here. The running back stable is too talented to be posting anemic rushing totals (although I’d also like to see more snaps for guys like Juju McDowell, who have been nothing but productive and yet aren’t always as involved in the game plan as they seemingly should be).

Cash in on turnovers. Last week, the Wildcats repeatedly served the game up on a silver platter, and the Gamecocks politely refused by doing absolutely nothing with UK’s mistakes. Forcing turnovers is all well and good — and they are great! — but if you can’t turn them into points, they literally don’t matter. The Gamecocks let Kentucky off the hook, and while that’s not good in any game, it’s especially bad in one that’s evenly matched. It’s been encouraging and promising to see how opportunistic this defense is, but the offense needs to start matching that effort or it will continue to be all for naught.

Just execute. Look, I know how this sounds — it’s the kind of obvious “This team needs to score points to win” comment made by lesser sportscasters that makes everyone watching roll their eyes. Obviously, all players in all sports need to execute for their team to have a fighting chance. But this really is an Achilles heel for South Carolina right now, particularly and especially on offense. I mentioned it in a previous post, but it’s difficult to tell how much of the current offensive struggles fall on play-calling/play selection versus guys just flat out not making plays they’re in position to make. The offensive line seems to have some pretty clear communication issues, and the receiver corps is absolutely woeful outside of the occasional highlight reel catch. Yards, points, and possibly even wins are being left on the field at this point. It’d be great to see evidence of the Gamecocks gelling a little more and catching on to what the coaches are asking them to do.