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Three weeks in, now what?

Taking stock of the Gamecocks after another tough loss.

NCAA Football: Georgia at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s take the temperature of the program right now. I asked fans last week to not jump to conclusions based on what would happen on Saturday against Georgia. In reality, that was impossible to ask. South Carolina was completely outmatched by the defending national champions at home on Saturday in a 48-7 blowout loss. It was a sobering reminder after all of the good vibes around the program in the offseason, South Carolina is still a program trying to build itself back up, and they are simply not ready to compete with teams like the Georgia Bulldogs right now. However, since it became apparent during the early stages of the game on Saturday that the Gamecocks were going to suffer a blowout loss, Carolina fans began showing their frustrations.

Now that we are two nights of sleep removed from Saturday’s loss, let’s ask some questions about the 2022 Gamecocks, as well as look at what is next for this team.

After three games, what were everyone’s expectations?

Be honest with yourself, 1-2 is what you really thought the record would be after three games. South Carolina won against Georgia State by three touchdowns, lost to a top-ten Arkansas team by two touchdowns on the road, and suffered a blowout loss to the best team in the country at home. Asking for anything else from this team, who may I remind you is only two years removed from losing 13 of their last 16 games (2 of those 3 wins were against Vanderbilt), was asking a lot.

Let’s talk about the offense.

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.” I am not blind, I know that everyone that is in this fanbase wants offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield to be fired and fired immediately. You are all entitled to your opinions and I am not here to tell you that you are wrong or a bad person for your opinion. But will you all do me a favor and take a step back from the ledge and consider some factors here?

Satterfield is now calling plays with his 5th different QB in 16 games. There has been almost zero stability at the quarterback position since he took over as OC. With that being said, Spencer Rattler has gone the distance as Gamecock QB this year so far, so there is an established guy there right now. You can also make the argument that Satterfield is also the QB coach here so the inconsistent QB play ultimately falls on his shoulders. There have been many factors that have led to the inconsistency at quarterback in the last 16 games but one thing is painfully clear: Carolina needs better QB play.

Carolina has gotten down big in their first two SEC contests. Georgia and Arkansas have both scored touchdowns on their first three possessions against South Carolina. It is hard to stick to whatever gameplan you have when it is 21-3 and 21-0 and you still haven’t run 20 plays on offense yet. Carolina has wanted to establish the running game following the Georgia State game, but quite frankly they have not had the chance to do it. They have been playing catchup from the jump in both their SEC games so far. It isn’t easy to call plays and keep a defense honest when they know you have to throw the ball almost every play.

This group is fairly new together. You may not like this, but Carolina added a lot of new players from the transfer portal. Rattler, Stogner, Wells, Beal-Smith, and Rucker were all added in the offseason. Couple that with the fact Marshawn Lloyd being injured for much of last year and Jalen Brooks not being available for much of the season, I think it is going to take some time before this offense can mesh.

One thing is for certain, this offense needs to produce and needs to do so early in games. Carolina has scored one touchdown in the first quarter of their last six games. I think they will look to come out swinging early against Charlotte on Saturday.

Injuries are not an excuse, they’re a legitimate factor.

You can play the “Injuries aren’t an excuse” and “Next man up” card all day if you want to, but that is simply not fair. South Carolina was without five starters on defense against the #1 team in the country on Saturday. Mo Kaba and Jordan Strachan are out for the year with knee injuries, and Cam Smith, RJ Roderick, and Alex Huntley were not available on Saturday either. That is just starters, then multiple players went out during the game on Saturday. South Carolina’s defense had players on the field Saturday that I had no idea who they were when I saw their number. Georgia was just able to overwhelm South Carolina at that point. One thing South Carolina could not afford was injuries this season, especially on defense. Unfortunately they have shown up early. South Carolina has to get healthy in a hurry.

The rest of the schedule.

South Carolina is right where I expected them to be coming into the season record-wise. Carolina has Charlotte and SC State coming to town over the next two games. They will be heavily favored to win both of those games.

This season will hinge on the middle portion of this schedule, beginning with their October 8th trip to Lexington to play #8 Kentucky. Kentucky will once again be a tough draw for the Gamecocks, especially in Lexington where they have not won since 2012. Texas A&M does not look like the daunting task that it once did and the game is in Columbia. Carolina has to find a way to get a win against the Aggies this season. Carolina then faces Missouri and Vanderbilt in games that they will be favored to win before ending with the nostalgic Orange Crush. The record through three games should have been expected, but the outlook on the remainder of the schedule has changed a little bit. Kentucky is once again improving as the season goes along, as is Tennessee. Florida had a good win in Week 1 against Utah but have since lost to Kentucky at home before surviving against South Florida this past weekend. Clemson once again has quarterback questions but until the Gamecocks can prove to be competitive in that game, that one should not be counted as one you can feel good about. My point being that this schedule is still a difficult one, but there are still wins available for this team to run off. C’est la vie in the SEC.

Now what?

I know fans are upset and I know fans are disheartened by yet another blowout loss at home when they have shown up and created a great atmosphere to start a game. But I will advise you to do something that is very difficult as a fan of a team that is rebuilding, whether you want to accept that fact or not: Be patient. I know everyone wants Marcus Satterfield to have the play calling sheet taken away from him. That is not going to magically fix anything. There are a ton of factors that go into South Carolina not performing well on offense right now, mainly because they have faced some really tough competition. Firing Satterfield isn’t the answer and it doesn’t magically fix the Carolina offense. The Gamecocks need to get healthy on defense and get right on offense with Charlotte and SC State coming to town over the next two weeks. The Gamecocks should be 3-2 heading to Kentucky, and that is where the season will ultimately be decided as a success or a failure during that stretch of games.