COLUMBIA, S.C. – Hayden Hurst’s postgame refrain has been similar in recent weeks.
The South Carolina tight end is convinced that the Gamecocks offense is close to putting it all together.
His first comment saying so came after USC lost at Kentucky on Sept. 24, when the sophomore articulated that the Gamecocks had more consistent drives. Hurst believed the same after South Carolina lost to No. 9 Texas A&M, saying it’s “very, very close.”
One more time, he insisted that the offense isn’t far off after South Carolina (2-4) lost its third straight game, a 28-14 decision to Georgia on Oct. 9 at Williams-Brice Stadium.
“We have full faith in our coaching staff that we are going to plug something in and it’s going to work,” Hurst said.
That was Hurst’s final comment on the offense before the Gamecocks headed into their bye week after a first half of the season that saw them sitting at the bottom of the FBS in scoring offense with 14.0 points per game.
They are among the worst passing offenses with an FBS-low 2 passing touchdowns. The rushing attack hasn’t fared much better, checking in at 125th out of 128 FBS teams with 92.33 yards per game. The Gamecocks have had a rough time turning the inexperienced pieces of a thin offense hit by injuries into an effective unit.
So, they are left looking for more answers, which could lead to playing a second true freshman quarterback on Saturday if the coaching staff opts for Jake Bentley. Senior Perry Orth and freshman Brandon McIlwain have started three games each and neither has cemented himself as the starter.
But the issues for an offense playing four freshman wide receivers and a pair of new running backs are not limited to quarterback.
On Sunday night, coach Will Muschamp said he put his players through a lot of “good on good” work during the three practices before taking off Friday and Saturday.
They worked on the offense extensively and he felt good when players returned to practice Sunday to prepare for playing Massachusetts on Saturday. The first-year USC coach also stressed that he thinks the offense has been more good than bad through six games.
“Well, I think that there’s a lot more positive than there is negative considering our numbers and considering our situation,” Muschamp said. “That’s the way I’m going to can it. I think there’s been some improvement the last two weeks. We’ve gotta secure the ball. In our last ballgame, we didn’t. Those are things that are frustrating. We are going to have a hard time to overcome.
“I think there are some positive things that have been there and we have to capitalize on things. We have to focus a little better. We’ve gotta train a little better. We’ve gotta continue to improve our physicality on finishing things up front and move forward in that light.”
Orth said it has been frustrating following South Carolina’s loss to Georgia. But he also said there were signs that South Carolina could be pretty good.
“We are going to continue to work,” Orth said. “Eventually, it’s going to click. Right now, we just have to keep working. Hopefully, we will get better.”
Orth, who started against Georgia, indicated it comes down to taking care of the football. He added that it has been confusing that the ball has yet to get rolling with good play-calling and players who can make plays.
On Tuesday, he joined Hurst in being confident that it’s coming when he pointed out that there has been improvement in different areas on offense, and he hopes that development is visible.
“It just hasn’t come together yet,” Orth said. “I believe it’s going to. Right now, we’re still working, still figuring things out. We have so many young guys that haven’t played and are still learning how to play. Challenging at first, but I believe we’re going to turn it around.”
Last Saturday, it was Orth and Hurst sitting side by side saying they believe the offense is close. This Saturday, they will have another chance to prove it at Williams-Brice Stadium.
“Sooner or later, it’s going to click,” Hurst said.