COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina’s offensive line was walloped on the field by Mississippi State Saturday night.
The Bulldogs’ defensive line charged through, around and over the Gamecocks front.
The beatings since that 27-14 loss have continued via the Internet, across social media, in newspapers and over talk radio waves.
Coach Will Muschamp probably would have led the charge of fans and media if he wasn’t too busy trying to figure out how to fix the line’s issues.
“We got whipped in Starkville, ain’t no doubt about that,” Muschamp told reporters Tuesday, “So that’s something we need to do – in my opinion – a little better job schematically, to help our guys up front.”
Left guard Zack Bailey offered a simpler solution.
“We want to start bullying people,” he said.
Offensively, South Carolina struggled to piece together any semblance of an offense in the first half against Mississippi State. The run game was nowhere to be found.
Officially, South Carolina averaged 1.1 yards per carry, but quarterbacks Perry Orth and Brandon McIlwain were sacked 4 times for -33 yards, so on the 27 actual running plays, the team averaged 2.5 yards per carry.
Even Tom Brady can’t scan the field for open receivers when pass rushers are breathing down his neck. What are Orth and McIlwain supposed to do?
Mason Zandi, the left tackle and elder statesman of the group, owned up to the unit’s short-comings, but there was more to that stance than being a senior leader.
“It’s just part of being a man,” he said.
Offensive line coach Shawn Elliott probably challenged a manhood or five when he reviewed the game tape earlier this week.
“Just seeing our mistakes and correcting them is the biggest thing,” Bailey said when asked about Elliott’s response. “Becoming a physical and dominant offensive line, that’s the biggest thing. Becoming a physical and offensive line, that’s our main goal.”
The projected starting offensive line for South Carolina’s home opener against ECU averages 6-foot-5, 312 pounds. Only one of the six down linemen in the Pirates two-deep depth chart is over 300 pounds.
In theory, the Gamecocks should be able to move around some defensive linemen on Saturday, though it remains to be seen who’s up for some pushing and shoving.
“We’re not in business of pointing fingers at individuals,” Zandi said. “We just want to make corrections on what was wrong and move forward from there.”
Right tackle D.J. Park said he thinks effort was an issue last week.
“Everybody could see that effort was probably the biggest thing,” he said.
Later, Park added, “Everybody needs to go 100 percent from the jump.”
Bailey thought otherwise. There were “silly mistakes” and “stuff that we can correct.”
“It’s minor,” he said. “But it came up big in the end.”