Earlier this season, South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp outlined five statistical categories that are critical to winning football games.
Turnover margin, explosive plays, field position, winning the fourth quarter, and red zone success mean a heck of a lot to the Gamecocks coach. Through the first seven games of his second season in Columbia, Muschamp’s group has experienced success in most of those areas.
South Carolina is plus-7 in turnover margin this season. The Gamecocks have committed 6 turnovers, four of which were interceptions by Jake Bentley. The others were fumbles by other ball carriers.
In the opener, South Carolina was plus-1 in turnover margin over North Carolina State. The Gamecocks were plus-3 at Missouri and plus-4 over Arkansas.
The narrow win over Louisiana Tech saw South Carolina go minus-1 in turnover margin. It’s the only game this season in which the Gamecocks didn’t win in that department. Kentucky, Texas A&M and Tennessee were all equal.
On the season, South Carolina’s opponents have totaled 6 interceptions and 7 fumbles lost.
South Carolina offense
- 20 yards or more passing: 21 (T-72)
- 10 or more yards rushing: 22 (T-122)
“Whenever you are able to have more explosives, it is going to create more scoring opportunities for you, obviously,” Muschamp said. “You create field position for yourself, you create shorter fields for yourself, you create scores for yourself. I think we have improved tremendously in the last two ball games. I think we have had eight explosive runs against Tennessee, which is over 10 yards, and that’s the most we have had all year.
“I think six of them occurred in the second half, which means we wore down our opponent in those situations. We have got to continue to look at some things in the run game to create more explosives for us.
“If you look at numbers of 20-yard passes or more in the SEC, we are very comparable with everybody else in the league. We are at the upper half of the league as far as those things are concerned.”
South Carolina defense
- 20 or more yards passing: 19 (T-17)
- 10 or more yards rushing: 32 (T-49)
“I think that certainly late there, giving up the one big pass, was the only explosive pass we gave up last week and that was a busted coverage. That had nothing to do with not covering the guy. I look at all those situations as one play at a time,” Muschamp said. “Why do things happen?”
He added: “I do think, for the most part, defensively we had more explosives in the Missouri game than we have given up all year and a lot of that was in the perimeter passing game. … We haven’t given up a lot of explosives other than the 61-yarder against Missouri, as far as just big scores, and we have got to continue to do that.”
South Carolina offense
- 79 percent scoring
- 42 percent touchdowns
The Gamecocks offense is 11th in the SEC in scoring percentage.
“At the end of the day, we have missed nine field goals this year, we have turned the ball over on the 1-yard line, we have turned the ball over inside the 5 and had another turnover in the higher red zone,” Muschamp said. “That’s a lot of points that we left on the field and it’s very frustrating and it’s also very deflating for our offense and our football team to come out of that in those situations.”
South Carolina opponents
- 77 percent scoring
- 46 percent touchdowns
The Gamecocks defense is tied for fourth in the SEC in scoring percentage.
Redshirt sophomore punter Joseph Charlton, according to Muschamp, has played a big part in helping the Gamecocks win field position “five or six times” this season.
Charlton averages 43.59 yards per punt, which is sixth in the SEC. The team’s net punting average of 41.7 is third.
Over the course of seven games, South Carolina has outscored its opponents, 51-42, in the fourth quarter.