There’s a balance when it comes to play calling in a college football offense. To a degree, offenses have to take what they’re given, while also not allowing the opposition to dictate things.
The South Carolina football team found itself in the midst of that bind against the Florida Gators on Saturday. UF was aligning the defense to take away the short stuff and daring USC to take the top off with some deep shots.
Will Muschamp’s team obliged with attempts, even getting 41 yards on an early flea flicker, but couldn’t take advantage of three or four other chances.
“Just missed balls,” Muschamp said. “One of the routes could have been flatter. Across the middle there. You’re not going to get in a high percentage hitting those but you need to hit one, two and that changes the complexion of the game and how they’re playing. But we need to go back and be more accurate in those situations.”
The flatter route was likely a post route by Chavis Dawkins that carried him behind the defense. That was erased by Tavien Feaster taking a draw 21 yards for a touchdown and a 17-10 lead.
But the other deeper plays were more notable, namely three passes where Shi Smith or Bryan Edwards got behind the defense and quarterback Ryan Hilinski couldn’t connect.
▪ On 1st and 10 from the 27, Shi Smith got a step or two on his man on a double move, but the pass was too far in front.
▪ Three plays later on 2nd and 9 from the 39, Smith had a few more steps on his man after a slant and go, but Hilinski’s ball was too far ahead.
▪ A drive later, on 3rd and 7, Bryan Edwards had a step on his man on a vertical sideline route and the ball was just a few feet too far (Edwards also got nudged as he was running).
USC also had four plays where it went deep, but either the ball wasn’t placed in a spot where anyone could get to it or the coverage was good.
▪ On 3rd and 8 from South Carolina’s 18, Hilinski tried a deep shot on a four verticals look and didn’t place it well.
▪ On a 2nd and 11 inside UF territory, Hilinski went deep to Smith on a post but sailed it while getting hit.
▪ The aforementioned pass to Dawkins
▪ A 3rd and 10 slot fade to Shi Smith when he was covered.
Beyond the deep shots, there was another batch of issues Will Muschamp pointed to.
“I mean we dropped some balls yesterday,” Muschamp said. “We didn’t run a couple of correct routes. We had a couple of protection breakdowns which are issues. So again, it’s not all on one person. That’s why I think we’ve got a number of issues that we’re dealing with here and we just got to fix the parts and then move forward and get some things we feel comfortable with.”
Those incorrect routes are notable because they make throws look wildly errant. Both teams seemed to have some problems on that front.
Overall, the Gamecocks had 170 yards on 35 attempts, less than 5 yards per attempt.
A day after the Florida loss, Will Muschamp was asked about potentially playing either Dakereon Joyner or Jay Urich in relief. The answer was the team has to drill down what Hilinski, who looked good early and against Georgia, is most in sync with.
“We need to find something better that Ryan could do,” Muschamp said. “Because he’s been, you go back and look at Charleston Southern and Alabama, two games we threw the ball extremely well. Just to try to get back to some things we feel most comfortable with and again he’s been good at times.”