South Carolina Three Keys: Texas A&M

Three-keys-USC

The South Carolina Gamecocks absorbed a brutal loss at home to the Appalachian State Mountaineers this past week. The loss was painful mostly because – with Texas A&M and Clemson on the schedule – the Gamecocks will now have a very, very hard time making a bowl game.

By Matt Zemek

Will Muschamp will stay on for the 2020 season, according to local media reports, but if Jake Bentley doesn’t stay for next season, the lack of a bowl game this year will make it that much harder to develop the roster for 2020.

The loss to App State was painful for other reasons as well. Chief among those reasons is the fact that the South Carolina defense allowed just 202 yards to ASU, and it still wasn’t enough. The Mountaineers gained a pick-six for seven of their 20 points. They cobbled together field goals on short drives. It was an annoying loss not just for the consequences attached to it, but because of the way the game unfolded. South Carolina moved the ball a lot better than its opponent but had nothing to show for it, and failed to win the game when it had a chance to do so. Let’s see what the Gamecocks can do against A&M:

1 – Kick coverage

Two long kickoff returns by Appalachian State set up field goals for the Mountaineers. ASU didn’t have any offensive flow against a very impressive South Carolina defense, but special teams breakdowns put the Mountaineers in position to score. It was bad enough to give up one long kickoff return; South Carolina allowed two. Kickoffs should go into the end zone, for one thing. Second, it is in a team’s advantage to take the automatic drive start at the 25-yard line. Appalachian State realized, however, that with its offense sputtering, it need to take the gamble of returning kicks, and it worked. That is an embarrassment for the Gamecocks’ special teams unit. That has to be fixed here against A&M.

2 – The big play

Yes, this is a broken record, but some themes simply need to be reemphasized until the team shows it can apply the appropriate lesson. This was evident in the Alabama game, and it was evident in the App State game as well: South Carolina can move the ball between the 20s, but when the time comes to finish an important drive, this offense hasn’t been able to answer the call as often as possible. The 10-play, 40-yard drive which ends either in a field goal or a turnover on downs has been a noticeable element of this 2019 Gamecock season. Hitting a 40-yard touchdown play removes the need for this offense to struggle through another headache-inducing red zone sequence. The Gamecocks need to find that against the Aggies’ defense.

3 – Dare Kellen Mond

This hasn’t changed over the course of the season: If you are facing Texas A&M’s offense, what do you do? You force Kellen Mond to beat you down the field. You force Mond to make long and difficult throws. Take away the run. Load up the box. Take away Mond’s running lanes. Turn him into a pocket passer. Tackle the backs and receivers on short passes in open space. Do what makes sense.

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