CHARLOTTE — Will Muschamp Offense is back.
The reputation Muschamp earned as Florida’s head coach was thought to be gone. He made moves to get out of the play-it-safe, take-no-chances mode he had in Gainesville by firing offensive coordinator Kurt Roper and hiring Bryan McClendon at South Carolina.
USC's offense has talented, experienced playmakers and finished the second half of the 2018 regular season on a tear. Yet in Saturday’s 24-20 unthinkable upset loss to North Carolina, it was the same offense that finished the 2018 season with six scoreless quarters.
The Gamecocks had 27 yards after they made it a 20-9 ballgame late in the third quarter. They sputtered to get those 20 points, finding the bulk when UNC forgot to cover tight end Kyle Markway and the Tar Heels losing a tackle when Tavien Feaster spun out of it.
It wasn’t the offense’s fault that the defense couldn’t tackle.
It was the offense that showed no imagination in play-calling, no dependence on the strength of the team (the passing game) and not getting it done when the game was still in reach.
“On offense, we moved the ball well in the first half,” Muschamp said. “We have to go back and look at the second half and see what we were doing wrong.”
That should be easy. What they did wrong was the opposite of what they did right, which was nothing.
Star wide receiver Bryan Edwards, who passed legend Sidney Rice in career receiving yardage during the game, had one catch for 7 yards. The superbly gifted Dakereon Joyner, at his new position of receiver, touched the ball twice for 4 yards.
The running game, thought to be so much improved with the addition of Feaster, got 128 yards but Feaster’s 72 on 13 carries had 34 on the touchdown scamper (3.16 per carry without). Quarterback Jake Bentley, said to have the best camp of his career and focusing on cutting down on his turnovers, whistled a probable touchdown past Shi Smith with two minutes to play while trailing by four points, then threw an interception that UNC safety Myles Woolfolk had pegged from the snap.
Protection was bad. Execution was bad. Cutthroat mentality was bad.
Muschamp didn’t have any sweeping declarations, preferring to watch film before making any indictments, but said USC needed to be better across the board.
“I was given every opportunity to go win the game, and I didn’t do it,” said Bentley, who again faced boos from his own fans and social-media calls for his job. “So it hurts a lot and we have to get better for next week.”
That’s a short time to reconstruct what was thought to be fully repaired.