COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina coach Will Muschamp still has confidence in his offense even with the struggles it has had the past three games.
The Gamecocks have had difficulty scoring the past month, falling to 13th in the Southeastern Conference in points scored and 11th in the league in yards gained. South Carolina (3-2, 1-2 SEC) will try and get things going against Arkansas (2-2, 0-1) on Saturday.
Some frustrated Gamecock fans have pointed the finger at offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, who was on Muschamp’s final staff at Florida before he was let go in 2014.
“We have a very competent offensive staff and competent offensive coordinator and those guys do a good job,” Muschamp said. “We have to be more productive. They don’t disagree. They think we need to be more productive, and they are working tirelessly to make sure that happens.”
South Carolina looked like it was heading in the right direction its first two weeks, winning games over North Carolina State and Missouri with 66 points combined. The Gamecocks have scored just 47 points in the three games since, including league losses to Kentucky and, last week, Texas A&M .
Gamecocks quarterback Jake Bentley believes in what Roper and the offensive staff are building. Bentley said it’s up to the Gamecocks to execute the plays they’re given.
“I don’t think we need anything that’s different or try to do too much,” Bentley said. “We’ve just got to, if anything, we probably need to narrow it down and just perfect the plays that we know we can run and just execute them at a high-level.”
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema is wary that Bentley’s strong arm might spark up the Gamecocks attack and hurt the Razorbacks.
“Tell you what, they’re quarterback’s a really, really good player,” Bielema said. “He makes plays.”
Some other things to watch for when Arkansas faces South Carolina:
OFFENSIVE LINE: South Carolina played without three starters on the offensive line last week in tackles Zack Bailey and Malik Young, and guard Cory Helms. Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said Bailey, who missed the past two games with an ankle injury, is the closest among the three of returning this week.
WILLIAMS’ RETURN: Arkansas running back David Williams will make a homecoming of sorts on Saturday, returning to South Carolina after playing his first three seasons with the Gamecocks. The senior signed with the Razorbacks as a graduate transfer during the summer, and he’s quickly become part of an Arkansas backfield trio along with sophomore Devwah Whaley and freshman Chase Hayden. The 6-foot-1, 229-pound Williams is averaging 4.7 yards per attempt and rushed for a season-high 68 yards in an overtime loss to Texas A&M two weeks ago.
BAD RUN: South Carolina is among the worst rushing teams in the SEC , 12th in the league and averaging about 84 yards per game. Last week, the Gamecocks gained just 23 yards in 26 attempts, although the seven sacks worth 56 yards allowed came off that total. Part of the reason has been offensive line injuries. But tailback Rico Dowdle said the running backs are plan to stick with it and get the ground game on track.
KICKING WOES: After junior kicker Cole Hedlund missed field goals attempts of 23 and 20 yards in a loss to No. 8 TCU, Arkansas hasn’t attempted a kick in each of its last two games — entering Saturday without a made field goal this season. Sophomore Connor Limpert has made all 11 of his extra-point attempts since taking over for Hedlund, but Arkansas coach Bret Bielema decided to go for it on fourth down twice in last week’s win over New Mexico State rather than attempt kicks from 40 and 30 yards. “I’ll take touchdowns over field goals any day,” Bielema said.
WE REMEMBER YOU: The Gamecocks and Razorbacks, once dubbed “permanent” cross-divisional SEC opponents, have not met since 2013. South Carolina has won the past two meetings in 2012 and 2013, matching its longest run of success ever over Arkansas.
AP Sports Writer Kurt Voigt contributed to this report from Fayetteville, Arkansas.
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