The Gamecock rushing attack had been nonexistent through the first three weeks of the season. Aside from one drive versus Arkansas, there was very little seen of it. That changed on Saturday night as South Carolina finally got things going on the ground. Marshawn Lloyd led the way with career highs in yards and touchdowns. However, it wasn’t just the sophomore tailback, the entire offense played their part in racking up close to 300 yards rushing. Shane Beamer’s team desperately needed this performance after back-to-back SEC losses to ranked teams. The 56-20 victory over Charlotte evens the record back up at 2-2.
Gamecock Rushing Attack Wakes Up
South Carolina came out intent on establishing the ground game. They ran the ball on 14 of their first 17 plays on offense. Lloyd’s 11th carry resulted in the Gamecocks’ first touchdown of the game and one of the highlights of the day in college football. After breaking through the line, the Delaware native hurdled a 49er defender, kept his balance, and jump cut to the outside before gliding into the end zone. The Gamecock rushing attack was finally in a rhythm and stayed that way all night long.
Long Time Coming
Lloyd’s breakout game was a long time in the making. His injury and recovery over his first two years in Columbia are well documented. He had shown flashes of the burst and athleticism that made him a high-level recruit, but it had just been in glimpses. Saturday he finally had his time to shine. The Gamecock rushing attack was clearly the focus of the game plan, and Lloyd was ready to shoulder the load. He had 128 yards on the ground in the first half, well above his previous career high. He finished with 169 yards and three scores, averaging 11 yards per carry.
Not only did Lloyd show the explosiveness and burst he has, but he also ran with authority. Early on this season, he had seemed to be trying to make a home run play every time he touched the ball, instead of focusing on gaining the tough yards and moving the chains. He showed much more toughness with his runs this weekend, fighting through tackles and putting his shoulder into defenders.
South Carolina’s offense played with more physicality at all positions Saturday than they have all season. The line has shown improvement each week and controlled the line of scrimmage against Charlotte. The receivers’ downfield blocking was the best it’s been all year. The tailbacks all ran hard and fought through tackles when the holes weren’t immediate. Christian Beal-Smith played his first meaningful action this week, and it’s no surprise that his presence elevated the physicality of this team. The big back runs hard on each carry, sometimes looking for defenders to plow into. He also helped with his blocking. Jalen Brooks caught a short crossing route late in the first half that ended up being a 40-yard gain and got the Gamecocks into field goal position. Beal-Smith had two punishing downfield blocks on that play to clear the path for Brooks. The Wake Forest transfer finished with 55 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries.
South Carolina faces SC State this coming weekend, their last chance to work on things before a long stretch of SEC games begins. The Gamecock rushing attack got on track against Charlotte. Now the offense needs to build some confidence for Spencer Rattler and the passing game. Getting Jaheim Bell, Josh Vann, and Antoine Wells Jr. touches has not happened often enough in 2022. They need to use this last non-conference match-up to find rhythm through the air. Brooks has been a pleasant surprise at receiver, but the other three mentioned above must get more targets and catches. The Gamecocks have weapons, this week will be bout finding the best ways to utilize them. After this week, four of the final seven opponents are currently ranked inside the top 17 in the nation.