UNC defensive back Myles Wolfolk (11) intercepts the ball to kill USC’s last threat (Travis Bell/SIDELINE CAROLINA)

USC coach Will Muschamp loves to recruit in Charlotte, but apparently his teams hate playing there. For the second time in eight months, the Gamecocks looked like cadavers inside Bank of America Stadium following up their 28-0 loss to Virginia in the Belk Bowl last December with a 24-20 loss to North Carolina in their season opener Saturday. The Gamecocks lost as a double digit favorite. And the Gamecocks lost after owning a 20-9 lead with 20 minutes to play.

Here’s my postgame Periscope from Bank of America Stadium

                           Tavien Feaster (4) gets loose for a touchdown in the first quarter (Travis Bell/SIDELINE CAROLINA)

Some of the key points from the Gamecocks’ loss

  • The offense was not what it was expected to be. The Gamecocks managed just 270 yards. Jake Bentley was often high with his passes, in particular on the miss to Shi Smith for what would have been a sure touchdown late in the game. Bentley’s longest completion was just 26 yards and he averaged just 8.9 yards per completion. The down the field passing game was not there. Bentley finished 16-30 for 142 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. It’s the fewest yards he’s thrown for since passing for 126 yards against Clemson in 2017.
  • An improved running game was not evident. The Gamecocks rushed for 128 yards, 110 less than the Tar Heels. Tavien Feaster led the way with 72 yards on 13 carries including a beautiful 34 yard touchdown scamper in which he spun out of a tackle. But, after a four yard reception with over 12 minutes to play, Feaster didn’t touch the ball the rest of the game.
  • Tackling is still an issue, something Muschamp discussed in the postgame. That break down led to several big plays for the Tar Heels who had 15 chunk plays to 7 for the Gamecocks. And the bad tackling was a big part of consecutive touchdown drives of 98 and 95 yards by the Tar Heels in the second half.
  • And there were questionable decisions made by Muschamp. He opted to take a knee at his own 33 with :17 left in the half and three time outs. He was up 13-6 and perhaps could have gotten a shot at a field goal. Did his decision not to press things there affect his offense in the second half when they produced just 101 yards? And, Muschamp decided to punt on fourth and one from his own 49 leading 20-17 with just under 12 minutes to play. His defense had just yielded a 98 yard scoring drive and two-point conversion. Muschamp said his thinking was to pin the Tar Heels back, and that worked as Joseph Charlton’s punt was taken at the five. But it also put a deflated defense back on the field and the Tar Heels marched 95 yards to the winning touchdown. If Muschamp goes for it and his guys convert, they eat more time off the clock and perhaps drive for a clinching score.
  • Final Stats

    Jake Bentley (19) is pulled down by defensive lineman Aaron Crawford (92) (Travis Bell/SIDELINE CAROLINA)

Gamecock postgame interviews

Will Muschamp press conference

Jake Bentley

Bryan Edwards

Tavien Feaster

Kyle Markway

Ernest Jones