South Carolina’s 24-21 win against Miami on Saturday gave the Gamecocks more than the promise of a winning record, it gave them the hope of something that was maddeningly elusive for most of the 2014 season – momentum.
In becoming the only SEC team to win four bowl games in the past four years, South Carolina finished off a 7-6 season. It’s the team’s worst record since 2009, but the Gamecocks can point to three wins in the final four games and find a little hope.
“It’s a boost, shot in the arm, energy,” said coach Steve Spurrier, who is 84-45 in 10 years at South Carolina. “I told the guys, the offseason workouts now are going to have a little more pep to them, a little more fire, little more ‘let’s get after it.’ ”
Senior quarterback Dylan Thompson, who threw for more yards this season than any South Carolina quarterback in history (3,574), suggested on the way out the door that the “get after it” could be the most important part of the equation in 2015.
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“They are capable of doing a lot of good things,” Thompson said. “When you’ve got 11 guys on defense and 11 guys on offense playing with great effort, you are going to win most of your games. They’ve got a chance to be a good team.”
Thompson threw two touchdown passes against the Hurricanes, giving him 26 for the season, the second-most ever by a Gamecock in a season and tying him for this year’s SEC lead with Alabama quarterback Blake Sims.
The Gamecocks’ coaching staff now will turn its attention to completing its recruiting class. South Carolina has verbal commitments from 27 players, and Spurrier had a message for those players after Saturday’s win.
“All the guys committed watched our guys hang in there and make some plays to win the game,” he said.
The Gamecocks’ class, which lost five committed players as late-season losses piled up and questions about the status of the coaching staff increased, is ranked the country’s 12th-best in 247Sports.com’s composite rankings. South Carolina could add up to five more players to this class, and defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said the team still would like to add more pass rushers to a class already heavy with them.
“Anytime you win, it helps you recruit,” Ward said. “It’s great for the offseason. It gives you momentum.”
The Gamecocks will lose at least seven players who started Saturday’s game – Thompson, left tackle Corey Robinson, left guard A.J. Cann, running back Mike Davis, spur Sharrod Golightly, safety Brison Williams and safety Kadetrix Marcus, all of whom have exhausted their eligibility. Among the returnees will be the Independence Bowl offensive (wide receiver Pharoh Cooper) and defensive (linebacker Skai Moore) MVPs.
Spurrier gave his team its first to-do list for 2015 before leaving the locker room at Independence Stadium on Saturday evening.
“I told them we have to be a more physical, faster team next year,” he said. “We are not a real fast team overall and not as physical as we need to be. We will try to do that. If we can do that next year, we will hopefully have a better chance.”