Will Muschamp isn’t one to talk about history, certainly not the kind that happened before he arrived at South Carolina.
He made an exception. Such is the nature of the recent USC-Tennessee rivalry, where painfully close finishes have been the norm the past four years.
“In my mind, knowing our league very well, I go back through the Rolodex in my mind, thinking through games and remembering how close these games have been contested,” Muschamp said. “It’s 11 points in four years.”
That’s a trio of three-point games and another decided by two. The Gamecocks won close in 2012 despite Marcus Lattimore’s second knee injury, slipped up and lost on a last-second field goal in 2013, blew a 14-point lead in the last five minutes of an overtime loss in 2014 and saw a chance to tie the 2015 game lost with a fumble in field goal range.
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All that was part of the reason Muschamp brought it up Monday morning. He wanted to impress upon his players the importance of preparation in swinging those close games.
But the players still have scars from the close defeats.
“That was a real sour taste,” defensive end Dante Sawyer said of the 2015 finish. “I feel like we could have pulled that one out. It is what it is. We’re here now.”
Running back David Williams called it both crazy and frustrating. Williams’ teams are 0-3 against the Vols, and while he said he doesn’t rank the opponents he’d most like to beat, there’s a lot of motivation to finally get one over on the Vols.
“It would feel good to get this W, simply because of how the past has been going and how much hype they have this season,” Williams said.