Struggling mightily on offense and being plagued by defensive miscues, that stings.
South Carolina’s football team looked plenty stung after taking Saturday’s 20-7 loss to Florida in The Swamp. But outside the team itself, everything played out as most projected.
USC’s young and inconsistent offense had a host of issues against a fearsome and veteran Florida defense. That isn’t a surprise. The Gamecocks’ defense played its usual game of relying on turnovers and stops on its side of the field, and at spots that wasn’t enough against an OK-but-not-great Gators attack. Again, not much of a surprise.
The teams ended up in a low-scoring, grind-it-out game where USC needed a handful more breaks and 50-50 plays to come out ahead on the road. The Gamecocks got some, but not enough. That happens with young teams.
The outcome doesn’t change the calculus of this season. South Carolina still has a chance at a bowl. All it’ll have to do is refocus on senior day and overwhelm an overmatched opponent.
“It starts tomorrow,” tight end Hayden Hurst said. “We have to get in there and get after it. Watch film, put this one behind us. But we’re going to try to get the seniors a bowl. It starts with Western Carolina.”
Make a bowl, double last year’s win total, take a team projected at the bottom of the league back to being solid with a roster that’s both young and spent part of the season banged up. Those are the goals and accomplishments in sight.
A win Saturday would’ve meant something with a second upset of a ranked team. Will Muschamp would have led a team to a symbolic win considering his history in Gainesville, but it would’ve been more icing than cake.
In some ways, the Gamecocks lost to a version of their own future. Despite Jim McElwain running the show, the Gators are still built in the image of their old coach.
His power-and-defense fingerprints are all over Florida’s identity, and USC got the business end of the kind of defense he can build.
For now, the Gamecocks turn from missing the kind of win they’d like to have to the sort they’ll need. It might be a humble FCS game, but for a program trying to rebuild, the chance to finish with it should means much more.