Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh delivered a line that proved to be in some ways prophetic.
Just after he learned his team would face South Carolina in Monday’s Outback Bowl, he was asked what he knew about Will Muschamp. The answer: “They always play so gosh-darn hard.”
There are many definitions of Muschamp’s brand of football. Florida fans aren’t shy about describing a grinding style that has a ceiling on offense and little flair. A lot of Gamecocks fans agree with that latter part, especially in light of the failed Kurt Roper experience.
It’s something Muschamp is well aware of.He emphasized several times after the Outback Bowl that he doesn’t meddle in his offensive coaches’ calls.
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But in many ways, it’s because the team plays “so gosh-darn hard,” that South Carolina fans are celebrating the seventh nine-win season in school history.
Where South Carolina found itself late in the third quarter, the vast majority of teams would be just about done.
USC was down 19-3. The offense did just about nothing and had a pair of turnovers. The defense gave it ample chances, and it wasn’t cashing in. Part of that is because South Carolina’s offense has hardly been great or consistent, and the Wolverines defense could probably be described as both.
In a lot of cases, an overburdened defense eventually breaks under the pounding. An offense with an interim coordinator making a case for a job presses its way into some mistakes.
South Carolina could’ve done that, and while it wouldn’t have made folks happy, it wouldn’t have surprised.
But the Gamecocks didn’t. The defense kept getting stops, some surprising, some dominant. And the offense got a little flow, cashed in a gift from the defense and started breaking big plays on a highly talented defense.
It closed a season where the Gamecocks probably outperformed the way they played by stealing a few close wins and holding folks off on down days. It’s not the easiest way to live, but nine wins is what it is.
USC clearly still has work to do. The offensive situation is a nebulous unknown. At some point, close wins even out, so a team has to become more dominant to maintain.
But in 2017 and Monday afternoon, that Muschamp brand of football, warts and all, delivered.