After A&M loss, Will Muschamp reacts : 'I believe in this group'
South Carolina’s still winless against Texas A&M.
The Gamecocks outplayed expectations Saturday, but only because the expectations were so low, and dropped a 24-13 decision to the No. 9 Aggies. Texas A&M, which was a 17.5-point favorite, is 3-0 all-time in this short-lived series.
“Our guys fought hard, but we’re not in this for a consolation prize,” coach Will Muschamp said. “We’re in this to win. That’s the bottom line.”
South Carolina lost it second game in a row and its third consecutive conference game to fall 2-3 overall and 1-3 in the SEC.
“I know everyone wants to see results, but we’re so close,” said tight end Hayden Hurst, who had five catches for 90 yards. “Letting that game get away really hurts man.”
A Williams-Brice Stadium crowd of 78,245 watched as South Carolina remained within one score of the Aggies into the fourth quarter thanks to an inspired defensive effort. Texas A&M (5-0, 3-0 SEC) entered the game averaging 43 points and 546 yards per game. The Aggies gained 422 yards on Saturday and didn’t have a 100-yard rusher or receiver.
“We are playing just decent defense. Don’t be confusing this with good,” Muschamp said. “We are doing things better, but we don’t have a lot of margin for error right now.”
That’s because of an offense that went nowhere under freshman quarterback Brandon McIlwain for the second game in a row. McIlwain was 9 of 15 passing for 34 yards with 7 rushing yards before being replaced by senior Perry Orth in the fourth quarter. The Gamecocks gained 378 yards, and 151 of those came on the three drives Orth directed.
“Brandon did some good things in the game,” Muschamp said. “He was not taken out of the game because he was playing poorly. We just felt like we needed to get the ball down the field vertically so that’s what we did.”
Texas A&M took the decisive lead on a 49-yard touchdown run from tailback Trayveon Williams on the opening drive of the third quarter. Williams put the Aggies ahead 14-7 with 11:37 left in the third quarter, and they never relinquished that lead. South Carolina pulled within one score when Elliott Fry hit a 43-yard field goal with 4:23 left in the game to cut the Texas A&M advantage to 21-13. The Gamecocks stopped the Aggies’ next drive, but cornerback Jamarcus King, who was taking just the second punt of his career, fumbled the return, setting up a game-sealing 35-yard field goal from Texas A&M’s Daniel LaCamera with 1:41 left.
“What I told them in the locker room is, ‘Life’s not fair. Sometimes you can work really, really hard and you’re not guaranteed of anything,’ ” Muschamp said. “You can’t get frustrated. You can’t let the negativity start to seep into your body and your brain. You have to block it out and understand that we just have to continue to work. It’s frustrating when you don’t get the positive results you want. Right now in our society, it’s, press the reset button and move onto the next thing. We can’t do that. And we’re not going to do that. We’re going to go back and work extremely hard. That’s what we have to do and that’s what we will do.”
On Texas A&M’s first drive of the second half, the Aggies elected to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the 50-yard line. Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight converted the first down with a second-effort quarterback sneak. One play later, Aggies running back Trayveon Williams raced 49 yards for a touchdown.
Star of the game: Hurst. The South Carolina tight end had five catches for 90 yards and completed one pass for 9 yards. Hurst was the Gamecocks’ leading receiver and hauled in a 36-yard reception from punter Sean Kelly on a fake punt in the third quarter. “He’s just going to keep getting better,” Muschamp said. “He’s a really good athlete. He’s got really good ball skills. He’s a great competitor.”
Play of the game: For the Gamecocks, it was the first one of the game. Redshirt freshman running back A.J. Turner took a zone read handoff, bounced out the left side and just kept running down the sideline for a 75-yard score to put South Carolina ahead 7-0. That run gave Turner a career high in rushing, and he finished with 10 carries for 113 yards.
Stat of the game: Texas A&M was 9-for-19 on third down. “Third down really hurt us, not being able to get off the field in some critical situations,” Muschamp said. “We have to man those guys up better in certain situations, play tighter coverage at times. We have to challenge receivers, man. You have to get up on the line and get your hands on people.” South Carolina converted just 3 of 14 third down attempts.
Injuries abound: South Carolina played without its two leading wide receivers. Neither sophomore Deebo Samuel nor freshman Bryan Edwards dressed for the game because of hamstring injuries. Edwards is the team’s leading receiver with 17 catches for 223 yards. Samuel, who missed his third game in a row because of the injury, has four catches for 66 yards. Freshman wide receiver Randrecous Davis, who has three catches for 45 yards this year, already had been announced as out for Saturday’s game. The Aggies were dealing with plenty of injuries as well. Texas A&M was without four starters, including All-America defensive end Myles Garrett and wide receivers Ricky Seals-Jones and Speedy Noil.
Negative vibes: Ten of South Carolina’s 70 offensive plays went for negative yards. The Gamecocks offense outperformed the Aggies in yards per play (5.4 to 5.3), but that statistic was weighted heavily toward Orth. South Carolina averaged 6.3 yards per play with him at quarterback versus 4.1 with McIlwain at quarterback.
Special teams scary: Fry missed two field goals, and the Gamecocks fumbled two punts, one that was recovered by South Carolina and one recovered by Texas A&M. The Aggies also averaged 26.3 yards per kickoff return.
Who: Georgia at South Carolina
When: 7:30 p.m., Oct. 8
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium
TV: SEC Network
HOW THE SCORED
USC: Turner 75 run (Fry kick), 14:47
TXAM: Knight 4 run (LaCamera kick), 12:31
TXAM: Tr.Williams 49 run (LaCamera kick), 11:37
USC: FG Fry 43, 3:14
TXAM: J.White 2 run (LaCamera kick), 11:40
USC: FG Fry 43, 3:14
TXAM: FG LaCamera 35, 1:41
Time of Possession
RUSHING: Texas A&M, Tr.Williams 14-98, Knight 12-84, J.White 9-27, Kirk 2-7, Ford 1-3, (Team) 1-(minus 3). South Carolina, Turner 10-113, Dowdle 9-47, McIlwain 12-7, Da.Williams 2-3, J.Smith 1-2, Zandi 0-0, Orth 1-(minus 11).
PASSING: Texas A&M, Knight 23-40-1-206. South Carolina, Hurst 1-1-0-9, Kelly 1-1-0-36, McIlwain 9-15-1-34, Orth 11-18-0-138.
RECEIVING: Texas A&M, Kirk 12-61, Tabuyo 4-89, J.Reynolds 3-29, Tr.Williams 2-14, Iheanacho 2-13. South Carolina, Hurst 5-90, Dawkins 5-17, Crosby 4-51, Turner 4-22, Googer 3-25, Charleston 1-12.
MISSED FIELD GOALS: Texas A&M, LaCamera 44. South Carolina, Fry 44, Fry 43.