Despite running a variety of creative plays and utilizing substitutions, South Carolina struggled contending with Clemson’s dominant defense at Memorial Stadium.
“There wasn’t a whole lot working on offense or defense, either one of them,” coach Will Muschamp said. “We got beat by a better team.”
Down 14-0 in the first quarter and five yards shy of a first down, the Gamecocks attempted a fake punt on fourth down at their own 30-yard line. While the fake punt demonstrated the coaching staff’s strong intentions to win the game, the attempt was unsuccessful as Hayden Hurst rushed for two yards and turned the ball over on downs.
“We were just trying to make a play, trying to create something and make something happen,” Muschamp said. “We weren’t getting anything going offensively. Defensively, we were having a hard time sealing possessions.”
The Gamecocks were down 35-0 at halftime and freshman quarterback Jake Bentley totaled 41 passing yards. Muschamp said Bentley was dealing with a slight knee issue and he wasn’t comfortable putting him back into the game in the second half.
“He’s fine. There’s no structural damage. He had a hard time pushing off of it,” Muschamp said. “Coming out of halftime, I did not feel good. He wanted to go, but I did not feel good about putting him back in. He didn’t feel good and that he couldn’t push off of it.”
In Bentley’s absence, freshman quarterback Brandon McIlwain entered in the third quarter. McIlwain, who hadn’t completed a pass since the Tennessee game in October, guided the Gamecocks into Clemson territory. That’s when ran another never-seen-before play as wide receiver Deebo Samuel threw a 33-yard pass to Bryan Edwards for their lone touchdown.
“I thought he did a really nice job when he came in the game, but Brandon has practiced extremely well,” Muschamp said. “He’s handled these situations extremely well as far as practicing and approaching things the right way mentally, so he’s done a nice job. Brandon is a good football player.”
Moving forward, Muschamp said the Gamecocks will have time off for exams next week and will determine when to start bowl practice based on when they’re scheduled to play.
“They’ll get two lifts next week and then they start exams and won’t have anything football-wise as far as that’s concerned,” Muschamp said. “We’ll have a team meeting (Sunday). We’ll go through some things that we need to do as far as coaching.”