ATLANTA | The solitary standing of South Carolina’s 1984 team is safe for another season.
As is the Gamecocks’ reputation as a bad bet in bowl games.
South Carolina entered Friday night’s Chick-fil-A Bowl hoping to join the 1984 team as the only units in school history with double-digit wins, but instead it was beaten for the second time this month in the Georgia Dome, this time 26-17 by Florida State.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t give ourselves much of a chance to win the game,” Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said. “It was unfortunate, but as good as our team could do this year was nine wins. We’ll try to get better next year, but we’re a long way off from being a real good team.”
It was the third bowl loss in as many seasons for the Gamecocks and starting quarterback Stephen Garcia, who threw three interceptions in the first half.
Things went south early for the Gamecocks (9-5), who saw a promising opening drive ended by a vicious hit from Seminoles cornerback Greg Reid on Marcus Lattimore. The hit caused Lattimore’s first fumble of the season and knocked the Gamecocks’ most consistent offensive weapon from the game with a concussion.
Lattimore, who lay prone on the field for several seconds after the hit, was taken to an Atlanta hospital during the game to have stitches put into his mouth, and South Carolina’s hopes of victory seemingly left the building with him.
“It took a little bit just to get everything rolling (after the injury),” senior tailback Brian Maddox said. “Too little, too late. We just didn’t come ready to play today. We just got beat.”
The Gamecocks turned the ball over three more times in the first half and five times overall, falling behind 16-3 before rallying to close within two points in the fourth quarter. Florida State, which also lost its top offensive weapon, quarterback Christian Ponder, to a concussion, didn’t put the game away until backup quarterback EJ Manuel found Taiwan Easterling on a 7-yard scoring pass with 5:27 left in the game.
The victory was Florida State’s seventh in a row against South Carolina, which hasn’t won a game in this series since 1984. The loss did nothing to boost the Gamecocks’ opinion of the Georgia Dome, which held 72,217 fans Friday. The Gamecocks were beaten 56-17 by Auburn in the SEC Championship Game in this building on Dec. 4.
“Playing the last two games of the season and to come out and perform like that leaves a bad taste in your mouth,” Garcia said, “a bad taste in the whole team’s mouth.”
The Gamecocks’ defense held Florida State to 308 yards, including 90 through the air, and allowed the offense to find its footing and rally in the second half. South Carolina put together scoring drives of 92 and 79 yards after halftime and pulled within two at 19-17 when Maddox scored from 7 yards out with 11:56 left in the game.
South Carolina finished with 414 yards, including 70 rushing yards from sophomore Kenny Miles.
“I didn’t realize we made 400,” Spurrier said as he reviewed the statistics after the game. “Heck, 400 yards, we don’t usually make that many so it wasn’t a terrible offensive performance. It was just the turnovers that hurt us.”
Penalties took their toll, too. The Gamecocks were flagged five times for 58 yards with most of them coming at crucial times.
“We’re not a real alert bunch of guys,” Spurrier said. “We had a lot of careless penalties. That’s how you get beat, and that’s what happened to us tonight.”
FSU - Dustin Hopkins 29-yard FG
FSU - Dustin Hopkins 48-yard FG
FSU - Chris Thompson 27-yard TD run (Hopkins PAT good)
USC - Spencer Lanning 40-yard FG
FSU - Dustin Hopkins 35-yard FG
USC - Stephen Garcia 3-yard TD receptioni FROM Ace Sanders (Lanning PAT good)
FSU - Dustin Hopkins 45-yard FG
USC - Brian Maddox 7-yard TD run
FSU - Taiwan Easterling 7-yard pass from E.J. Manuel
|Time of Possession||26:32||33:28|
RUSHING: South Carolina, Miles 10-70, Maddox 12-53, Garcia 8-14, Gilmore 1-3, Lattimore 1-(minus 1). Florida St., Thompson 25-147, Manuel 7-46, Pryor 2-10, T.Jones 4-7, Thomas 1-6, Ponder 5-3, Team 1-(minus 1).
PASSING: South Carolina, Garcia 19-34-3-243, Gilmore 1-1-0-29, A.Sanders 1-1-0-3. Florida St., Manuel 11-15-0-84, Ponder 1-5-0-6, Reed 0-1-1-0.
RECEIVING: South Carolina, A.Jeffery 9-130, Lattimore 3-48, Gurley 2-49, Maddox 2-16, D..Moore 2-4, A.Sanders 1-16, Barnes 1-9, Garcia 1-3. Florida St., Reed 2-25, Thompson 2-17, Haulstead 2-14, Easterling 2-10, Pryor 2-7, R.Smith 1-12, Little 1-5.