South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw summed it up best.
He and his team were coming off a particularly uneven day in a 26-23 loss to Texas A&M. There was a fair amount of good, enough bad to sour the whole thing, and a close look full of the same self-inflicted wounds that have hurt the Gamecocks in their losses and even some wins.
“Sometimes things don’t fall how you want it to,” Kinlaw said. “It is what it is.”
In some ways, this might be life with a Will Muschamp football game.
South Carolina played well enough to win and certainly poorly enough to lose. The defense held for field goals three times in five red zone trips, and forced a 52-yarder. It smothered A&M’s run game, but got torched through the air and broke later.
The offense had enough moments in the second half to inspire some confidence, but also frittered away chances between a red zone interception and a slew of deep passes that were dropped.
This kind of thing isn’t so uncommon for USC. It had a set of games like this last season and tended to come away with victories. That kind of success led some of the stats people and Las Vegas to doubt the Gamecocks, and they’ve had their share of issues.
One element of that is the turnovers. USC was getting them at a slightly unsustainable rate, and now isn’t getting any. The Aggies never lost the ball, never gave South Carolina good field position or saw a scoring chance squandered with that kind of miscue.
Saturday was only the third time in Will Muschamp’s 32 games the Gamecocks failed to register a takeaway.
So what changes?
South Carolina has a bye week to regroup and tinker. If anything, time off should help the health of the defense, which has compounded its struggles by losing some players (notably D.J. Wonnum). The offense, it’s still got questions to answer after again failing to convert its prodigious group of playmakers into real production.
The unspoken challenge for this year’s Gamecocks was in some ways this: Could USC cash in on the offensive pieces enough to escape the cycle of tight game after tight game (and maybe hold its own against the big boys)?
At the moment, the answer has been no, and while South Carolina excelled at making the key plays for two seasons, it’s a tough way to live, and those plays seem to have suddenly dried up.