South Carolina football didn’t play the kind of game most folks would’ve wanted.
The play was sloppy. The Gamecocks were down early. Tennessee isn’t a particularly good team. The starts of both halves were mostly not ideal.
But there was fight. And for now, that might have to be enough.
South Carolina trailed by 11 points twice. The defense seemed ready to give up most of the gains the offense generated, allowing the Volunteers to three times extend leads after Gamecocks scores.
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But after each of those, Jake Bentley, Rico Dowdle and the rest of the offense found a way to answer on the way to the 27-24 win.
Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp perhaps put it best: “We took a stand here.”
Center Donell Stanley explained: “We knew adversity would happen in the game. We knew success would happen in the game.”
Tennessee scored four times. The Gamecocks offense put points on the board on the following possession each time.
In the big picture, Saturday’s win was an important one in terms of what South Carolina can still accomplish. Barring a disaster or a problem in scheduling the 12th game, USC should at least be bowling.
Rather than heading into next week’s trip at Ole Miss needing a win to have that path to six, they’ll be playing for a good chance at seven regular season wins, all before any talk of pushing Florida or Clemson
That’s a weight off.
This team prides itself on taking every week as its own. But for those outside the program, each twist and turn of the season has always been tinged by the talk through the offseason of winning nine or 10 games.
At this point, eight would be a massive accomplishment.
But to a degree, college football is about the swings. Some seasons, like last year, are ups. This one, in the larger context, can’t escape being a little disappointing.
But these Gamecocks seem bent on fighting through anyway, fighting through mistakes, fighting back after bad starts and rough first halves.
In the end, that might have to be enough.