Gamecocks take a stand: Coach Muschamp recaps highs, lows of win over Vols
1. The resilient rally
South Carolina football pulled out the 27-24 win against Tennessee despite another slow start and with plenty of resilience needed. Twice USC trailed by 11, but every time the Volunteers scored, the Gamecocks answered with a score of their own, eventually getting the stops they needed.
2.The not-spurned tailback
Rico Dowdle was moved out of the starting lineup after some less-than-efficient games against Kentucky, Missouri and Texas A&M. He responded by getting 140 yards on his 14 carries and completely dominating Tennessee. It was his sixth career 100-yard game and the third-most yards he’s ever had. His first career 100-yard game was against Tennessee in 2016.
3.The (mostly) quiet QB bounce back
Jake Bentley only threw 16 passes on the day, but he was mostly effective when he did. He had 152 yards, including a 73-yard game-swinging bomb. His only pick was a batted ball. He managed the run-heavy gameplan well and posted his second-best passer rating of the past two seasons.
4.The glacial pace
South Carolina came in aiming to run the ball and the Volunteers are now a downhill power team. That meant a game with few possessions, few plays and a brisk pace. Each team had the ball nine times, with each once running out the clock. South Carolina ran 56 plays, Tennessee 73. The total time was 3 hours, 18 minutes. That, to a degree, tamps down the total stats.
5. The freshmen
South Carolina started a pair of true freshmen in corner Jaycee Horn and first-time starter Dylan Wonnum at right tackle. Other true freshmen who played were R.J. Roderick, Josh Vann, Israel Mukuamu, Kingsley Enagbare and Rick Sandidge. Roderick got a lot of work at safety and was fourth on the team with five tackles.
6. The disputed call
The play that seemed to stick in the craw of some Volunteers was a maybe-fumble right on the UT goal line. The Gamecocks had a touchdown called back on review, and handed to Rico Dowdle to plunge in from a yard out. He dove, and well after the whistle blew, a Tennessee player had the ball and was running downfield. But there was no angle that directly showed the ball getting fumbled, and as such, no review.
7. The … maybe good defensive day
There were times when it felt as if the Gamecocks weren’t going to get a stop. The Vols scored on four of five drives (excluding running out the first half) in one stretch, with two marches longer than 70 yards. And yet at day’s end, South Carolina only gave up 4.8 yards per play, the third-best mark of the year.
8. The lineup changes
Will Muschamp’s staff made a pair of switches in the lineup. Dylan Wonnum stepped in for senior Blake Camper, something the coach had been hinting at since the Texas A&M game. Ty’Son Williams was also installed as the starting tailback, but ended up with a not-great day.
9. The captains
South Carolina’s captains were linebacker T.J. Brunson, guard Sadarius Hutcherson and linebacker Daniel Fennell.
10. The crowd
Announced attendance was 80,614. It was the second-largest crowd the Gamecocks played in front of, behind Georgia.
11. The new vantage point
USC offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon moved from the booth to the sideline. Will Muschamp said he wanted to be down there to help calm the receivers, and he did well there against Missouri.
12. The third-down struggles
The Gamecocks came into the game as one of the best third-down defenses in the land. They allowed the Vols to convert nine of their first 13 before locking in late. They’d kept opponents at or below 25 percent on conversions in every game, but allowed 68.8 percent.
13. The return
Top Gamecocks pass rusher D.J. Wonnum played only his second game of the season, finally returning for a torn ligament in his foot. He delivered a pair of sacks for South Carolina, including one to snuff out Tennessee’s final drive.
14. The thin spot
South Carolina’s safeties remains a position where USC is still searing for answers. Steven Montac and Jamyest Williams got the lion’s share of the work, and Roderick got more, but former walk-on wide receiver Javon Charleston was also getting a fair amount of work with Nick Harvey and J.T. Ibe both out.
15. The road coming up
South Carolina should have an easy road to a bowl game, with an FCS opponent and a mid-major for the 12th game. Now it’ll go looking for another win in a hostile environment against one of the most schizophrenic teams in the country. Ole Miss is 109th in yards per play allowed and fourth in yards per play, all at a staggering pace. It could be a game with big numbers on all sides.