USC coach Will Muschamp apologizes for poor performance in Belk Bowl
Will Muschamp’s third season at South Carolina ended with a thud in the Belk Bowl on Saturday.
The Gamecocks fell 28-0 to Virginia in front of a crowd of 48,263 in Bank of America Stadium. It was the first time South Carolina has been shut out since losing 18-0 to Georgia in 2006.
“Disappointed with the performance,” Muschamp said. “I appreciate our fan base. We didn’t put on a good performance, and that’s on me. I apologize to them.”
South Carolina (7-6) had been 3-0 all-time in Bank of America, home to the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. Any hope of improving that record to 4-0 ended early as Virginia (8-5) led 14-0 at halftime and 21-0 midway through the third quarter.
“Coach always says bowl games are like who wants it most, who wants to come out and have the most fun and play ball,” South Carolina senior tight end K.C. Crosby said. “They came out with more intensity than we did and jumped on us real quick.”
The Gamecocks will return to the stadium for their next game, the Aug. 31, 2019, season-opener against North Carolina. They might not want to after how poorly Saturday went. South Carolina’s offense had a season-low in total yards (261), rushing yards (43) and time of possession (17:25).
“When you get in a 21-0 game, and they start dialing up a bunch of exotic pressures, it becomes a different game,” Muschamp said. “I’m not going to put that on the offensive line. It’s a circumstance of the game.”
South Carolina’s injury-ravaged defense gave up 413 yards to the Cavaliers, most of it to junior quarterback Bryce Perkins.
“He kept drives alive with his legs,” Muschamp said. “Right off the top of my head I can think of six. His legs were the difference in the game. You have to condense the pocket and make him play quarterback and we didn’t do that well enough.”
Star of the game: Perkins, who set Virginia’s single-season record for total yardage and touchdowns this season, continued his impressive double duty, throwing for 208 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for another 81 yards.
Play of the game: On the final play of the first half, South Carolina opted to attempt a Hail Mary pass with six seconds remaining rather than attempt a 52-yard field goal. Quarterback Jake Bentley was sacked, stuffing any chance of momentum the Gamecocks had going into the break. Place-kicker Parker White had missed a 45-yarder earlier in the game.
Stat of the game: Virginia was 11-of-17 on third down. South Carolina was 2-of-13.
Riddle me this: Until Saturday, sophomore linebacker Spencer Eason-Riddle was known mostly for being named to the SEC’s community service team this year. That changed when he became the Gamecocks’ primary strongside linebacker against Virginia. Eason-Riddle, a Raleigh, N.C., native who walked on in 2016, was thrust into action with freshman Rosendo Louis still slowed by a shoulder injury. He finished with a career-high four tackles.
Youth movement: South Carolina started five true freshmen on Saturday, including center Hank Manos of Chapin, who made the first start of his collegiate career. Dylan Wonnum started at right tackle, and defensive backs Israel Mukuamu, Jaycee Horn and R.J. Roderick started on defense. At some points of the second half, the Gamecocks had six true freshmen on the field on defense.
Slow starts: In three bowl games under Muschamp, the Gamecocks have been outscored 52-17 in the first half. Virginia led 14-0 at halftime on Saturday thanks in large part to controlling the ball for 20:19 of the first half. The Cavaliers had an 8:52 touchdown drive in the second quarter, the longest surrendered by South Carolina this season.
Who: South Carolina vs. North Carolina
When: Aug. 31, 2019
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte