South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp is fond of saying “fatigue makes cowards of us all.”
As his Gamecocks went to halftime against Missouri on Saturday, he already saw what was coming.
“I knew at halftime. We came in, I said, ‘How many snaps we play?’” Muschamp said. “I thought it was around 50. It was 54. There was times we were were rushing four we got there early, and we weren’t getting there as much.
“That’s a byproduct of staying on the field offensively.”
Or more correctly, not saying on it.
Asked if fatigue became a factor for his defense, Muschamp replied, “Yeah.”
Before halftime, South Carolina’s offense managed a single first down. The defense held strong, allowing only 4.8 yards per play.
Things didn’t change all that much statistically after halftime, with that yards-per-play number only jumping to 5. But the damage came in key moments.
The Tigers converted 5 of 8 third downs. That included a third-and-5 and a third-and-10 that helped the Tigers answer a Gamecocks score that made it 17-14.
“We should get off the field,” Muschamp said. “We don’t get off the field, let them drive. Still we answer.”
USC’s offense managed to follow Mizzou’s 75-yard drive with a 72-yard march to the Tigers goal line. But with a chance to cut it to a one-score game, a Tigers defender picked off quarterback Ryan Hilinski and took it 100 yards the other way for a score to all but ice things.
Missouri ran 87 plays to South Carolina’s 65.
At game’s end, Muschamp spoke about parts of the team not supporting each other. The defense gave up 20 points on 13 drives, but the Tigers’ defense not only held its own for the 22:10 minutes it was on the field, but also matched South Carolina’s scoring output with a pair of touchdowns.
“We just got nothing going offensively in the first half at all,” Muschamp said.