South Carolina football led late against No. 9 Florida on Saturday, but a run of three consecutive touchdowns for the Gators sent the Gamecocks to a disappointing 38-27 loss in the driving rain at Williams-Brice Stadium. Here are five things we learned about USC in the home defeat.
Ryan Hilinski needs help
A week after suffering an ugly-looking knee injury, USC’s freshman quarterback was playing in the driving rain against a blitz-happy defense. Simply put, conditions were not ideal.
And it showed in his stat line — 8-for-22 passing with 92 yards before the game’s final two drives, when Florida was well ahead and content to sit back and bleed out the clock, with 41 of those yards coming on a flea flicker on the game’s second play.
Some of the issues rest on Hilinski — his deep shots were mostly off and his accuracy wasn’t great. But he got little help from his teammates — protection was spotty, there were some drops from the receivers and running back Tavien Feaster blamed himself for a miscommunication that led to Hilinski’s only turnover on the day, a fumble that set up the Gators with a short field.
Even the best of quarterbacks would struggle with all of that, and Hilinski is still young and developing. He needs more support.
Defensive line cannot repeat Georgia game performance
It might not have been fair to expect Javon Kinlaw and the defensive line to replicate their outstanding performance during last week’s upset of Georgia. But the unit, which has generally been the best and most consistent on the team this year, looked a step behind most of the afternoon.
With two sacks and three tackles for loss, the Gamecocks didn’t exactly live in the opposing backfield, and when they did get pressure, like on a crucial fourth down in the fourth quarter, they “left plays on the field,” in the words of Kinlaw.
Rico Dowdle’s injury doesn’t sink the ground game
When Carolina’s leading rusher Rico Dowdle left the field clutching his knee after the first play of the game, it was unfortunate for a senior enjoying a breakout season after a career full of injuries. But it didn’t stop the Gamecocks from putting up 217 rushing yards and generally looking very good on the ground.
Senior Tavien Feaster, who was used only sparingly behind Dowdle last week against Georgia, took advantage of the opportunity by rumbling for 175 yards and a touchdown on 25 attempts. And senior Mon Denson, who had been relegated to mop-up duty in the third running back role, stepped up with 58 yards on 12 carries, including a 25-yard burst. In sloppy conditions and a struggling young QB, the run game carried the Gamecocks, coach Will Muschamp said.
Missed chances in secondary
Florida QB Kyle Trask hardly looked intimidating early — his throws lacked zip and his accuracy was far from pinpoint. Freshman Jammie Robinson took advantage of that to snag his first career interception, but there were several breakdowns on the back end too. Most notably, Robinson and sophomore R.J. Roderick missed badly to allow a 37-yard touchdown.
Short fields made things harder late, but Trask still wound up throwing for four touchdowns, albeit one of those coming on a questionable play. Sophomore cornerback Jaycee Horn was also rightly flagged for holding on a silly play to erase his own interception. All in all, Trask’s statline was far more efficient than it should have been.
Officiating vs. execution
Officiating was the main storyline coming out of the game, at least from South Carolina’s side, but there’s not too much we can learn about the Gamecocks from questionable calls by the referees.
In that vein, Muschamp focused more on missed plays than missed calls during his postgame press conference, likely looking to avoid a fine from the SEC. And while the refereeing undoubtedly impacted several crucial scoring plays, South Carolina was far from flawless. The defense gave up touchdowns on both Florida red zone trips and seven chunk plays, and the offense averaged 4.96 yards per play, which would rank 111th nationally on the season.
So while the SEC Officiating Twitter account will continue to receive a deluge of tweets from angry Gamecocks this week, there’s likely plenty Muschamp will want to clean up during practice too.
Who: South Carolina vs. Tennessee
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee
TV: SEC Network
Line: USC by 4.5