South Carolina dropped to a disappointing 4-6 on the 2019 season after its 20-15 loss to Appalachian State on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium. Here’s what we learned from the crushing defeat:
1. After decent home performances, this was a dud
South Carolina entered Saturday with a 3-2 record this season at Williams-Brice Stadium. The three wins were impressive — by an average score of 40-8 — and the losses were nothing too shameful. The Gamecocks covered the spread against then-No. 2 Alabama, a performance that included a freshman quarterback tossing for 324 yards against a Nick Saban defense. The 38-27 loss to then-No. 10 Florida included a fourth quarter lead and a couple crucial calls not going their way.
But Saturday, the Gamecocks closed as a 6.5-point favorite against a team from the Sun Belt. Before a successful desperation drive late in the fourth quarter, South Carolina was threatening to go an entire regular season game without an offensive touchdown for the first time in seven years.
App State (8-1) is a good team, but it entered with one win all-time against the SEC.
2. Gamecocks can’t overcome injuries
When Bryan Edwards was briefly sidelined with a sprained knee, Ryan Hilinski was out there minus five of South Carolina’s top six pass catchers.
Shi Smith didn’t play. Josh Vann didn’t play. Nick Muse didn’t play. Tavien Feaster didn’t play. OrTre Smith didn’t play. Chavis Dawkins was limited by a hamstring injury. Rico Dowdle was coming off an injury.
Add it all up and you have a depleted offense facing the Sun Belt’s No. 1 defense. It proved not a good matchup for South Carolina.
3. Running game stalled — again
South Carolina finished with 21 rushing yards on 27 carries — and it wasn’t the Gamecocks’ worst ground performance of the season. That came Sept. 21 at Missouri when USC produced 16 yards in a 20-point loss to the Tigers.
Dowdle, back after missing the last two games with a knee injury, carried 14 times Saturday, but only eight went for a positive gain. Deshaun Fenwick, a 100-yard rusher in last week’s Vandy win, didn’t have a run longer than six yards against the Mountaineers.
4. Defense stays solid
Appalachian State was held 19 points below its season average — and that includes a defensive touchdown for the Mountaineers.
South Carolina’s defense put together a second straight solid outing. The Gamecocks allowed 202 yards, the second-fewest of the Will Muschamp era.
5. You can’t blame Bryan Edwards
South Carolina hasn’t had a receiver make first-team All-SEC since Pharoh Cooper in 2014.
Edwards — bum knee and all — updated his senior stat line on Saturday to 71 receptions, 816 yards and six touchdowns. A few drops early, yes, but Edwards made up for it by nearly scoring two touchdowns to cap what would have been a wild fourth quarter rally.
He became the program’s all-time leader in receiving yards in the process.
“We lost,” Edwards said afterward. “My goal was to get all those records, but we lost.”