On the day he was hired at South Carolina, Will Muschamp said he couldn’t wait for his first home game at Williams-Brice Stadium.
“I know one thing I am really excited about running onto that field to ‘2001,’ ” he said on Dec. 6. “I am getting goose bumps now just thinking about it.”
Fast forward to this week. Muschamp will make that debut Saturday when he leads his Gamecocks (1-1 overall, 1-1 SEC) against East Carolina at 4 p.m. in the first home game of the season.
“What does it mean to me personally?” he said in response to question at his weekly news conference. “Nothing really, other than just winning the game and our guys playing the right way. At the end of the day, it’s about playing the right way. It’s about playing with effort and toughness and discipline and representing this university the right way, and we didn’t the other night.”
That’s last week’s 27-14 loss to Mississippi State talking. It was a loss so stinging that this milestone in Muschamp’s tenure has not just taken a back burner but been pushed completely off the stove.
“We are excited about coming home, but at the need of the day as a competitor, we would have wanted to play (Sunday) morning if we could,” Muschamp said. “I think anytime you have a loss like that, we would have liked to get back on the field today regardless of where and who you’re playing.”
Muschamp is 0-2 all-time as a head coach in Williams-Brice Stadium. His Florida teams lost to the Gamecocks in 2011 and 2013 in Columbia. He does have two wins in the stadium, both coming when he was an assistant coach (2006 as Auburn’s defensive coordinator and 2003 as LSU’s defensive coordinator).
“It’s significant to all of us,” senior linebacker T.J. Holloman said. “It’s significant to him because it’s his first. It’s significant to the seniors because it’s our last (season). We all want to perform to the best of our abilities.”
The Gamecocks are 40-10 in their last 50 home games, but since their school-record 18-game home winning streak ended on Aug. 28, 2014, they are 6-7 in home games.
“I think this game is a big momentum thing for us,” starting running back A.J. Turner said. “We are going to be in front of our fans. I think it’s really important for us to play good for a momentum thing. We are coming off a tough loss. I think we are going to have a lot of energy. The crowd is going to bring some energy, too.”
Muschamp has not mentioned whatever personal significance this game has for him, defensive lineman Ulric Jones said.
“I’m going to guess from how he coaches us, he’s going to take it day by day, every day is the same,” Jones said. “He’s going to coach with fire and passion just like he does. I’m sure it won’t make a difference to him.”
Tight end K.C. Crosby agreed.
“Every game matters to coach,” Crosby said. “He stressed to us that you want to protect your house and that’s our goal, to protect our house. We have some of the best fans in America and we are going to make sure we come out and piggy back off of them.”