Josh Kendall

How Muschamp is handling Gamecocks’ surprising struggles

South Carolina’s football team generally holds a practice on Sunday evening but skipped it last week because the team didn’t arrive home until after 2 a.m. from a night game in Lexington, Ky. When Will Muschamp stepped up to address his team at a Monday morning meeting, it was the first time he had spoken to them since the disappointing 24-10 loss to the Wildcats.

He had two choices in that moment.

No. 1, let his team have it, upbraiding the Gamecocks for an undisciplined and disjointed effort that changed the complexion of their season at least for now. Or No. 2, get back to basics and diving into the technical reasons his team looked so bad.

“It was a little bit of both,” senior offensive lineman Zack Bailey said. “Obviously, he is disappointed. He’s the coach and no one wants to lose.”

Overall, though, it seems that Muschamp, known throughout college football for his fiery demeanor, chose door No. 2 on Monday morning and so far this week.

“He is one of those coaches who will take responsibility when something goes wrong. He’ll raise his hand,” junior linebacker T.J. Brunson said. “He said from the top position on down, we just need to continue to raise our level. Whatever we have to do, that’s what we’ll do.”

The Gamecocks (2-2 overall, 1-2 SEC) play Missouri (3-1, 0-1 SEC) on Saturday at noon in Williams-Brice Stadium. The game will be televised by the SEC Network.

“He’s handling it pretty good,” senior safety Steven Montac said. “Coach Muschamp hasn’t done anything wrong, just poor execution in both games that we lost. He is encouraging us every time, telling us to do the simple things better. He’s been really, really upbeat. I like how his mentality is. I feel like it rubbed off on us, and we had a good practice (Tuesday).”

Balancing the correct approach at the correct time for every team can be challenging, Muschamp acknowledged.

“I think every team is different. All players are different. Any message to a team can be handled differently by players,” he said. “Going back through it and just watching the tape of our first quarter of the season, we’re not doing the simple things about football. We try to make this game complex. It’s a real simple game. Some of the simple things we’re not doing very well.”

Muschamp mentioned that includes creating and preventing turnovers (South Carolina was plus-11 in turnover margin last year. It is minus-4 this year.), but there are plenty of other problem areas as well.

“He has addressed things that are wrong, and he hasn’t sugarcoated any of those things, but at the end of the day, he has our best interests (at heart) and he wants to win just as much as we do,” Brunson said. “Whatever he has to say, guys understand it and we’ll try to fix it.”