South Carolina (5-4 overall, 4-4 SEC) fell 35-31 to Florida (7-3, 5-3) on Saturday in Gainesville, Fla. Here are five things we learned from that game:
The defense is not good
There’s simply no other way to say this at this point. After giving up 528 yards to the Gators, South Carolina is ranked 12th in the SEC and 84th in the nation in total defense, allowing 418.3 yards per game. The rushing defense is the most glaring issue. Florida gained 367 yards on the ground, and the Gamecocks are now 13th in the SEC and 102nd in the nation against the run, allowing 202. 6 yards per game. Tackling was the chief problem on Saturday, coach Will Muschamp said, which is a frustrating answer because fans would like to think that basic skill would be mastered by now and because it means there’s no simple switch South Carolina can throw to make everything all better.
A.J. Turner is still on the team
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The junior running back always seems to emerge at some point in the season. Last season’s leading rusher was passed on the depth chart this season by Rico Dowdle and Ty’Son Williams, but with Williams out and Dowdle limited by injury against the Gators, Turner got 12 carries on Saturday and led the Gamecocks with a season-high 81 yards. Turner, who plays on all of South Carolina’s special teams units, is not flashy but is the type of player who is integral for a college football program’s success. The Gamecocks could use a few more players like him.
The offseason mood will be lower
The Gamecocks could have provided two key indicators of progress on Saturday by notching their second straight winning record in the SEC and beating a ranked team for the first time in nine tries. Instead, South Carolina now will have to upset No. 2 Clemson just to match last year’s nine wins. The loss means the Gamecocks will finish fourth in the SEC East after finishing second a year ago. None of these things mean South Carolina is taking a step back as a program, but they do mean that the fan base doesn’t have a solid sign of progress to build optimism on in the offseason.
The Gamecocks injury luck has been awful
After the game, Muschamp said senior defensive end Bryson Allen-Williams will miss at least the remainder of the regular season after having surgery to repair an ankle injury suffered against Ole Miss two weeks ago. Backup defensive end Aaron Sterling and second-leading rusher Williams also missed the game. Add that to the devastation at safety, where four regulars are out with season-ending or long-term injuries, and the five games missed by starting defensive end D.J. Wonnum, and it only exacerbates the depth issues the Gamecocks have, particularly on defense.
Bryan McClendon moving to the field was a good idea
South Carolina’s offensive coordinator was forced onto the field during the Missouri game when the headsets went out, but he chose to make the move three games ago against Tennessee in an attempt to help his wide receivers. Like most offensive coordinators, McClendon started the season calling plays from the press box, and Muschamp signed off on McClendon coming down to field level as long as the USC offense didn’t suffer. It hasn’t. In fact, it has flourished. The Gamecocks had 376 yards against the Volunteers, 510 against Ole Miss and 386 against the Gators.