Josh Kendall

‘We didn’t come out ready to play.’ Gamecocks end 2018 with dud

South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp thought his players were ready to play Saturday.

“I felt like we were ready to go,” Muschamp said Saturday after the Gamecocks were whipped 28-0 by Virginia in the Belk Bowl.

The Gamecocks themselves weren’t so sure after being shut out for the first time since 2006.

“Virginia came out and outplayed us. They out-executed us. They had a better mindset than us. That’s why they won the game like this,” junior center Donell Stanley said. “It was just a bad day, wrong mindset in my opinion. That wasn’t South Carolina that we have seen all year.”

The Cavaliers outgained South Carolina 413 yards to 261 yards. They outnumbered the Gamecocks 28-12 in first downs. And they outclassed them from start to finish.

“I just feel like we didn’t come out ready to play,” junior wide receiver Bryan Edwards said. “I don’t know. I can’t even explain it. It is really disappointing to be honest. To see the seniors go out like that, and us not play anywhere near our ability. It hurts honestly, it really does.”

The disparity between the head coach’s answer and the players’ answers mirrored the discombobulated performance the Gamecocks had on the field. Looking to win its sixth bowl game in its last seven appearances, South Carolina instead fell to 3-1 all-time in Bank of America Stadium and 7-6 for the season.

The South Carolina offense that gained 600 yards against No. 2 Clemson two games ago with wide receiver Deebo Samuel in the lineup didn’t manage half of that against unranked Virginia with Samuel watching from the sideline after he decided to skip the game in order to prepare for the NFL Draft.

Samuel’s absence wasn’t the reason for the problems, Edwards said.

“That’s too easy an excuse,” he said. “We had opportunities to make plays, and we just didn’t. Missed some throws, ran some wrong routes, we just looked sloppy.”

The Gamecocks averaged 4.4 yards per play, almost 2 yards less than their season average, and rushed for 43 yards, their lowest total since last season’s 26 yards against Texas A&M. Their total yardage was a season low.

“It was from the start and it goes on and on and on throughout the game. Just a bad day for all of us,” Stanley said. “The defense gave us some good field position. It just seemed we couldn’t get anything going. With our mindset being bad, it kind of killed the morale of our offense a little bit. We have to be better than that. It was bad.”

A South Carolina defense that at times in the second half was playing six true freshmen, one walk-on and a converted running back at the same time due to a rash of injuries was at the mercy of Cavaliers junior quarterback Bryce Perkins, who had 289 total yards and three passing touchdowns.

“I think that Virginia came out with more juice,” junior linebacker T.J. Brunson said. “That’s one of those things that kind of happens. We have to be better self-starters. A lot of times I think we come out slow and sluggish. You can’t win like that. You have to keep the same energy throughout the game.”

The Gamecocks did not see this dud coming during the week, Stanley and Edwards said. South Carolina arrived in Charlotte on Tuesday evening and held full practices Wednesday and Thursday and a walk-through on Friday.

“I felt like we had a couple good days of practice,” Stanley said, “but our mindset wasn’t there.”

“We had a great week of preparation. I thought everything was going well,” Edwards said. “We didn’t come out and play. That’s all I can say. We just didn’t come out ready to play.”