South Carolina’s spring speaking tour had barely started before Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp was asked about his team’s last game.
The question came as soon as Muschamp offered to start answering at his appearance before the Gamecock Club in Columbia, and it was blunt: “Do you think they just didn’t care? That bowl game last year was a total waste. What do you think the problem was? Did they just not show up mentally?”
The subject, of course, was the 28-0 shutout South Carolina suffered against Virginia in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 29 in Charlotte. It has come up a few times on Muschamp’s Spurs Up Tour circuit as he crisscrosses the state to talk to the team’s fans.
“That’s fine,” Muschamp said. “I’m disgusted, too.”
Where Muschamp pushed back against the fan in Columbia and again with reporters during his stop in Rock Hill on Thursday was with the idea that the Gamecocks did not play hard against the Cavaliers.
“The frustration I get is, our guys tried,” Muschamp said. “We didn’t play very well. There’s a difference between not playing well and not playing hard. I have been coaching for over 20 years, and our guys played hard. We just didn’t play very well. That’s my responsibility, but to sit there and put a blanket statement that our guys didn’t care and didn’t play hard. That’s simply not true.”
Muschamp also addressed the idea that his team did not take its practice sessions seriously before the game.
“We practiced two less practices than we did when we beat Michigan in the Outback Bowl,” he said. “We had the same practice schedule. I have heard some fantastic rumors that we didn’t practice.”
The Gamecocks rushed for 33 yards and gained 251 yards overall, while allowing 413 to Virginia.
“They’re all damn important and this past bowl game was really important to us, too,” he said. “We didn’t play very well.”
After gaining 600 yards and scoring 35 points against eventual national champion Clemson on Nov. 24 last season, the Gamecocks finished the season totaling 635 points and 28 points against Akron and Virginia. South Carolina’s offense didn’t score in its final six quarters of the season.
“This fan base is as loyal and passionate as they come. I have been a bunch of different places, and it’s awesome,” Muschamp said. “I want people to be pissed off at 7-6. I’m pissed. I think it’s awesome.”