The South Carolina football team grabbed headlines a month ago by upsetting unbeaten Georgia, but now the Gamecocks are just trying to salvage their season after losing three of the last four games.
South Carolina (4-6, 3-2) has to beat Texas A&M (6-3, 3-2) on Saturday at Kyle Field then defeat third-ranked Clemson (10-0) to become bowl eligible.
“I haven’t addressed that [with the team],” South Carolina coach Will Muschamp said at his weekly Tuesday press conference. “I address each week as a season, and it’s Texas A&M, and it’s folks on our football team and Texas A&M, and that’s it. So that’s what we need to be focused in on.”
Muschamp brought stability to the program in his first three seasons, going 22-17 with three straight bowl trips. But South Carolina appears to be taking a big step backward after last week’s 20-15 home loss to Appalachian State.
“Well, this is a results business,” Muschamp said. “It’s about winning games at the end of the day, and we haven’t won enough games, so that’s the bottom line. As far as the main progress that needs to be made is winning football games. We haven’t made that progress. I think over a three-year period of time, this staff’s won more games than any staff has in school history, so we actually have done a couple good things around here, and we’ve had a very inconsistent year, and I’ll continue to evaluate that, and we’ll see what decisions we need to make moving forward.”
Footballscoop.com reported this week the South Carolina administration is putting pressure on Muschamp to make staff changes, something the former Florida head coach denied.
“I’ll evaluate the staff when the year’s over with just like I always do,” Muschamp said.
South Carolina has struggled most on offense. The Gamecocks average 402.9 yards per game to rank 71st in the country and average 26 points per game to rank 87th. South Carolina came into the season with the Southeastern Conference’s most experienced quarterback in senior Jake Bentley, but he suffered a season-ending foot injury in a season-opening 24-20 loss to North Carolina. True freshman Ryan Hilinski has been the starter with redshirt freshman Dakereon Joyner the backup. South Carolina is averaging 234.7 yards passing to rank 66th but has a passing efficiency rating of 116.48 to rank 107th.
Tennessee and Appalachian State were able to make South Carolina one-dimensional by moving an extra defender closer to the line of scrimmage. Tennessee held South Carolina to 78 yards rushing in a 41-21 victory, and the Gamecocks had a season-low 21 yards rushing against Appalachian State on 27 carries.
Muschamp said the frustrating thing about not being able to run the ball against Appalachian State was that they’d been able to do that earlier in the season when teams loaded the box. South Carolina receivers also had some drops Saturday night.
A&M has allowed 142.1 yards rushing per game to rank 49th. The Aggies, who finished third last season allowing only 95.2 yards per game, gave up 250 yards to Ole Miss and 239 the next week to Mississippi State, though A&M won both games.
NOTES — Trisha and L.C. “Chaz” Neely, class of ’62, will receive this year’s E. King Gill Award from the 12th Man Foundation at halftime of Saturday’s game. The longtime season ticket holders for football, men’s basketball and baseball have made numerous donations to the A&M athletic department for facility upgrades. ... Muschamp worked with A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher at LSU. Muschamp was linebackers coach in 2001, then added defensive coordinator duties the following three seasons. Fisher was LSU’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2000-06. ... Muschamp was Texas’ DC from 2008-10.