The sad thing for Gamecocks faithful is that they’ve been here before. This has the same kind of feeling as the 1-3 start.

There are questions at quarterback and in the secondary, and South Carolina can’t run the ball very well. The Gamecocks, in a season resembling last year’s, have their second pair of consecutive losses after Saturday’s 41-21 defeat to Tennessee, putting their bowl hopes are in jeopardy. Sitting at 3-5 overall and 2-4 in the SEC, South Carolina needs three wins to clinch a bowl berth out of remaining games against Vanderbilt and Appalachian State, at Texas A&M and vs. Clemson.

Trends that have plagued the team all season continued, most notably in the fourth quarter, when South Carolina has been outscored 83-45. On Saturday, the Gamecocks went 4-for-9 on third-down conversions in the first half but 0-for-9 in the second. 

Two weeks after a tremendous performance at Georgia, and a week after a decent performance against Florida, the secondary was torched, largely by Marquez Callaway and Jauan Jennings.

“We didn’t cover No. 15 and No. 1,” South Carolina coach Will Muschamp said, referring to their jersey numbers. “We had a really hard time matching up on those guys. We knew that going into the game. We’ve had a hard time matching up with those guys since they’ve been here. We’ve been fortunate enough to come out the three previous years and get the win; we just didn’t today. But we had a hard time covering and tackling No. 15 in space. He’s a competitive guy, and you have to give those guys credit, but we didn’t cover very well on those guys.”

Cornerback Jaycee Horn, perhaps responding to critics, said it’s not as bad as advertised, despite the record and second set of back-to-back losses.

“I don’t think we’ve really played that bad this season,” he said. “Tonight, they were running a lot of coverage beaters and hitting us across the middle of the field. And we had a safety in the middle of the field on some coverages. I don’t think we’ve really been playing as bad as everybody’s making it seem everywhere else.”

All of that overshadowed a strong performance from wide receiver Bryan Edwards, who set South Carolina’s career receptions record when he notched his fifth of the game in the third quarter, breaking Kenny McKinney’s record of 207. Edwards also moved into second place in career receiving yards after recording 83. He caught a pass for the 46th consecutive game with a 7-yard catch in the second quarter, extending his school record.

South Carolina wide receiver Bryan Edwards now holds the school record for career receptions. Photo by: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

“It’s a great feeling to break a record that was put there by guys like Shannon Sharpe and Alshon Jeffery, but I still want to win and want to break the rest of those records,” Edwards said.

Edwards also had perhaps the catch of the year before halftime, a one-handed grab that was nearly ruled a touchdown but was ultimately ruled out of bounds inside the 1.

“I got a bad release, so I was kind of trying to go and make a play and not let the guys force me out of bounds,” Edwards said. “Ryan (Hilinski) threw a great ball, and I went up and made a play. I wish I would have scored.”

The disappointing but accurate statement is that the Gamecocks have been in this position before. So on the one hand, they should know how to bounce back from it. But on the other, why must they go through this repeatedly?

“We’re definitely going to respond in the right way,” Edwards said. “We always do. We never let a loss beat us twice. We just have to keep going, keep your head down and move onto the next game.”

Next up is a game against Vanderbilt in Columbia.