South Carolina football: Gamecocks need spark late in games
So much for making history with back-to-back upsets of top 10 teams.
South Carolina continues to show glaring weaknesses at the end of games and that surfaced again Saturday, as the Gamecocks led 20-17 at the end of the third quarter but lost to Florida 38-27.
That meant South Carolina was outscored 21-7 in the fourth quarter, which continues an alarming trend. The Gamecocks have only outscored one opponent in the fourth quarter this season: Charleston Southern, 21-7. They tied with Kentucky (7-7), but otherwise they’ve been outscored in every other game. The running total is now up to 73-45.
“Get the lead in the fourth quarter, got to make some plays. We didn’t do that. They made the plays at the end and we didn’t, and that’s on me,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said. “We’ve got to find a way to throw the football better, and be more consistent throwing the football. They were loading the box, you’ve got to be able to take some shots down the field, we didn’t.”
Florida coach Dan Mullen noted how the game changed in the fourth quarter.
“I think really the first three quarters of the game they dominated field position,” Mullen said. “You know it was just playing to win. They kept us pinned deep, made us have to go the length of the field. They won the field position game and they did what they needed to, but in the fourth quarter I think we were able to flip that. We were able to create a turnover, create some positive drives, finish drives in the red zone and a really good finish to the game by our guys.”
Muschamp noted that there were drops for the first time this season. However, QB Ryan Hilinski missed some passes on overthrows, so it appeared to be a mixed bag of problems in the downfield passing game.
“Being more consistent in the passing game, and we just haven’t been consistent enough,” Muschamp said. “Throwing the football to get people off of us. You can’t rely on the running game all the time.”
Muschamp and WR Bryan Edwards both said the struggling passing game isn’t all on Hilinski.
“It isn’t his fault,” Edwards said. “I mean obviously he has some pressure, but never put it all on yourself. Sometimes guys need to run better routes and do a better job getting open. We don’t put all the blame on him, we all look ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves what it is that we can do better. Ryan is a strong kid. He is going to bounce back the right way and he always responds the right way. We have seen it before.”
Part of the issue is a play-calling as offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon appeared to struggle with balance in this one.
A key sequence against Florida came when the score was tied at 17 late in the third quarter. After a series of successful runs, McClendon called a pass play on first and goal from the 6-yard line. Hilinski was sacked on the only pass call on a 12-play drive when the Gamecocks churned out 81 yards rushing.
Aside from the late tack-on touchdown after the game was decided, South Carolina struggled offensively in the fourth quarter. The Gamecocks had 7 first downs, but 4 came on the touchdown drive that cut it to an 11-point deficit.
RB Tavien Feaster said fourth-quarter turnovers “killed us,” but that wasn’t the only problem.
“Just finishing games,” he said. “I believe that we need to have everyone come out and do their job and do the little things. Going out and executing like the coaches want us to do. If we do that, we should be just fine.”