JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — South Carolina added another strange chapter to a season full of twists and turns.

Friday’s 45-38 loss to Notre Dame in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl was unlike any other of their previous 12 games. This one ended sloppier than any of the three blowouts – Georgia (48-7), Arkansas (44-30) and Florida (38-6). Their Missouri loss was one in which they came out flat.

The Gamecocks led 21-7 … but gave up 28 points in the second half. But don’t blame the defense; they scored 2 of the Gamecocks’ touchdowns.

Strange, indeed.

On the Gamecocks’ final possession, there was an illegal block, intentional grounding, and a personal foul. Overall, South Carolina was flagged 8 times for 73 yards.

Yes, this was a crazy game, but the Gamecocks lost their composure on too many occasions. Even head coach Shane Beamer picked up a personal foul penalty in the first half for his badgering of calls.

It should not have unraveled in that fashion, but unfortunately, it did. The Gamecocks had a commanding 21-7 lead after one quarter, and the majority of the Gamecocks’ fans who comprised the 67,385 in attendance would have a happy drive back up I-95 North to their greater Columbia-area confines.

Punter Kai Kroeger threw his second touchdown pass of the season on a beautifully timed and executed 4th-down fake to Hunter Rogers that was part of the first-half fury.

Instead, it likely will be a confused and nauseated drive home.

Punctuated by realizing, again, that their team could be taken apart like they earlier were in the Georgia and Florida losses.

The effort was there, but the execution certainly waned in the second half. The Gamecocks bent all game, and they finally broke — allowing 28 points after the break. It was obvious that cornerbacks Cam Smith, Devonni Reed, and Darius Rush – all who declared for the NFL Draft – were missed in a secondary that had plenty of new names in the mix.

Linebackers Sherrod Green and Brad Johnson had valiant efforts in playing their final game in garnet and white. Lineman Jordan Burch and Tonka Hemingway also proved they can be a force in 2023.

Quarterback Spencer Rattler went through a series of emotions on the field that was another reflection of his career that appeared to be behind him. Rattler was 22-of-28 for 161 for 2 touchdowns in the first half, and 7-for-19 for 85 yards in the second half. In the end, Rattler looked rattled.

This was a South Carolina defense that returned 2 of their 3 interceptions for dramatic touchdowns – a 47-yarder by DQ Smith and a 100-yarder by O’Donnell Fortune – but they allowed 585 of total offense to Notre Dame.

Quarterback Tyler Buchner was named the game’s MVP for his 294 yards passing and 61 yards rushing, a portion of the team’s 264 yards on the ground.

Welcome to another version of Beamer Ball. It was a game in which the Gamecocks couldn’t close out Notre Dame when they had their chance. Instead, the Irish made the necessary adjustments in the second half and wore down the Gamecocks’ defense.

This time around, Beamer Ball left you with another incident of looking for the Pepto-Bismol. It wasn’t the time when you felt like popping a bottle of champagne.

This one certainly will begin to raise the questions of the 2023 squad after the 2022 season ended with an unexpected 8-5 mark after some late-season surprises. After the final gun sounded, the statement victories over Tennessee and Clemson seemed too far away.

Will Rattler return? Before the game, Rattle praised Beamer and felt the obligation to him and the program to play in the game while several of his teammates took off for the transfer portal or for some presumed greener pastures in the NFL.

Rattler showed plenty of grit and character in the team’s opening drive that resulted in a score as well as his first-half performance of dunking short passes over the middle and in the flats.

But he looked a bit frazzled at times in the second half when Notre Dame adjusted to the short passing game and also won the line of scrimmage. It will be interesting to see if Rattler believes there is enough around him for a run next season.

Wide receivers Xavier Legette and Dakereon Joyner, both of whom could return next year due to the COVID season, showed they can be effective weapons alongside Antwane “Juice” Wells, who had a quiet night.

Running back Juju McDowell had some moments, but the offensive line couldn’t create enough holes for him. McDowell likely will be the team’s feature back next fall.

There will be plenty to reflect upon about this game and this season for quite some time. It was a campaign in which the Gamecocks answered their critics, but the Notre Dame defeat certainly will leave some doubts in the minds of others.