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Gamecocks Get Biggest Win of Muschamp Era

Biggest Win Of Muschamp Era

South Carolina revitalized its season with a big 20-17 upset win over Georgia in double overtime this past weekend. The victory moves them to 3-3 overall, and should provide a boost heading into the back half of the schedule. Coming off the biggest win in the Will Muschamp era, the team now sits at a crossroads. It can become a springboard to build upon, or just a singular moment if they don’t carry the momentum forward. The Gamecocks now must respond the right way following their monumental victory in Athens.

Biggest Win of Will Muschamp Era

South Carolina can savor in upsetting their rival on the road, but they need this win to be a stepping stone and not a milestone. This team must now show they can handle success and remained focused. They have gotten the “can’t beat a ranked team” monkey off their back. Now its time to prove they can perform consistently well week in and week out. Beating the Bulldogs is a signature win for the program, but it will mean a lot more if it coincides with a strong finish to the season. The Gamecocks are now 2-11 against ranked teams during Muschamp’s tenure. This weekend they have chance to build on the momentum they brought home from Athens, with the ninth ranked Florida Gators coming to town.

Second Half Push

The colder months have been good to South Carolina the last few seasons. This program is also becoming a very tough team to handle off of their bye week. The Gamecocks are 12-6 over the second half of the season during the first three years of coach Muschamp’s tenure. Finishing strong in 2019 will be a tall task with three ranked teams remaining on the schedule. However, a road win over the third ranked Bulldogs should give this team that confidence and belief that they can win each Saturday, regardless of who lines up across from them. Finding consistency has been the theme of 2019, and now the Gamecocks must prove they can sustain and improve on their level of play from this two game win streak.

This season is a bit of an anomaly with many programs getting two bye weeks on their schedule. That is something that should make South Carolina fans very happy. Coach Muschamp’s team is now 4-0 coming off of a bye week, with all of those being SEC wins. If that trend continues, everyone associated with the program will be very pleased with where the second bye week lands. That is of course a down the road, and this team has plenty of football before we get to that.

Get Healthy

Beyond the jubilation and hedge trimming following this past Saturday’s victory was a feeling of concern under center. Ryan Hilinski had to leave the game in the third quarter with a sprained knee, and he was replaced by Dakereon Joyner. The reports are that Hilinski’s knee injury is not serious, and he should be able to go against the Gators. How much he can practice this week is still in question. For a true freshman quarterback, missing practice reps could be crucial. He missed prep time before the trip to Missouri, and it showed in his performance. Hilinski has shown he can sling the ball all over, but he needs to be healthy and upright to do so.

Joyner has also missed time recently while recovering from a hamstring issue. That coupled with his preseason move to wide receiver makes his relief performance in Athens all the more impressive. The offense scored only three points with him under center, but he still showed the leadership and poise you want from at the position. Despite the lack of production on the scoreboard, Joyner led the offense well. They were able to avoid three and outs. Moving the ball moderately for a few first downs helped rest the defense, and it made a difference.

If he can be back to full go in practice, his rhythm and efficiency should both improve if his number is called again. He is a special talent that needs to get the ball.  Whether it is in a relief role under center or on the perimeter as a true play maker, he is important to this offense.

Fine Tuning

The last two games have been two of the Gamecocks better 60 minute performances during coach Muschamp’s tenure in Columbia. The team played with the focus and physicality needed to win in the SEC. The work is never done though, and improvement is always necessary. The defense has really raised its level of play the last few ball games, starting with its ability to control the line of scrimmage. They are producing negative plays on a regular basis and the tackling has improved dramatically since the beginning of 2019the year.

They do still need to shore up a few things, especially on third down. The Bulldogs were 9-18 converting third downs, and it led to the defense playing far too many snaps. For the season they are allowing a 37% third down conversion rate to opponents. That number was helped greatly by holding Kentucky to 2-15. Overall the defense needs to improve at finishing drives by getting off the field on third down. When they are fresh, the are showing they can be as stingy as they come.

Spread It Around

On the other side of the ball, it seems an identity is being formed. This offense is becoming one that is reliant on its physicality and run game. Rico Dowdle is having his best season in garnet and black, and Tavien Feaster has proven to be a very reliable second option. The run game is crucial due to the inexperience at quarterback. Now the Gamecocks need to have a few more options at receiver step up to help senior Bryan Edwards. He is just 12 receptions away from breaking the Gamecock’s career record held by the late Kenny McKinley.

One way to lighten his load is for offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon to find more ways to get Shi Smith the ball. He is second to Edwards in receptions and yards, but he needs to touch the ball more often. They have tried to get Smith the ball on the perimeter, but might need to use him as a downfield thereat more often. If one of the younger guys like OrTre Smith, Josh Vann, Xavier Legette could have a break out game it could really provide a boost to the offense.

Keep It Moving

Last year, the Gamecocks had a 31-14 fourth quarter lead in Gainesville before folding late. Along with the current momentum from the current win streak, this team will expect to win on Saturday. The task won’t be easy, as the Gators are playing excellent football. Florida is in the midst of a brutal stretch of their schedule. The Gamecocks need to start fast and try to put pressure on them early.

There are a few trends moving in South Carolina’s favor though with how they’ve improved in the back half of the last few seasons. The program’s identity is beginning to surface, and it is based in physicality and resilience. Now they have the opportunity to show they can handle success, remain consistent, and build on one of the biggest wins in school history.

 

Muschamp Era Main Photo:

ATHENS, GA – OCTOBER 12: Georgia defensive players try to block a South Carolina field goal attempt during a college football game between the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Georgia Bulldogs on October 12, 2019, at Sanford Stadium in Athens, GA. (Photo by Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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