Fresh off a bye week, South Carolina needed to come out strong to kick off the second half of the schedule. Instead it looked as if they were coming off a two week vacation from practice this past Saturday. The Gamecocks lost in embarrassing fashion for the second consecutive game as Texas A&M pummeled them 48-3. First, a quick nod to the Aggie defense which deserved a shutout. They were denied one by a gutless field goal attempt late in the fourth quarter by South Carolina. This was near the end of a pitiful display by the home team. The guys in garnet and black were pushed around on their home field all night.
The Gamecocks are on the brink of a fully fledged collapse with four games to go. Any positives built in the wins over Auburn and Vanderbilt has dissipated over the past two games. Losing is bad enough, but getting out classed and out coached in such a manner leads for questions throughout the entire program.
Gamecocks Lost On The Field And The Sidelines
Will Muschamp continues to tout his moderate early success in Columbia when pressed about the current state of the program. Winning nine games in year two doesn’t mean that much when you are 6-12 over the last season and a half. The inconsistencies in performance and focus have been recurring issues for Muschamp’s Gamecocks. Far too often his team shows up on Saturdays looking ill prepared for the game they are playing. There is talent on this roster, but the leadership and production have repeatedly fallen short.
Same Old Story
The Gamecocks lost their first two ball games, but there were signs that the team had improved from last season. Then after a blowout of Vanderbilt and the school’s first win over Auburn since 1933, there were signs of positive momentum. All of that came crashing down in Baton Rouge, and then with a bye week to prepare the team fell flat again versus Texas A&M. Muschamp’s tenure can be encapsulated in the past four weeks. Anything positive that gets built over the course of a game or two quickly becomes undone by a head scratching performance. Time and time again over the past few seasons this program will shows signs of progress and momentum, looked unfit to handle success in their next opportunity.
Muschamp’s value as a head coach has been hung on his defensive prowess and his ability to recruit. Neither of those things is coming to fruition right now. He has had some recruiting wins, but this roster still has far too many holes at key positions. That is of course part recruiting and part player development. His defense has given up 991 yards and 100 points in the past two games. The same issues continue to plague this team. As you watch the games it becomes clear that the changes needed to be made simply are not happening. The defense plays soft coverage and lacks any aggression in its game planning. They have also become victim to far too many busts in coverage and run fits.
Die On That Hill
Quarterback Colin Hill has been put in an unenviable situation. After playing solid football for the first four weeks, Hill has been very poor the last two games. His teammates haven’t helped much, as the receiving corps outside of Shi Smith has no one that has proved capable of stepping up. Dropped passes have plagued this offense. The quarterback position always garners both more credit and blame than they deserve due to the nature of the position. He has become a focal point of displeasure from a fan base that wants to see last season’s starter Ryan Hilinski get his chance to spark the offense. However, Coach Muschamp’s stubbornness over making a switch under center has kept that from happening.
The last two ball games have each been decided by halftime. The offense has looked stagnant in each instance, but even down big in the second half, Hill keeps trotting back out there. The same issues were prevalent when Jake Bentley was here. He received far too much blame when things didn’t go well. However, there were multiple games when it was clear he wasn’t playing well, and a change was needed. The change was not made then, and it isn’t being made now. The options behind Hill are much better than they were with Bentley.
This increases the frustration in staff’s unwillingness to try something different. Hilinski did get in the fourth after Texas A&M had taken a 41-0 lead. His first pass to Smith got them across the 50 yard line for just the third time all night. The Gamecocks proceeded to run the ball 5 of the next seven plays before kicking a pity field goal to avoid a shutout.
The last two performances have been dreadful. Trying to find things worthy of praise is tough on the heels of these two losses. There have been some players whose efforts are worthy of praise even during a 2-6 start to the season. Kevin Harris and Deshaun Fenwick have both been impressive toting the rock in the run game. Tailback was a big question mark heading into the season, and both guys have stepped up. Harris has been one of the best tailbacks in the SEC. Fenwick has been tough and productive in the back-up role.
Smith has been the only reliable option in the passing game. The last few games opponents have keyed on him, and no one else has helped pick up the slack. Ernest Jones at linebacker and Jaycee Horn at corner have both been consistent performers on defense, but that unit as a whole has been very disappointing. Kingsley Enagbare started the season well, but has not produce much in the last two games.
Finding Their Way
Despite the manner in which the Gamecocks lost their past two games, there are chances to finish the season strong. The back half of the schedule only has one ranked opponent, so there are wins available. This team has to find itself again, and figure out what they need to do to play with more consistent effort and focus.