The SEC may leave little room for error, but it leaves even less room for self-pity.
Celebrating after a win, seething after a loss – whatever the outcome, feelings can’t linger long in the SEC. Coaches warn players about looking ahead; in reality, looking behind can be just as reckless. The clock is already ticking on the next opponent.
So after a humbling, 44-11 defeat to #2 Florida at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, South Carolina (6-2, 4-2 SEC) heads back to work Sunday, trying to regroup for its next SEC matchup against Tennessee. The regular season may not end with a trip to Atlanta, but it can still end memorably – so long as the Gamecocks direct their energies wisely.
“Notes, Quotes, and Anecdotes” on a night where “The Swamp” claimed another victim:
Laying It On The “Line”: The numbers, combined with the injuries, offered a gloomy outlook. LSU had just dashed and gashed the Gamecocks for 258 rushing yards. The next opponent, Florida, ranked 2nd in the SEC in rushing, and carved up Vanderbilt for 326 yards in a 31-17 win. The Gamecocks’ interior line was also hurting, with defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles (injury/suspension) not making the trip to Florida and Byron Jerideau nursing a heavily-taped sprained ankle. All signs pointed to a long, difficult day in the trenches.
Yet the Gamecocks’ defensive line came through with a gutsy effort against the Gators. Carolina bottled up most of Florida’s between-the-tackles runs, and prevented Mike Gillislee, the SEC’s second-leading rusher (102.5 ypg), from opening his stride. On Friday, we noted that one of Gillislee’s strengths was his ability to take hits, and grind out yards after contact. In 120 carries on the season, Gillislee had only amassed 9 loss yards. In 19 carries against Carolina, Gillislee had 10 loss yards.
Mike Gilislee Carries Loss Yards
Games 1-6 120 9
vs. South Carolina 19 10
Devin Taylor and Jadeveon Clowney also used their length and speed to neutralize Florida’s zone-read option. One week after breaking Tim Tebow’s school record for rushing yards by a quarterback (177), Florida QB Jeff Driskel managed only -5 rushing yards. However, an average starting field position of the 50-yard line can put a strain on even the most valiant defenses.
Been There, Done That: Florida knows exactly how South Carolina feels. The Gamecocks allowed 183 yards of total offense, yet fell to the Gators 44-11. Last year, Florida held rival Florida State to 95 yards on 59 plays, yet still dropped a 21-7 decision to FSU. That gave Florida the “Backhanded Compliment” award for fewest yards allowed by a losing team in the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2011.
Fortunately, the Gamecocks will avoid that fate this year. On September 29, SMU limited TCU to 156 yards of offense, but fell 24-16. Like Carolina’s game, turnovers were the culprit: the Mustangs threw 5 interceptions and lost a fumble in a driving rainstorm in Dallas.
Incoming! Jadeveon Clowney’s sack of Florida QB Jeff Driskel moved him into the top 5 in school history in sacks.
Seasoned Vets: I asked Shaq Wilson this week if the Gamecocks’ linebacking corps takes any ribbing from their teammates for their, ahem, advanced age. South Carolina features five seniors among the six players listed on their depth chart.
“They mess with us all the time on that. The young guys pick on us, telling us they have fresh legs all the time,” Wilson told me.
Wisecracks aside, the Gamecock linebackers again played with fire. A week after Wilson posted a career-high 14 tackles, Reginald Bowens followed suit with a career-high 11 tackles against Florida.
No Late Arrivals: If the last three meetings between the Gamecocks and Gators have taught us anything, it’s to get in your seats early:
* In 2010, Florida’s Andre Debose ran back the opening kickoff for a touchdown.
* In 2011, Florida quarterback John Brantley lost a fumble on the first play from scrimmage.
* In 2012, Connor Shaw did the same, giving Florida possession at the Carolina 2.
Adam Yates’ 51-yard field goal helped the Gamecocks achieve a scoring rarity.
Red Zone Woes: On Friday’s “Inside The Chart” we pointed out Florida’s puzzling struggles in Red Zone Touchdowns. Perhaps belying their #2 national ranking, the Gators ranked 85th in the Football Bowl Subdivision in Red Zone Touchdown % (8 of 20, 40%). Meanwhile, the Gamecock defense had only allowed 5 touchdowns in 19 red-zone chances (26.3%), the second-lowest percentage in the country behind Notre Dame.
Funny how a couple of fumble recoveries deep inside your own territory can flip those percentages. The Gators scored touchdowns on 6 of 7 red zone opportunities.
And Finally… The Gamecocks scored 11 points in a game for the first time since a 14-11 loss to Miami (OH) in 1973.
Join us this week as we begin our prep for a long-welcome home game against Tennessee. Thanks for diving “Inside The Chart” with us. -AD–