SOUTH CAROLINA EMBARRASSED IN STARKVILLE …
The Will Muschamp era at the University of South Carolina came crashing back to reality this week. With a thud.
After a come-from-behind road SEC win against Vanderbilt in his Gamecock coaching debut last week, Muschamp’s team was manhandled in Starkville, Mississippi on Saturday night.
For more than three-and-a-half quarters, the Gamecock offense was held to less than 100 total yards – an absolutely anemic performance that put the team in a 24-0 hole. This “offensive” ineptitude sealed South Carolina’s fate against an angry Mississippi State squad that atoned for its embarrassing defeat a week ago against South Alabama.
The Gamecocks (1-1, 1-1 SEC) put together a pair of late touchdown drives under true freshman quarterback Brandon McIlwain, but they were thoroughly outmatched by the Bulldogs (1-1, 1-0 SEC) on both sides of the football.
The final score of the game was 27-14 – but it wasn’t that close. Not by a long shot.
Mississippi State’s offense – led by quarterback Nick Fitzgerald – put up a whopping 485 total yards against South Carolina’s porous, poor-tackling defense.
Whenever the Gamecocks needed a big stop … they instead wound up getting #MoreCowbell (Mississippi State’s way of celebrating big plays).
The only thing stopping the Bulldog onslaught? A lengthy lightning delay at halftime that pushed back the start of the third quarter by more than an hour.
It didn’t silence the cowbells for long.
Fitzgerald did most of the damage himself – setting the school’s single-game record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 195 yards on the ground. That’s a pretty impressive feat seeing as he’s trying to replace none other than Dak Prescott – who amassed more than 2,500 yards on the ground during his four years under center in Starkville.
In addition to his record-setting rushing performance, Fitzgerald threw for 178 yards and a pair of touchdowns for the Bulldogs (1-1, 1-0 SEC).
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen said prior to the game that Fitzgerald would start – and finish – Saturday’s contest.
He did – and South Carolina’s arm-tackling defenders made him look like a Heisman Trophy candidate.
Meanwhile the Gamecock offense managed a paltry 243 total yards – 163 of them picked up on a pair of fourth quarter touchdown drives engineered by McIlwain. The true freshman – who took over in the second half for the ineffective Perry Orth – completed 11 of 22 passes for 126 yards and two scores.
True freshman wide receiver Bryan Edwards – who had a 100-yard game against Vanderbilt – was held in check by the Bulldogs, catching two passes for only 38 yards.
After correctly calling the upset in Nashville a week ago, we obviously missed badly on this week‘s #FITSPick prediction. Not only did the Gamecocks fail to build on their impressive second half comeback against Vanderbilt – their abysmal showing in Starkville on both sides of the ball signals serious trouble ahead.
SOUTH CAROLINA-MISSISSIPPI STATE GAME BOOK (.pdf)
(Banner Pic Via Travis Bell Photography)