The University of South Carolina football team collapsed for the third time in the last six years against Florida – coughing up yet another fourth quarter lead to the Gators en route to a heartbreaking homecoming loss at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday night.
The Gamecocks (2-4, 1-3 SEC) gave up three critical fourth down conversions to Florida in the final ten minutes of the game – stops that would have sealed a potentially season-defining victory.
As disappointing as the on-field meltdown was, third-year head coach Shane Beamer had a meltdown of his own after the game – slamming his defensive unit for failing to run the plays called for them.
“We call pressures and we don’t run them,” a frustrated Beamer said during his postgame press conference. “We play man coverage and didn’t do a great job of keeping leverage. Just in the first half alone, we ran a pressure where the corner came and for some reason he stopped – and we gave up an explosive pass because we didn’t continue to run the pressure.”
“We had another pressure call where we didn’t run it in the first half,” Beamer continued, laying into his defense. “We had a holding penalty in the secondary in the first half. We had another pressure on third down backed up where we were going to be off the field in the first half and we didn’t execute it properly.”
But Beamer also claimed calls that were executed correctly failed because Florida made big plays.
“We had some calls that were perfect calls,” Beamer said. “We ran an edge pressure; if somebody had said a team is getting ready to run a reverse, what would be the perfect call? You would bring both people off the edge. We had a perfect call sometimes and their guy made the play and we didn’t.”
As criticism of Beamer mounted, he began to walk back his previous comments.
“I made the comment about not running pressures, and I think that came across as, ‘We’re calling something and guys aren’t running them,’” Beamer said during his Sunday evening teleconference. “That’s not necessarily the case. There were times, like I said, when Florida gave us a formation that we had to adjust to, and whether that meant we got out of the pressure or someone else ran it, we didn’t do a great job of that throughout that night.”
“We didn’t do a great job of adjusting; sometimes we did well but we just weren’t consistent enough in adjusting to their formations,” Beamer added. “When we did run the pressures, I didn’t think our mentality in running the pressure wasn’t what we needed to be, if that makes sense. When we call a pressure, we need to hit it and we need to go and it needs to be very evident that we’re bringing extra people. And I didn’t think we were great at that last night. Ultimately that’s on us as a coaches.”
“My frustration, and I told the team, is we just needed to make one more play,” Beamer said. “Somewhere.”
(Click to view)
Indeed … they just couldn’t make it.
As I have previously reported, Beamer has exceeded expectations in back-to-back seasons in Columbia, S.C. He inherited an absolute dumpster fire of a program following the 2020 season, and in guiding the Gamecocks to back-to-back bowl games the last two years he has consistently silenced those (including me) who were critical of his hiring three years ago.
He’s also given himself a long(ish) leash when it comes to “programmatic downturns.”
Of course, former head coach Will Muschamp also exceeded expectations during his first two years on the job in 2016 and 2017 – after inheriting a similar dumpster fire to the one he handed off to Beamer. Muschamp proceeded to implode after his hot start, though … and got fired midway through the 2020 season.
That’s the thing about expectations … you’ve got to keep meeting them. Even after you’ve raised them.
For South Carolina, its inability to match elevated expectations so far this season begins and ends on the defensive side of the football.
The Gamecocks rank No. 105 nationally (out of 130 FBS programs) in scoring defense, giving up 31.33 points per game. Coordinator Clayton White‘s unit is faring even worse in total defense, surrendering an average of 451.5 yards per game – which ranks No. 121 in the country. On fourth down, opponents are converting 71.4 percent of their chances – which ranks South Carolina No. 119 nationally.
(Click to view)
These atrocious defensive outcomes are squandering some standout offensive output, too. Quarterback Spencer Rattler is having a sensational year throwing the football, completing 142 of 194 passes (73.6 percent) for 1,724 yards with 11 touchdowns against only four interceptions. The 6-foot-1, 217-pound senior transfer has also rushed for 129 yards and a pair of scores.
Rattler ranks his jersey number (No. 7) nationally in terms of completion percentage and No. 19 in passing efficiency.
His top target? Xavier Legette. The 6-foot-3, 227-pound Mullins, S.C. native has caught 37 passes for 716 yards and three scores so far this season. Legette ranks No. 4 nationally in receiving yards per game (119.3) and No. 5 nationally in total receiving yards.
South Carolina has not had an easy row to hoe this season. But no row is easy to hoe in the SEC. In addition to Florida, its other losses have come against the No. 1 (Georgia), No. 10 (North Carolina) and No. 17 (Tennessee) teams in the country. A road trip to No. 20 Missouri is on tap this weekend, and upcoming games on the road against Texas A&M and at home against Kentucky and Clemson present real challenges.
The Gamecocks’ schedule is currently the second hardest in the nation, according to Power Rankings Guru.
Beamer’s odds of making it to three consecutive bowl games appear longer than ever … which has fans scratching their heads and pundits giving the 46-year-old head coach the business.
Should Gamecock Nation panic? No … not necessarily. At least not yet.
South Carolina showed a year ago it could beat anybody with back-to-back upsets of Tennessee and Clemson. The problem is Beamer’s team is going to have to beat pretty much everybody the rest of the way to salvage a season that started with such high hopes.
Again, that’s the thing about those pesky expectations …
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven (soon to be eight) children.
WANNA SOUND OFF?
Got something you’d like to say in response to one of our articles? Or an issue you’d like to proactively address? We have an open microphone policy here at FITSNews! Submit your letter to the editor (or guest column) via email HERE. Got a tip for a story? CLICK HERE. Got a technical question or a glitch to report? CLICK HERE.