South Carolina Football Three Keys: Chattanooga


The South Carolina Gamecocks could see that continuing to spread the field and throw the ball represented the way to attack the Florida Gators’ defense. Yet, with a 31-14 lead in this past Saturday’s game, the coaching staff decided to sit on the lead and run the ball.

By Matt Zemek

By the time Florida had scored 21 straight points – by running the ball the way the Gamecocks hoped to do, but were never in position to do – South Carolina had lost all of its momentum and offensive flow. The offense could never get unstuck and restarted after the coaching staff essentially shut it down. This loss fell squarely on the coaches for not coaching all 60 minutes.

Yes, fans and commentators watching on TV thought that game was done and dusted when the Gamecocks were up 17 against a bad Florida quarterback, Feleipe Franks, but the assumption was not unreasonable. It presumed that with ample time left in the game, South Carolina would continue to do the things it had been doing.

That didn’t happen.

Now the season looks and feels very different, and the future of the program feels a lot more tenuous.

No, a win over Florida wouldn’t have meant a chance at a high-end January bowl bid. It wouldn’t have meant that the Gamecocks were ready to continue to outflank the Gators in future seasons. It would, however, have sent a message to Dan Mullen that he would have to come up with something better to foil South Carolina in future seasons. Now, the development of the Mullen era feels like more of an obstacle to the Gamecocks, who are in danger of becoming a middle-of-the-pack SEC East team on a regular basis. That’s exactly what the program had hoped to avoid in 2018.

This Saturday’s game against Chattanooga – as with the other SEC cupcake games played this week – is meant to give the Gamecocks a breather before their big rivalry game the following week. This game is scheduled in order to manage bodies and emotions before Clemson comes across the schedule.


The Gamecocks will face a supremely physical challenge from Clemson, so Will Muschamp needs this to be a game in which backups and less tested players get a lot of reps so that the frontline starters and dependable players – especially those nursing even slight-to-modest bumps and bruises – can fully gear up for Dabo Swinney’s boys a week from now. Coaches in this situation need to trust that players lower on the depth chart can handle FBS competition. If they aren’t secure enough to trust the mid-level players on their roster, why then schedule this game?


There are games in which a team should want there to be as many plays as possible, because there are situations in which tiring out an opposing defense and/or creating rhythm for your own offense are advisable. In this game, however, South Carolina – or any team in an equivalent position – should want fewer snaps to have less wear and tear and a shorter game which will cause fewer headaches and speed up the arrival of Clemson Week.


Keep the playbook as simple as possible. Give Dabo and his staff nothing to work with.

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