COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina had 25 practices in 40 days to prepare for the first game of the season, but the Gamecocks found themselves on the wrong end of a 31-27 loss after the Volunteers recovered a “muffed punt” that bounced off Cam Smith’s leg.
In hindsight, not being around the ball in a play like that can be avoided as the team generally signals to players to get away from it. Yes, it was a costly error, but it wasn’t the only one.
“We knew it was going to be a tight ball game. We knew it was going to come down to a one-score game,” said Muschamp. “That’s exactly what we talked about with our players. We had an opportunity with 1:29 to go win the game and it didn’t happen that way. No one play lost us the game. We had our opportunities.”
In a four-point loss, you could also turn to the only defensive touchdown of the contest scored by Tennessee. The interception, which bounced off Shi Smith’s hands after an errant throw was hauled in by Henry To’o To’o before he was escorted to the end zone by a blocking caravan of Volunteers.
“There’s a lot of plays in the game,” said Gamecocks quarterback Collin Hill. “For me, I can’t turn the ball over. I turned the ball over, gave up points, and you can’t do that.”
While those were two of the bigger miscues, the Gamecocks can take solace in knowing that this contest was one that could have easily gone their way in spite of those mistakes.
The Gamecocks held Tennessee to just two fourth-quarter field goals and 98 yards.
Carolina took a top 25 team to the limit and nearly gave themselves a shot to win in the final moments. What it ultimately comes down to is dotting the necessary I’s and crossing all of the T’s moving forward.
During the postgame interviews, Carolina linebacker Ernest Jones said he had no intention of laying down going forward while Hill provided the positive outlook that all the team’s goals were still in front of them despite the loss.
The Gamecocks will get to make amends next weekend on the road against another ranked team in No. 5 Florida.
This season, WIS Sports Reporter Emery Glover will provide reaction from games in an op-ed called “Fair Catch.” Be sure to catch the latest installment every week.