The Gamecocks can’t let that hangover turn into something more damaging to their season.
Leading as the fourth quarter started against a top-10 team is a good spot to be in. Doing so with the ball is better.
But it’s far, far from a locked-in game.
Even as Florida didn’t look good most of the day in its 38-27 win, it’s still a strong outfit. Holding the Gators down for 15 more minutes would’ve been a challenge, and a week after doing nearly everything right down the stretch against Georgia, most of those little fourth-quarter things went awry.
Last week’s break of an interception in a vital spot turned this week into a fumbled handoff when a running back miscommunicated with a quarterback. The Gamecocks could hold on with a struggling passing game last week. That caught up with them Saturday.
This is, to a degree, the yin and yang of college football. Not that it salves the sting in South Carolina’s locker room.
“No, I don’t do moral victories,” USC receiver Bryan Edwards said. “I don’t do those little things. You win or lose. That’s it.”
Had the Gamecocks won, it would’ve been only their 11th win over a top-10 team since at least 1967. That would’ve been a nice thing to put on the mantel for this team.
But some of their biggest business is coming next.
Next week, Will Muschamp’s squad visits a Tennessee team that might be righting the ship. The week after, they draw a dismal Vanderbilt team in Columbia. For a three-win outfit, victories four and five will loom large. A 6-6 season with this schedule that includes a Georgia win isn’t cause for Gamecocks fans to celebrate, but it’s not backsliding in a massive way.
Let Saturday’s close game produce a hangover, and all the good will of the Georgia win dissipates just like that.
In the end, a win Saturday was a want, something South Carolina was in position to take despite issues with the passing game. Maybe down the line it’s something that looms larger across the season, as last year’s loss in Gainesville did.
While that was a want, for this team in this moment, the next two weeks and taking care of business are far more crucial needs.