College Sports

What went wrong for South Carolina’s passing game against Florida

South Carolina wide receiver Bryan Edwards wanted to make the point clear to his young quarterback Ryan Hilinski.

“It ain’t his fault,” Edwards said. “Obviously sometimes he has some pressure. sometimes he’s got to make some throws, but never put it all yourself. Obviously sometimes guys can run better routes, do a better job of getting open, but we don’t put all the blame on him. We look at ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves, what can we do better?”

The senior expects his quarterback to bounce back, but Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp wasted almost no time pointing to the passing game as a major culprit in USC’s 38-27 loss to the Florida Gators on Saturday.

“We’ve got to find a way to throw the football better,” Muschamp said. “Be more consistent throwing football. They were loading the box. You got to be able to take some shots down the field. We did not hit those shots. We tried in the third quarter.

All told, the Gamecock finished the game with 170 passing yards, with only 75 coming before the fourth quarter. That total took 35 attempts, as USC tried to fight the elements and had more than a few missed connections for one reason or another.

That contrasted with the running game, which delivered more than 240 non-sack yards against a blitz-happy Gators defense. There’s a small irony that last season’s Florida game ended with unwarranted criticism that the staff went too conservative by running the ball.

Muschamp placed the blame in a variety of spots.

“It’s protection, we had some drops today,” Muschamp said. “We just gotta throw and catch the ball better. I said it last week after the Georgia game. We have to be more consistent in the passing game. And we just have not been consistent enough.

“We can’t rely on the running game all the time.”

On the protection side, Hilinski got sacked three times and pressured at least seven times. He also took numerous big hits down the stretch. At times, one could see him standing in, searching out for someone open as the pocket closed down.

One of the more costly passing plays of the day was one that almost turned into a running play. Muschamp explained the design had passing concepts to both sides and an opportunity for Hilinski to hand off to Tavien Feaster on a draw run. But the pressure got there too quickly and Feaster went into pass protection.

Hilinski tried to hand off and the result was a fumble that set up a game-clinching score.

Feaster, like those around him, stepped up to shoulder blame and make clear a rough day didn’t solely reflect on the freshman passer.

“The one turnover, where he tried looking and handed me the ball, that was my fault,” Feaster said. “It was my mistake. But all we’ve got to do is pick it up and move on.”

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West Coast raised. Midwest educated. Southern football indoctrinated. Covers most everything Gamecocks, primarily football.
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