South Carolina football’s biggest questions after Florida loss
COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s 38-6 football loss to Florida at The Swamp on Saturday couldn’t have been much worse for the Gamecocks.
With running backs Marshawn Lloyd and Christian Beal-Smith injured, South Carolina’s offense never got off the ground. The team’s only points came from a 48-yard touchdown pass thrown by punter Kai Kroeger on a fake punt. The Gamecocks (6-4, 3-4 SEC) were 3 of 11 in third against Florida’s 9 of 15, and the defense allowed the Gators (6-4, 3-4) to pick up 6.9 yards per carry for 374 total rushing yards.
Here are the biggest questions for South Carolina with two games left in the season:
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What happened to the defense in the first half?
South Carolina’s defensive performance was starkly different before and after halftime — the Gamecocks gave up 219 yards in the first quarter alone and allowed the Gators to score on each of their first four possessions with three touchdowns and a field goal. The Gamecocks looked totally ill-prepared to handle Florida’s running game, giving up 281 rushing yards, including an 85-yard touchdown from rookie Trevor Etienne.
When the attack fumbled on three consecutive drives to start the second half, the defense suddenly seemed alive. It allowed just one touchdown on three straight drives starting inside USC’s 30-yard line, and it forced the Gators’ first punt of the game to end the third quarter. After Florida recorded 362 offensive yards in the first half, the Gamecocks cut that production in half, giving up 153 yards in the second.
Hopefully there will be more concrete answers after defensive coordinator Clayton White meets the media on Wednesday, but here’s my best guess: South Carolina expected Florida to lean more into the game of passes like she had for the past few weeks, so the original game plan centered around that. . Against Georgia and Texas A&M, Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson threw for over 200 yards, and he recorded a career-high 453 yards against Tennessee in Week 4.
However, Florida’s top receiver Justin Shorter was ruled out against the Gamecocks, and South Carolina wasn’t ready to handle Gators running backs plus a leading Richardson. The 93 yards rushing the Gamecocks allowed in the second half showed they were capable of stopping the run. It just took too long to get there.
What does the future look like for the offensive coordinator?
It’s been a tough year for South Carolina offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield, one of the only members of Shane Beamer’s staff not to receive a raise or contract extension past the 2021 season. Gamecocks offense has been among the worst in the SEC: They’re 11th in total offense and rushing yards, ninth in points per game and last in turnover margin
After the abysmal performance against Florida, it seems like a virtual guarantee that Satterfield will be fired at the end of the season. The real question now is when that shot will happen, and South Carolina’s bowl eligibility complicates that a bit. Satterfield’s contract ends on December 31 and his contract states that he owes $200,000 if his employment is terminated before then. In college football, that’s not a huge amount, but the university could always choose to wait.
If Satterfield is fired between the final game of the regular season and the Gamecocks bowl game, there are a few main options internally to support play calls. Senior analyst Freddie Kitchens spent time as coordinator offensive in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns and New York Giants, and he also coached the Browns in 2019. The other possibility is wide receivers coach Justin Stepp, who previously coached wide receivers at the ‘Arkansas. and is deeply involved in the Gamecocks’ recruiting efforts.
Is there any hope for the Gamecocks’ final two games?
After South Carolina’s victory at Vanderbilt, Beamer denounced the “pessimistic” attitude of the fanbase and advised Gamecocks supporters to “find some joy”. While this is good advice for general mental well-being, it’s far from realistic at this point. Coaches and players can talk about returning to work after a loss, but there aren’t many improvements that can happen in a week, especially since it hasn’t happened in 11 first.
The Gamecocks open as a 21-point underdog at No. 5 Tennessee (9-1, 5-1), who they will face at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday (7 p.m., ESPN). The line probably won’t be much better on the road against No. 10 Clemson the following week. The Vols have one of the most productive offenses in the nation, and the South Carolina defense struggled to contain a Missouri offense that ranks 12th in the SEC in total yards. While Clemson has had its ups and downs offensively, the Tigers have a top-15 defense in the nation, and South Carolina has proven time and again that the passing game alone isn’t capable of driving a win.