COLUMBIA — Don’t get the wrong idea. Even if South Carolina gets some of the points it left on the field or gets a break on some of the bad calls that went against it, there are still a whole lot of Alabama points to overcome.
But what else could the Gamecocks take away from a 47-23 loss to the second-ranked Crimson Tide on Saturday? There were things to like, and that may come in handy later against lesser teams. But USC is long past the point of being satisfied with a pat on the back for a good effort.
“Just some plays that we left on the field, in my opinion,” USC coach Will Muschamp said. “They’ve got a good team, and we can’t make those mistakes in a game against a very, very good football team like they have.”
A beautifully called and executed fake field goal that became a Parker White running touchdown was called back for holding. By rule, officials couldn’t review what appeared to be a Rico Dowdle touchdown just before halftime, which became a turnover on downs and a 24-10 deficit instead of 24-17.
The Crimson Tide (3-0, 1-0 SEC) took advantage of the breaks and their superior pass-and-catch game to run past the flagging USC secondary in the second half. The Gamecocks (1-2, 0-1) fell to 1-12 against Top 25 teams under Muschamp and have lost 11 straight.
“We lost today,” USC receiver Bryan Edwards said. “We lost, and that’s what it is.”
What went right
Edwards had an outstanding game with nine catches for 79 yards. Dowdle rushed 12 times for 102 yards.
Defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw more than held his own against Alabama’s interior line and finished with four tackles and a sack, giving the several NFL scouts who attended much to think about. As a whole, the Gamecocks took away the Tide’s running game and mostly blanketed star receiver Jerry Jeudy.
Ryan Hilinski played well in his second start. The true freshman was 36 of 57 for 324 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.
What went wrong
The Gamecocks continue to display a dismaying lack of fundamental tackling. The emphasis they have on trying to strip the football leads to trying to wrap players up top instead of concentrating on their waists or legs.
“The big play that Najee (Harris) had, I feel like we were just trying to get the ball out,” said USC linebacker Ernest Jones, who led the team with nine tackles. “We just got to do the technique parts first, secure the tackles and then try to get the ball out.”
There were far too many missed tackles and yards after contact, as there were in the season-opening loss to North Carolina.
Penalties negated the White touchdown and a 66-yard Joseph Charlton punt, which USC downed on the 1-yard line. Dowdle was down at the half-inch line, and by rule, once the play was blown dead, it couldn’t be overturned even if reviewed.
Yet the Gamecocks tried to pass on second-and-goal from the half-inch line, fumbled the third-down snap and failed on a fourth-down pass play.
Shi Smith had an incredible touchdown grab, but he also elected to return two kicks out of the end zone. He was hammered by Alabama’s cover team each time, costing the Gamecocks 10-plus yards on each possession.
With Alabama leading 17-10 in the second quarter, the Tide went for it on fourth-and-3 just over midfield. Tua Tagovailoa hit Harris in the flat, and he ran to the sideline looking for the edge. USC's D.J. Wonnum tried to tackle him high and failed. R.J. Roderick tried to knock him out of bounds and Harris hurdled him. Jones tried to tackle him high from behind but couldn't bring down. Harris finishes off the 42-yard play with a touchdown.
The score was 24-10, but Alabama was firmly in control from that point.
The Gamecocks play at Missouri next week. It’s the first true road trip of the season for the Gamecocks.