Sometimes, things just don't go the way people expect them to.
South Carolina were the darlings of college football this past week after the dominant performance of the Georgia Bulldogs with College Gameday in town and ESPN showcasing the game on national television.
Things were right in the world in Gamecock Nation as South Carolina bolted up to number three in the national rankings. Everything was lining up for South Carolina to have a special season that builds memories that last a lifetime.
Saturday night, though, caused for some heartache for Gamecock Nation as South Carolina looked out of place against LSU in Baton Rouge, as the Gamecocks dropped a 23-21 loss to the Tigers. LSU out-manned the Gamecocks to the tune of 406 total yards to 211. LSU absolutely gutted the middle of the South Carolina defense with its strong running game, adding 258 rushing yards against the Gamecocks defense that was allowing just under 77 yards per game.
LSU did what people have expected to see out of South Carolina this year – play efficient football on offense by using a power running game along with stellar defense to come away with the victory. This was the recipe for success for the Tigers and it looked easy against the Gamecocks on Saturday night. Freshman running back Jeremy Hill rushed the ball 17 times for 124 yards and two touchdowns against the Gamecocks. He wasn't the running back expected to do this kind of damage to the Gamecocks but time and time again, he showed that he may be the next great running back for LSU.
So what went wrong on offense? For starters, the South Carolina running game was non-existent. A team that relies so heavily on the running game only had a total of 34 rushing yards the entire game. Marcus Lattimore was quiet with 13 carries for 35 yards and one touchdown. The Gamecocks x-factor, Connor Shaw, had 12 carries for a total of minus-one yards on the day thanks to four sacks from the LSU defense. There was no way to create running lanes for Lattimore and the Gamecocks against this LSU defense. They were fast and physical up front dominating the South Carolina offensive line and controlling the line of scrimmage.
While the running game suffered, so did the Gamecocks passing game. Connor Shaw was not as effective as he has been in recent weeks. There were a few errant passes, most notably the interception to Eric Reid on the overthrow pass over tight end Rory Anderson. Anderson was open in the middle of the field but for whatever reason, Shaw overthrew Anderson on a badly thrown ball and LSU's Reid comes away with the interception.
This was a poor performance overall from the Gamecocks on both sides of the ball, but here's the silver lining – they lost by two points in one of the most difficult places to play in college football. Give credit to Connor Shaw and the Gamecocks for their next to last drive that resulted in a 1-yard touchdown reception by Bruce Ellington. Shaw and the Gamecocks moved the ball downfield and converted a huge fourth down catch by freshman tight Jerell Adams at the one-yard line before Ellington's touchdown. As bad as the Gamecocks were on this night, there was still fight left in the Gamecocks all the way to the end.
This is what you hope for out of the Gamecocks. You want a team that will compete and fight till the end and that's exactly what they did against a team that physically, and emotionally, dominated them the entire game.
Hope is not lost for the Gamecocks. South Carolina still can control their own destiny and that will start this week against Florida. South Carolina will hit the road and travel to Gainesville to face the always tough Florida Gators. The Gators are undefeated and should be ranked in the top three in the nation come Sunday. The Gators will have a similar look and feel as LSU had on Saturday as they have an impressive running game and strong defense. South Carolina will have an opportunity to go down to Gainesville and come away with a win and continue their hopes for the SEC East title and the SEC Championship.
Ultimately, that's still the goal. South Carolina needs to focus on this upcoming weekend and block out their performance against the LSU Tigers. South Carolina is a better football team than what they showed against LSU and are still capable of accomplishing some big things this season.
While the national title talk will die down this week, it doesn't mean that they can't revisit it at a later date this season. South Carolina can go on the road this weekend and handle business, and if they do, the nation will once again be talking about the Gamecocks and the loss to LSU will be a distant memory.
So the goals now for the Gamecocks? Beat Florida.
It's the only thing that matters. And the only thing that can bring hope back to the Gamecocks.
Hope not lost for the Gamecocks
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