USC Looks To Move Forward After Tough Loss

Entering into the 2006 season, the Gamecock football team knew that they could be competitive with the best teams in the SEC. Ten games into the schedule, they have been just that - competitive. However, after finding ways to win several close games a year ago, the Gamecocks have fallen just short in five games against ranked opponents this season, including four losses by a touchdown or less.

The most recent gut wrenching defeat came on Saturday after a last second field goal attempt by Ryan Succop was blocked, which allowed the 5th ranked Florida Gators to escape with a 17-16 victory in Steve Spurrier's long awaited return to "The Swamp." The loss marked the third defeat for the Gamecocks in as many weeks, and after arguably outplaying Gators on their home turf, the frustration of another heartbreaking loss began to set in. Sophomore wide receiver Sidney Rice, who totaled 7 receptions for 72 yards against the Gators, had trouble after the game finding words to describe the recurring theme of close losses that has haunted the Gamecocks this season. "Yeah, it's kind of like the same thing that's been going on the last couple weeks. We get real close and just can't get over that hump," said Rice.

After coming so close to knocking off the Gators and grabbing a landmark victory in Gainesville, the team morale was understandably down in the Gamecock locker room after the game, according to Rice. "It really wasn't any different (than the other close losses). Everybody was just quiet, knowing what could have happened." However, the team will have little time to dwell on the loss to Florida, as they will return home to play Middle Tennessee State this weekend.

With two games remaining on the schedule, the Gamecocks record now stands at 5-5, but USC will look to regroup by grabbing that ever-elusive sixth win of the season and becoming bowl eligible for the third consecutive year when facing Rick Stockstill's Blue Raiders on Saturday. The following weekend, Carolina will travel to the upstate to take on Clemson in the annual rivalry game to conclude the regular season. With bowl positioning still a concern and bragging rights against the in-state Tigers on the line, Rice believes that there is still a lot to play for over the next two weeks, but after all the close losses, he knows it will take a great effort to get over the hump. Rice stated, "(It's going to take) more effort by the whole team, and everybody coming out and giving it their all."

Despite all of the adversity and disappointment that the Gamecocks have endured this season, Rice believes that this team still has plenty of fight left in them, but according to Rice, the key will be leaving the past in the past and continuing to push forward. "We've lost real tough games, and its just tough breaks... It is tough, but you've got to overcome things like that and put it behind you when it's behind you."

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