Statistics tell the story
The fourth down conversions only add insult to injury. The Gamecocks had as many fourth down conversions as third down conversions, going 2-2. They also stopped the Gators the only time they went for it on fourth. It is very hard to win when your offense cannot stay on the field and your defense cannot get off it.
When Steve Spurrier saw that stat line after the game, he groaned and said, "That's a pretty good stat there."
"Our third down conversions have really taken a hit," he continued. "We get shoved around up front, and it's tough. We won games struggling [up front] before. I don't know what's happened the last two weeks."
The offense was able to put up 31 points in spite of the third down ineptitude. Blake Mitchell passed for 316 yards, and the offense netted 22 first downs. Don't tell Spurrier about the points scored, however.
"Our third downs were still terrible, though," he said when he thought about the points scored.
On the other hand, the defense, which carried the team during the first 9 weeks of the season, could not overcome the Gators' third down success. Entering the game against Arkansas, Carolina had the second best third down defense in the SEC, allowing opponents to convert just 27.2% of their attempts. The Razorbacks were able to gash the Gamecocks for 10 of 13 on third down conversions. After allowing just 37 third down conversions in the first 9 games, Carolina has given up 22 in the last two games, and seen their opponents' conversion rate rise to 35.8% for the year.
"We didn't start the season off that way," said a somber Tyrone Nix after the game. "That's probably the biggest difference right now; we're not getting off the field on third down."
Since the Gamecocks do not have their bye week until next weekend, Carolina has played 11 straight games without a break. Throw in season ending injuries to Nathan Pepper and Jasper Brinkley, the best player on the defense, and injuries to defensive backs Brandon Isaac, Captain Munnerlyn, and Emanuel Cook that limited their production against Florida, and you have the makings of a worn down team. Nix does not see it that way.
"Fatigue is not a factor," he said. "If we stop them on third down then you get off the field and fatigue is never a factor. Our worst stat was probably third downs."
With the byre week up next, the Gamecocks have two weeks to get mentally and physically healthy and regroup for the season ending game against Clemson. Cory Boyd said after the loss to Florida that having the Clemson game on the horizon is just what Carolina needs to get refocused. When Boyd was asked if the season is slipping away, he took a long breath, and said, "No."
"7-5 sounds a little bit better at the end of the season than 6-6. This is a season all in its own, this game that's coming up. We've just got to go out here and play. That's all we've got to do; play."
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