South Carolina Football: A heartbreaking blow to bowl hopes

South Carolina football coach Shane Beamer after getting a Duke's Mayo bath after winning against the North Carolina Tar Heels after the Duke's Mayo Bowl in 2021. Mandatory Credit: Syndication: The Greenville News
South Carolina football coach Shane Beamer after getting a Duke's Mayo bath after winning against the North Carolina Tar Heels after the Duke's Mayo Bowl in 2021. Mandatory Credit: Syndication: The Greenville News /

A heartbreak at homecoming week has dealt a heavy blow to the bowl chances for Shane Beamer’s South Carolina football team. A late drive by Graham Mertz broke the hearts of 80,000+ at Williams-Brice Stadium, and the Gamecock defense simply could not hold up their end of the bargain.

The Gators and Gamecocks traded touchdowns early and often in the first half, which ended with a 24-21 margin in the Gators’ favor after a Trey Smack III field goal to end the half.

The second half, however, saw a momentum swing. A deep connection from Rattler to Legette into the redzone ended the third quarter, and the ‘Cocks took the lead right after the fourth quarter ended on a toss to JuJu McDowell.

After a defensive stop, the ‘Cocks scored another touchdown, this time to Western Kentucky transfer Joshua Simon from 33 yards out, and South Carolina took a 37-27 lead after a botched extra point.

Billy Napier’s team would not be denied, however, and a 75-yard touchdown drive ensued to cut the lead to 37-34 after a 4-yard toss to tight end Arlis Boardingham from Graham Mertz.

Getting the ball back with around four and a half minutes to go and up three points, the Gamecocks couldn’t move the ball and punted with 2:43 remaining and no timeouts left for Florida.

Still down just three, 37-34, Florida launched a 9-play, 75-yard drive over just 1:56 of game time that included a 4th-and-10 conversion, a dropped pass right into the hands of a fellow Gator receiver, and was capped by a 21-yard touchdown pass by Graham Mertz to Ricky Pearsall.

However, the Gamecocks still had 3 timeouts and 47 seconds to drive the field and score a touchdown. (A field goal would have done no good with the 4-point lead thanks to the Gamecock missed extra point.) Unfortunately for Gamecock fans, magic was nowhere to be found in Columbia, besides maybe the state fair across the street.

Spencer Rattler uncorked a long attempt that was pulled down by a Gator defensive back, and with that, any confidence the Gamecock faithful had left completely dissipated. While Carolina had all 3 timeouts left, the 19 seconds on the clock meant the Gators could take three kneels and then take a safety out the endzone, while leaving 4 seconds left for a safety punt, which ended up in the hands of the Gators after a last-ditch lateral attempt from the ‘Cocks special teams.

A repeat of two years ago just wasn’t destined to happen Saturday.

The loss, as much as it hurts today, might hurt even more after November 25, the end of the regular season. That’s because the loss means the Gamecocks are 2-4 on the year, as well as the realization that this team has to go 4-2 in the second half of the season just to make a bowl. Instead of dreams of another Gator Bowl or even a Texas Bowl invite, this year’s Gamecocks might want to settle for a trip to Birmingham at best.

The rest of the schedule isn’t easy, with two true road games against Missouri and Texas A&M next up on the docket. Every game at this point is a must-win, of course, but it’s nearly impossible to overstate how much a win today would have changed the course of the 2022 season for Shane Beamer and the Gamecocks. To have it come so close with a 10-point lead with just 5 minutes left only presses salt into the very open wound.

To the Gamecock faithful in Columbia, go drown the sorrows of a mediocre football team with funnel cakes and ferris wheels. The state fair is in town until October 22, and the food, unlike the South Carolina football team, cannot be beaten.

Additional silver linings include the fact that once the ‘Cocks come back from College Station in two weeks, they will still have less than 7 losses entering a 4-game homestretch to end the season.

While another postseason trip to Jacksonville has evaporated, hope springs eternal in Columbia, and regardless of any obscenities screamed at the television today, promises to never watch another South Carolina football game again, and the post-game traffic, we all know South Carolina football fans will show up on the first Saturday of November to welcome the Gamecocks back home against Jacksonville State.

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