South Carolina players haven’t given up on any goals despite suffering the season’s first loss Saturday night, but reaching them will take a dramatic turnaround from the effort they gave against LSU, their coach said.
“Extremely disappointed in the effort. Some of our guys got smashed last night. They acted like they were afraid of LSU,” Steve Spurrier said.
South Carolina (6-1, 4-1 SEC) fell from No. 3 in the country to No. 9 on Sunday, one day after a 23-21 loss to No. 6 LSU in Tiger Stadium. Next up is No. 3 Florida on Saturday in The Swamp.
“It’ll be a monumental task if we can go down there and regroup and get in a close game with them,” Spurrier said.
The Tigers dominated both lines of scrimmage in snapping the Gamecocks’ 10-game winning streak. USC had a season-low 211 yards, and 89 came in the game’s final five minutes as LSU tried to protect a two-score lead. Nine of the Gamecocks’ 12 possessions finished with 16 or fewer yards, and they converted 3-of-13 third-down attempts.
Meanwhile, LSU rushed on 53 of its 78 plays and finished with 258 yards on the ground.
“It was very disappointing, the overall effort and energy level of some of our guys,” Spurrier said. “The tackling wasn’t very good. Our assignments (on) offense and defense were poor. It’s hard to figure out why we couldn’t mentally get into the game and have a go at them. Football is a game of emotion. It’s a game of who’s got the most fire in their tank, and LSU had a lot more fire than we did. Les and his coaches did a much better job of getting his guys ready to play than we did, and it showed up in the game.”
USC quarterback Connor Shaw called the Tigers’ defense “by far the most physical I have faced,” and Spurrier was disappointed with his quarterback’s performance against LSU, he said.
“Connor struggled a bit last night. I don’t know how else to say it,” Spurrier said. “I think we’ll watch the tape and see that he ran out of there too quickly last night sometimes.”
Shaw finished 19-of-34 for 177 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
“If we want a chance to get to Atlanta, we have to bounce back strong next week,” he said. “The bottom line is (LSU is) in the West, we have a big game in the East next week.”
The Florida game will be South Carolina’s third top-10 matchup in as many weeks.
“We like big games, so I think we will be fine as far as our focus,” said running back Marcus Lattimore, who suffered a bruised hip against LSU but is expected to be able to play against the Gators. “All we have to do is stay focused and execute our plays, and we’ll be all right. All our goals are still there, and we can still accomplish them. It’s tough, but I can’t hang my head down because we’ve done great. This just is a setback for us.”
In the locker room after the game, the team discussed the fact that Alabama lost a regular season game to LSU last year before bouncing back to win the national title, tight end Justice Cunningham said.
“’Bama did it last year. We can do it this year,” he said. “Have to keep pushing.”