COLUMBIA -- Going into the week, head coach Will Muschamp knew how important touchdowns were going to be if South Carolina was going to pull the upset against No. 2 Alabama.
So, when the Gamecocks went from first-and-goal at the one yard line to fourth-and-goal from the three with seconds left in the first half, he didn’t think twice about what he wanted to do.
They went for it, didn’t get it and went into the half after the empty red zone trip.
“When we fumbled the snap and bumped back to the three, Bryan and I had a short conversation and I felt we needed to score a touchdown,” Muschamp said. “Retrospect, I kick the field goal and we’re down 11 and we have the ball to start the second half. At the end of the day, I felt like we needed touchdowns. We were in first-and-goal situations going into the game, I gave Bryan four downs.”
After Rico Dowdle was ruled down at the inch line on first down, the Gamecocks threw an incompletion on second, fumbled the snap on third down for a two-yard loss and then Hilinski fired incomplete on fourth down to end the drive and the half.
It was all premeditated by Muschamp, who went into the game wanting to be more aggressive than in games past against a very opportunistic offense.
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“I felt like we needed to steal some possessions in the game to stay on the field offensively more because of their offense,” Muschamp said. “It’s a totally different animal what you’re trying to face. You get in the red zone and you’re trying to score touchdowns. It was a different mindset than we’ve had other weeks, but it’s not the same every week. It’s what we need to do to win the game.”
The Gamecocks called a slew of aggressive plays, especially on special teams, faking a punt, kicking an onside kick and going for it four separate times Saturday and converting two of them.
The arguably most aggressive call came in the first half when Muschamp called a fake field goal for Parker White and he ran it all the way in for a touchdown only to have it called back by what Rico Dowdle called a “bad holding call.”
Regardless, players liked seeing the coaching staff have that kind of aggressive mindset.
“It shows the will the coaches have to win and the will we have to win,” Dowdle said. “As players, I think on the fake field goal we executed it well and scored a touchdown. I don’t think it was a holding call. I think we got a bad holding call on that one.”
Muschamp said on the fake field goal they saw the look earlier in the game when White nailed his first field goal of the day, saying “we knew right then we got the look” that was wanted and Alabama doesn’t change its special teams looks throughout the game.
White scampered over 40 yards into the end zone, albeit for nothing, but Muschamp called it a “calculated risk.”
He’s not sure if the aggression will stay at the same level after this game, saying it’s based on the team’s game plan, but whatever they decided to do is what they think can help them win football games.
“Going into the game, we talked as a staff throughout the week about what we need to do to win the game. It’s not just about going for it on fourth down just because we want to go for it on fourth down. It’s about the situation in the game, it’s about field position in the game, it’s about a certain punt look, punt block look or punt safe look in the game,” Muschamp said. “Those are what we talk about throughout the week and they’re up for us all week. We may not get the right look we want so we’re not able to call it. It’s all about time and the situation. What is it going to do to help us win? That’s really the bottom line.”