Scouting South Carolina: Gamecocks look for another upset against No. 9 Florida

South Carolina coach Will Muschamp reacts after his team returned an interception of a touchdown in the first half against Georgia last Saturday in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

“You go to sleep, you wake up and you realize you’ve got another game to play,” said Javon Kinlaw, who was named Southeastern Conference defensive lineman of the week for his performance against the then third-ranked Bulldogs.

South Carolina (3-3, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) walked off the field with the signature win of coach Will Muschamp’s four seasons in Columbia, a 20-17, double overtime victory last Saturday. The Gamecocks look to bring that same level of play against No. 9 Florida (6-1, 3-1) on Saturday.

Muschamp wasn’t shy this offseason, calling the Gamecocks the deepest and most talented group he’s had since taking over as coach after the 2015 season. But the team stumbled out of the gates at 1-3 and carried a six-game losing streak against Power Five opponents into late September.

Things took a positive turn with a 24-7 win over Kentucky on Sept. 28, then went to another level with the victory at Georgia — where the Gamecocks had not won since 2011.

The victory was confirmation, center Donnell Stanley said, that the team is heading in the right direction.

“We see what we can do when we do all the right things, the small things,” he said. “Like we didn’t do early on in the season.”

The past couple of days have been a dizzying and distracting time for players, who’ve been celebrated and cheered by friends, family and fans.

“Everybody’s happy now,” linebacker Ernest Jones said with a wide smile.

The Gamecocks vow they’ve put the celebrations behind them and are now fully locked in on Florida. The last time they beat two top-10 opponents was in 2013 — against No. 5 Missouri and No. 6 Clemson — the last of Steve Spurrier’s three straight 11-2 teams. South Carolina is also looking for three consecutive SEC wins for the first time since 2017 and only the second time in Muschamp’s tenure.

Freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski was on the sidelines icing his left knee and cheering on his teammates after a hard hit late in the third quarter that certainly looked serious. But Muschamp said Hilinski had a knee sprain and has moved around well at practice with the plan to start against the Gators, who lead the SEC with 26 sacks and 12 interceptions.

“I think he’ll be fine for Saturday,” Muschamp said. “He wore a brace, but he’ll be fine.”

Muschamp said his players have responded the way he hoped at practices this week following the Georgia win.

He told his players Tuesday morning that in life, “you generally get what you deserve.”

The Gamecocks worked and prepared the right way to have a chance to take down the Bulldogs, Muschamp said. They’ll need a similar work ethic if they want the chance to upset Florida.

“We’re going to pour our guts into Florida,” the coach said. “Hopefully, we’ll create the opportunity to have the right to win on game day.”

South Carolina’s defense has played well the past two games. Muschamp has decided to play more of a four-three alignment instead of using a nickel scheme with five defensive backs.

That’s meant more playing time for linebacker Sharrod Greene, and he’s responded with 10 tackles in the Gamecocks past two wins. Having Greene on the field has allowed South Carolina to play faster, Muschamp said.

Along with Kinlaw’s conference award, safety Israel Mukuamu was named defensive player of the week for his three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) off Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm.

Jones said it’s been a blast the last few days with the excitement over the Georgia win, but that’s in the books and it’s time to look ahead.

“We’re over that now,” he said. “We’ve got more of the season left.”


  1. Look, if the Gamecocks do lose to the Gators this Saturday, rest assured that they’ll still be the Champions of Life. After all, Muschamp enough as told them so …. with all due nods to Butch Jones, of course.

  2. I heard Coach Muschamp say today on Steve Russell’s local sports talk show (WRUF/ESPN 98.1 FM) that the ”Gamecocks have the toughest schedule in all of college football.” However, I would beg to differ. Even though it’s all just ”opinions” as of today at the proverbial ”half-way pont” in the 2019 college football season. So regarding the ”toughest schedule in the land,” Florida played a Top 10 Auburn, played bravely against another Top 10 LSU team the next week (that could win it all this year). And now the Gators still have to play a tough Mizzou team on the road later, the ugly Dawgs of UGA in Jacksonville in early Nov., and of course Carolina won’t be a push over this Saturday, either.
    But I can see Florida Football beating all their remaining opponents. Then again, I can also see this team ”wilting over the loss to LSU,” and subsequently lose 2-3 more games (UGA & Mizzou if I had to pick today). But the thing I love so much about sports is that it’s totally up to these Gator players. And so that 1 beacon of hope today is this Gator Football team STILL ”controls their own destiny.”
    So, ”Go Gators Just win baby!”

    • Yep, the uncertainty around what happens next with this team makes this compelling, must-watch football. Not that I was bored by the glory years, but when you knew we would scorch the opponent by multiple touchdowns, the edge-of-your-seat factor that makes this season so compelling wasn’t quite there.