Will's Last Word: You All Owe Boom An Apology

Will Palaszczuk
October 14, 2019 - 2:22 pm

I'm sorry, Boom.

There, I did it, it wasn't hard.

But my apology wasn't as hard to make as others, as people who skewered more vociferously the aptitude, candor and ability of the Head Coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks.

That is, before Saturday.

Before Saturday, Will Muschamp had only one win versus a ranked opponent, against a Tennessee team that muddled its way through the second half of the 2016 season only to receive a #22 ranking at the end of the season thanks to a win over Nebraska in the Music City Bowl that December.

Hardly a juggernaut.

Before Saturday, the biggest win in South Carolina football history remained the 2010 upset of Alabama at home, dethroning then-number-one-ranked Alabama in a performance that would ignite three of the most memorable years of football this generation of Gamecocks fans have ever seen.

That Alabama team won the "prestigious" (hold for sarcasm) Capital One Bowl.

Before Saturday, those in the college football world had been sold a bill of goods that this was the year for Georgia to break through, in the third year with Jake Fromm behind center, the best offensive line in the country and all the cards coming together that made the Bulldogs a favorite to make the playoff as the second SEC team represented.

Then Saturday happened.

Behind a masterful defensive game plan from Muschamp & Defensive Coordinator Travaris Robinson and three interceptions from eventual National Defensive Player of the Week Israel Mukuamu, the South Carolina Gamecocks pulled off what this casual observer characterizes as the biggest stunner in school history with a 20-17 victory.

Down to its third-string quarterback on offense, it was the Gamecocks defense that pulled through, holding Georgia to 4.9 yards per play, a whole three yards below their season average. For reference, a 4.9 yards per play average would rank tied for 96th in the country of 130 FBS schools, tied with offensive-prowess-laden New Mexico State & Ball State.

What made the victory even more extraordinary is the patchwork job done by Muschamp and Offensive Coordinator Bryan McClendon, who nursed third-string QB Dakereon Joyner through the final stages of a moment bigger than he's seen on the collegiate level. While the offense barely registered as a tremor on the Richter scale, South Carolina did enough in the closing moments to survive with its defense carrying most of the water. They also played turnover-free football, and used the weapon that Joseph Charlton has become on Special Teams to put Georgia in field position predicaments all afternoon.

The Gamecocks did something that not even I thought possible, even as someone who has staunchly defended the record of Muschamp.

They went "between the hedges" and came out a victor.

The impact of this victory from here on depends on how the Gamecocks respond. If this team can win two of their three underdog games remaining (vs. Florida, at Texas A&M, vs. Clemson), one can argue this is the foundation of progress for Muschamp's tenure at South Carolina. If this game stands as a singular outlier and this team fails to make a bowl, it will remain nothing more than a historical footnote.

South Carolina has a tough road ahead to put the kind of statement on this season that can flower from a victory of this nature, and they won't always have the luxury of the defense playing a game of this nature to win it for a third-string QB. Muschamp said Sunday and reiterated Monday that QB Ryan Hilinski's injured knee should not preclude him from the noon kickoff Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium against the Gators. This group still has to prove it can put four quarters of football on both sides together and play this best, because even if you look below the surface, there was more ugly than pretty about Saturday's affair.

But it wasn't as if South Carolina proved nothing in Athens.

In the vacuum of one day, the Gamecocks proved they will play to a championship-caliber level for their coach, and sent a knockout punch to a CFP hopeful.

Muschamp proved that even down to a guy many thought would have transferred by now, his biggest recruiting coup came with Dakereon Joyner's re-recruitment at South Carolina. 

The program-at-large proved the demise of Will Muschamp & the South Carolina Gamecocks was largely exaggerated.

And not to mention any names, but you know who if you are reading this, if you doubted the ability of Muschamp to coach this team, run this program and turn around the negative feeling surrounding his group in Columbia...

You owe Will Muschamp an apology.

(Photo Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)

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