COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — South Carolina doesn’t have time to dwell on its upset loss to Appalachian State, not with a trip to Texas A&M on Saturday.
The Gamecocks (4-6, 3-4 SEC) must get a victory against the Aggies and in their season finale against No. 3 Clemson to become bowl eligible.
It won’t be an easy task for a team that is 0-5 all-time against Texas A&M, which enters the game on a three-game winning streak. If South Carolina doesn’t win its last two games it will end a streak of three straight bowl appearances.
Coach Will Muschamp said he hasn’t talked to his team about extending its bowl streak this week.
“I address each week as a season and it’s Texas A&M and it’s folks in our football team and Texas A&M and that’s it,” he said. “So, that’s what we need to be focused in on.”
Even though Muschamp isn’t focusing on becoming bowl eligible, it is definitely on the minds of the players as they try to move on from the 20-15 loss to Appalachian State.
“It hasn’t been the season we wanted,” receiver Bryan Edwards said. “So we need to get the two wins to get eligible for a bowl game. That would be a positive.”
The Gamecocks have had an up-and-down season. They handed Georgia its only loss of the season in a double-overtime thriller, but have lost three of four games since then.
“It’s life,” Edwards said. “You’re going to go through tough stretches in life and you’ve just got to respond the right way. You’ve got to come to work every day.”
Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher isn’t underestimating the Gamecocks and knows his team will have to play well. The Aggies (6-3, 3-2) have trips to No. 4 Georgia and top-ranked LSU still to come.
“South Carolina’s a very talented football team,” he said. “I know they come off a tough loss this weekend, but it’s also a team that went to Georgia and won and did very well. Played Florida to the hilt. Got a couple calls that were very tough on them in that situation that could have won that football game.”
South Carolina has had one of the SEC’s more effective rushing games this season, but stumbled last week against Appalachian State as it gained only 21 yards on 27 carries. The Gamecocks have run for almost 185 yards a game coming in and figured to keep that going with the return of starting senior tailback Rico Dowdle, who missed all but one play of the past three games with a knee sprain. Muschamp said leading rusher Tavien Feaster remains questionable this week with a groin injury. Feaster missed the Appalachian State game.
Muschamp owes plenty to Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher, who helped get Muschamp an interview for a job with then-LSU coach Nick Saban. Muschamp was hired as linebackers coach in 2001, coaching alongside Fisher, LSU’s offensive coordinator. Watching film of Texas A&M’s offense, Muschamp said, is like flashing back to spring games at LSU in trying to dissect Fisher’s schemes.
“There’s tweaks here and there, but you turn on the tape and it takes you back to Baton Rouge about 2003, seeing it for spring ball and fall camp and all that kind of stuff,” Muschamp said.
Fisher said he doesn’t enjoy games against coaches he’s close with.
“It doesn’t make it any fun … you’d rather play guys that aren’t friends,” he said. “Or that you don’t know as well, to be honest with you. I would.”
Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond has been great during the team’s winning streak. The junior has thrown for 617 yards and five touchdowns and ran for 153 yards and three scores in the last three games combined.
“He understands the run game,” Fisher said. “He understands the pass game, getting us in and out of the right plays, getting us in and out of the right protections. He is making good decisions, being accurate with the ball. I think he’s playing really good football, and I think he’s using his legs when it’s the right opportunity.”
AP Sports Writer Pete Iacobelli contributed to this report.