That being said, Will Muschamp noted his team simply needs to throw the football better.
The output against the Gators was statistically unimpressive. Getting 170 yards at around 5 per attempt is going to leave a lot of teams in a bad spot.
With that in mind, it’s worth looking through almost every USC pass play — just the ones before the game was fully out of reach — to see what happened.
2nd and 2, SC 33: This is a nice call, a flea flicker. Both safeties jump up and both receivers have their men beat. QB Ryan Hilinski puts up a nice deep shot and Bryan Edwards comes down with it. Just a good play. Result: 41-yard gain
3rd and 8, UF 24: Shi Smith runs a great dig route and Hilinski hits him on target when the outside receiver clears out the nickel underneath defender. Good play on the way to a touchdown. There’s not much pressure in an empty set, but Hilinski moves a little and his accuracy doesn’t suffer. Result: 14 yards
1st and 10, SC 29: South Carolina lines up in an unbalanced set and throws a screen off a sweep play. It’s an easier throw that Edwards gets and takes what’s there before getting belted. Result: 6 yards
3rd and 5, SC 45: The Gators send a blitz. Hilinski throws maybe a hint early, though a pass rusher is getting around his left tackle. He tosses to a tight end running an out short of the sticks. Nick Muse has been known to make something happen there, but he drops it. Shi Smith is maybe open on the other side, but it looks like the read is to Muse. Result: Incomplete
3rd and 8, SC 18: This looks like four verticals and it’s not clear where Hilinski is going with it. There might be a miscommunication here, or a ball that gets away from him in the weather. Result: Incomplete
2nd and 7, UF 37: USC attacks vertically with three receivers, double posts to the left and an intermediate out to the right. Florida does something tricky with the blitz where a linebacker waits for the running back to go in coverage and then hands him off to the middle linebacker and blitzed. That blitz dumps Hilinski as he throws. That pass is so high pass that interference is waved off, though it’s not clear if he thought the receiver would cut up or just missed because he was hit. Result: Incomplete
2nd and 8, SC 35: Hilinski tries to hit Shi Smith on a slant after the line goes all cut blocking and tries to trip up the defensive line. Adam Shuler just refused to be cut and batted it down. Smith was open too, but not much a QB can do. Result: Incomplete
3rd and 8, SC 35: The ball doesn’t look like it comes out totally clean, but Edwards also slips so there’s no receiver there at all. Result: Incomplete
1st and 10, SC 27: Hilinski tries a pump and go on a deep slot fade. The ball is too far ahead. He’s got a clean pocket but can’t connect on a tough route. Result: Incomplete
2nd and 10, SC 27: Just a simple RPO where the run threat draws in the linebacker and opens a window for the dig. Pass comes out hot and a little high, but Edwards secures it for the first down. Result: 11 yards
2nd and 9, SC 39: Another shot play as Hilinski tries to hit Shi Smith on an in-and-up double move. Hilinski holds the field safety wide and pretty high and Smith has a lane, though Hilinski has to loft it over. A UF tackle beats a USC guard and then a tight end, so Hilinski is getting hit while throwing and the ball lands well beyond the target. Result: Incomplete
3rd and 9, SC 39: Hilinski tries to work from left to right on his progression, but everyone is covered. He tries to buy a little time, but eventually the protection gives out and he’s sacked. Result: Loss of 3
3rd and 7, UF 48: Hilinski gets Edwards on a sideline route, just a straight streak. There’s not a ton of space to work with, but the ball looks to be in a decent spot. Edwards gets a little nudge right at the end and it seems to disrupt the timing. The ball is also in such a tight spot, it seems unlikely he’d get much sympathy on the contact. The TV commentator suggested more air under it. Result: Incomplete
2nd and 11, UF 21: South Carolina sends five guys into the pattern and Hilinski tries to go for the post as the slot receiver pulls away the middle field safety. The receiver is open for a second but the ball is kind of late. It’s nearly picked, then nearly caught. Hilinski also short-arms it a little because the right end beats the left tackle and hits him. Result: Incomplete
1st and 10, SC 25: This is the same play as the start of the second drive, a screen off of a sweep out of an unbalanced set. The corner plays this well, coming up and pulling down Edwards for a loss. Result: Loss of a yard
3rd and 8, SC 27: Florida blitzes six, forcing USC to keep everyone in. Hilinski throws a quick pass short of the sticks. There’s not much direct pressure, though he does have to move a little in the pocket. The dig might have been open, but it probably needed more time and still would’ve been contested. Result: 4 yards
1st and goal, UF 6: Florida sends a backside corner blitz and Hilinski just doesn’t see it. Not clear if someone is supposed to help there or it’s just a moment of not recognizing. It looks like he’s trying to attack the other side but that is covered. Result: Loss of 9 yards
3rd and 9, SC 4: Backed up, Hilinski is again hit while throwing. A tight end trying to block a defensive end is walked into him. The ball to Shi Smith on a slot fade and it looks like it’s short (Smith is also pretty well covered). Result: Incomplete
1st and 10, SC 25: Something holds the nickel defender in place, opening up a hitch to Kyle Markway. Just a quick short pass and good fight after the catch. Result: 8 yards
2nd and 5, SC 43: Not technically a pass, but Will Muschamp said it was a three option RPO where Hilinski could throw to either side or hand off for a draw. Hilinski looks to his right, but a nickel sits down in the throwing lane to a tight end on the hitch. Hilinski turns to hand off the draw but Tavien Feaster had turned to pick up a blitzing corner. Result: Loss of 9 and turnover after fumble
Drive 12 (USC desperate down 11 with 8 minutes left)
1st and 10, SC 30: It’s not clear where this ball is supposed to go. It might be a throw away of sorts or a miscommunication. It has to be thrown over a defensive end who had his man on his heels, but it’s not near anyone. Result: Incomplete
2nd and 10, SC 30: Hilinski hits Edwards on a quick bubble screen and he takes advantage of space. Result: 8 yards
3rd and 2, SC 38: Hilinski stands in against pressures, gets dumped on the ground and hits Chavis Dawkins on the slant. But it’s dropped and USC’s threat is ended. Result: Incomplete
Florida scored on its next drive to go up 38-20 with 4:02 to play. USC had two more possessions.
So we can break it down like this (plays can fill multiple categories):
Very nice plays: 2
Receiver slips: 1
Play where it’s not clear where ball is going because of miscommunication or other factor: 3
Play where Hilinski is hit or pressured: 9
Passes that are off, covered or simply just difficult: 5
Batted balls: 1
Those off passes are on the quarterback, give or take pressure on some. The ones with unclear targets can be on the receivers. The batted ball is on a lineman. Then there are drops and receiver slips taking away a few completions.
A little cleaner here and there and the Gamecocks are in it to the end. A few more plays against pressure (nearly 40 percent of pass plays) and it’s a little closer. But a range of factors undid the Gamecocks in an area they drastically needed to hold up.