College Sports

Gamecocks balance Georgia momentum with focus on Florida: ‘I want that feeling again’

It was one of the biggest upsets in program history, a defining moment in coach Will Muschamp’s career and a physically and emotionally exhausting battle.

But three days after South Carolina football upset No. 3 Georgia in double overtime, the Gamecocks have moved on. Kind of.

As USC begins preparation for its upcoming matchup with No. 9 Florida this Saturday, the players know the impact last weekend’s win had for the program’s fan base and national perception.

“Everybody’s happy now. Everybody’s back to, ‘Ol’ South Carolina, we love those guys,’ but we knew that would happen,” sophomore linebacker Ernest Jones said. “We knew that we were destined, we were built for a good stretch, a good win against a really good team.”

Still, believing that results would come and actually having one happen are two different things, and there’s no doubt that Georgia game had an impact on players too.

“Now we’ve seen what we can do when we just do all the right things, the small things,” senior offensive lineman Donell Stanley said. “That’s something that we didn’t do early on in season, and that’s the leaders’ fault. But now that we’ve seen we’re getting the success, we’re doing the small things right.”

Especially for the younger Gamecocks, seeing tangible results after a trying start to the season was gratifying.

“It was definitely about time for us, the past three or four weeks, we’ve been fine-tuning the details, just making sure we do our job, and that’s the only focus we’ve had,” Jones said. “And to come out Saturday and get a big win, that was real big for this defense, this team, everyone in the community, it was just overall a big win.”

But recognizing a big win and dwelling on it are two different things, and multiple players invoked the “24-hour rule” Muschamp and other coaches use that allows players to talk about and reflect on games for a full day after they happen before moving on.

“We had 24 hours to enjoy the win, but just around town, there’s a lot of excitement and things, it was a big win and everything, but for us sitting here, we’re focused on Florida this week and getting ready to keep the momentum going and go out there and play some good ball,” senior linebacker T.J. Brunson said.

“You get a day — in our case, we had a little bit more than a day — but you enjoy it and reflect on it a little bit, but the season isn’t over with. That was one game and we have to keep finishing and playing for the rest of the year.”

The responsibility for keeping the younger guys focused on the task ahead falls in large part on senior leadership, and the best way to do that, senior running back Tavien Feaster said, isn’t to talk to them about it.

“Flush it. Coach tells us every week is a new season, so that’s what we gotta prepare like and that’s what we gotta do: Celebrate like we did on Saturday and just move on,” Feaster said. “Just come out there and just lead by example. In the meeting room and outside on the practice field, get the game plan and show them I’m focused on Florida.”

Still, momentum is a real factor, Jones said. And chasing the elation of another huge upset win can add even more motivation.

“I’m already ready for Florida. I love the feeling of winning a big game, so I want that feeling again, so I’m ready to go, ready for the Florida game,” Jones said.

In the meantime, while preparation for another top-10 matchup rolls on, Stanley knows how important last Saturday was. He just doesn’t have time to think much about it.

“Games like that are games you remember forever. Twenty years from now, we’ll call each other and talk about that Georgia game and everything like that, but right now we’re just moving on to Florida, so we can reminisce about that in 20 years,” Stanley said.

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Greg Hadley is the beat writer for South Carolina women’s basketball and baseball for GoGamecocks and The State. He also covers football and recruiting.