Shane Beamer spoke after South Carolina’s 40-13 loss at Georgia on Saturday with the fervor we’ve come to expect from USC’s first-year head coach.
Asked whether Georgia’s defensive line did anything to make things difficult for a Bulldogs offensive line that was on its heels much of the night, Beamer went on a brief rant. He was funny in spurts. He was dramatic at points. He was frustrated at other junctures.
“They’ve got like 100 five-star football players on their defense,” an irritated Beamer said in his postgame video press conference. “They have a defensive lineman (Jordan Davis) that weighs 340 pounds and runs better than everybody on this call. They’ve got five-star defensive backs. They’re big and physical and fast. I mean, other than that, they’re really freaking good.”
That South Carolina got blown out in Athens on Saturday was not unexpected. The Gamecocks entered the weekend as 31.5-point underdogs. But 2-0 starts bring unbridled optimism.
Beamer and his staff have done wonders reinvigorating a program that was down on its luck and, at best, frustrated. The win over Eastern Illinois was dominant. Last week’s victory at ECU was nervy but exhilarating.
Saturday was well, ugly. But such is life for a team and program that is rebounding from a pair of seasons that amounted to just six wins.
Georgia’s defensive line toyed with South Carolina up front. Play after play, quarterback Luke Doty raced for any small hole he could find to make a play in place of the injured Zeb Noland — who went down in the first quarter with a hand injury.
For the third consecutive week, the Gamecocks failed to get out of their own way. Nine times South Carolina was penalized for 70 yards. USC is now averaging more than eight flags per contest. That’s no recipe for an upset.
“We could’ve easily stuck with them, but we just we just beat ourselves up,” receiver Josh Vann said. “I don’t know how many penalties we had, but we had a lot. When you’re doing that against a good team, it’s not going to translate well.”
But for all the ugliness in a game in which South Carolina was overmatched and largely outplayed, there were bits and pieces to hang onto.
Vann continued his breakout season, recording three catches for 123 yards and a touchdown. The former four-star recruit who has been lauded for his maturity and growth over the offseason had a moment to forget Saturday — an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that followed a 31-yard second-quarter reception.
Yet speaking with reporters after the game, there was a poise and precision in Vann’s voice. He offered a mea culpa for the penalty and touted how he’s felt like he’s found his “love for the game again” playing for Beamer.
“With coach Beamer and all the staff teaching ‘love each other,’ “ Vann said, “when you come together as a team and the team is bonded, you find success in yourself as well.”
Doty, too, did some things with his feet in moving around the pocket that elicited a reason for optimism should he continue as QB1 next week against Kentucky.
That’s not to mention the Odell Beckham Jr.-esque one-handed grab that much-maligned receiver Jalen Brooks reeled in late Saturday that was making the rounds on social media.
“I’m so proud of everybody just the way that they fought,” Doty said. “We fought to the last second. We didn’t look at the scoreboard and we just kept our heads down.”
Prior to dipping away from the podium computer screen and Gamecock-logo background tucked into the underbelly of Sanford Stadium, Beamer offered a quick apology for the earlier rant.
He shifted away from the irritation and annoyance at postgame press conference questions and into the realness and transparency that have adorned him to fans and constituents throughout his two decades in college coaching.
Beamer was fiery after Saturday’s loss. It comes with the territory of being blown out. The Gamecocks were throttled from the jump and looked the part of a team that’s still sorting out an identity and finding a flow under a new coaching staff. But it wasn’t hopeless.
The 2021 season was always going to be a rebuilding project. The loss at No. 2 Georgia served as a reminder of the severe fluctuations that go into bolstering a program.
That’s nothing to apologize for.