South Carolina football owned its mistakes vs. Georgia — except for Spencer Rattler
COLUMBIA — South Carolina football's worst defeat in the 128-year history of its series with Georgia was a difficult pill to swallow.
Coach Shane Beamer began his postgame speech after the 48-7 loss to the Bulldogs (3-0, 1-0 SEC) with an apology to the 78,212 fans who attended Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium. He took credit for several decisions to run the ball in third down-and-long situations South Carolina (1-2, 0-2) faced and brushed off the impact that injuries have had on the starting lineup.
"I just told the team in there, we're not playing well. We're not playing our best football right now," Beamer said. "I obviously did a horse-crap job of getting our team ready to play today, regardless of how many guys we had out."
Quarterback Spencer Rattler seemed less willing to accept fault. Though he acknowledged that he needs to limit turnovers, the Oklahoma transfer largely failed to take accountability for errors on the two interceptions he threw.
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"On the first one ... I tried to throw it back-shoulder and the DB made a good play on Juju (McDowell), kind of swiped by him and make good play. I could have probably gave that another second to develop," Rattler said. "The second one ... we had a chance to make that play and they made a good play on it. We needed some shots at that time. We can't just run the ball and check it down all game."
Rattler's defense doesn't entirely hold up. The first interception was a 13-yard pass attempt on the second drive when the Gamecocks trailed 7-0. The second, which came early in the third quarter, was thrown on first down, though it was a 39-yard attempt. On both interceptions, the receivers appeared clearly covered before Rattler released the ball. On the second, intended target Jaheim Bell was double-covered throughout his route.
Perhaps more importantly, turnovers are becoming a pattern for Rattler. He's thrown five picks and scored two touchdowns in his first three games a Gamecock. In contrast to the quarterback, Beamer seemed visibly frustrated with the turnovers after the loss.
"I sound like a broken record coming in here every week talking about the turnover battle, and we haven't been good enough," Beamer said. "I think Spencer will tell you he needs to play better. ... You've got to throw it out of bounds. He was trying to back-shoulder it in there, and we don't need to be throwing a back-shoulder fade on that route."
When asked if the team would reevaluate its starter under center, Beamer didn't give a direct response at first, though he returned to the question in a later answer, calling Rattler "our quarterback."
South Carolina is experiencing a leadership crisis three games into the season, which isn't a good sign. It's not only Rattler's problem — it's hard to put that expectation on a first-year transfer — but he hasn't shown much to help the situation either.
McDowell acknowledged that a lack of leadership is holding the team back, naming it as the primary reason why the Gamecocks have lacked consistency.
"I think it's personal, internal leadership ... guys stepping up internally for each other," McDowell said. "It's having those conversations mentally and being able to deal with things on your own, then having that transition to being able to be a leader to the rest of the team."
South Carolina is struggling to find an identity and has two non-threatening opponents up next in Charlotte and South Carolina State. The Gamecocks need to find an answer by the time they travel to Kentucky on Oct. 8.
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