COLUMBIA – The first half of the 2016 football season was not kind to the University of South Carolina.
The Gamecocks won only two of six games. With games remaining against No. 19 Tennessee, No. 12 Florida and No. 3 Clemson, it appears the second half of the season will be even tougher.
Despite the formidable challenge, the team has set a goal of qualifying for a bowl and is confident it can be accomplished.
“We have some tough teams coming up, but it doesn’t matter,” offensive lineman Zack Bailey said. “I think we’re going to go out there and try our best every single game, especially the way our practices have been going lately.
“I think we’re very capable.”
The Gamecocks will have to win four of their final six games to finish with a 6-6 record and become bowl-eligible. Making that goal a reality begins with a win Saturday against the University of Massachusetts.
Home games against the Volunteers and Missouri follow before the team takes to the road against Florida.
“I talk to our guys all the time,” USC coach Will Muschamp said. “Our seniors want to go to a bowl game. That's very important for our program. Most important thing is for our seniors.”
Turning things around, ending the season on a positive note and earning a bowl trip has been a constant conversation during the open week.
“That’s all we’ve been preaching,” said defensive lineman Taylor Stallworth. “Hey, we’ve got to be bowl eligible. That’s all we want to do. We’re starting off, the record is now 0-0. That’s how we’re taking (the rest of the season).”
“We want to go make a bowl game,” said safety D.J. Smith. “We didn’t go to one last year. I feel like the older guys deserve it. I feel like we have worked hard this season. Things just haven’t been going our way, but I think we are going to be OK.
“I think we can play with anybody. I just think there are a couple plays in a game when we just slip up. I feel like, if we get rid of those, we’ll be fine. We’ve already played with top 10 teams in the country.”
Considering the team finished the 2015 season with a 3-9 record, it is hungry to find a way to bowl eligibility in its first season under Muschamp.
“It would be great to go to a bowl game and try to play for the seniors because this is their last go around,” said running back A.J. Turner, a redshirt freshman. “They want to make it to a bowl game, too."
To gain bowl eligibility, the Gamecocks will have to find a way to improve on their 14-point per game scoring average, the worst in FBS.
"We’ve just got to do what we’re coached to do, execute on offense," Turner said. "We’ve got to make plays on defense and on special teams have game changers. We’ve just got to put it all in, and I think it is beginning to come together. We’ll see how it begins on Saturday.”
USC (2-4) vs. UMass (1-6)
TV: SEC Network
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