Seeking their eighth win in an up and down season, South Carolina looked unprepared and was completely out-coached by the Virginia Cavaliers, who thrashed them to the tune of a 28-0 shutout in a disappointing Belk Bowl loss on Saturday afternoon.
The Gamecocks got off to a disjointed start offensively, punting on their first two possessions after failing to convert a fourth and short and a 3rd and 1. Virginia, which had been similarly out of sorts, found success on its third possession, carving the Gamecocks up on the ground by exploiting the edges and using Bryce Perkins' play-extending ability. The Cavaliers capped off their 77-yard, 6:31 drive with a wide-open touchdown to Olamide Zaccheaus on fourth and short, putting Virginia up 7-0 as the first quarter wound to a close.
The Gamecocks finally shook off their offensive malaise on their next possession, as Jake Bentley connected on a few big pass plays to get South Carolina moving and into Virginia territory. Unfortunately, the drive stalled when Bryan Edwards couldn't make a play in front of future NFLer Bryce Hall on third down, and Parker White missed a 45-yard field goal to keep the Gamecocks off the board.
Virginia went right back to work, as the Gamecocks consistently failed to get pressure on Perkins and left receivers open all over the field. Fortunately, the Cavaliers drive stalled when Kobe Smith wrapped up Perkins on a third and long to force a punt. However, South Carolina couldn't take advantage despite a big gain from Mon Denson and a nice catch from Shi Smith, as Josh Vann dropped an open pass from a scrambling Bentley.
In response, the Cavaliers mounted a long, clock-killing drive to end the second half, methodically plodding down the field with the short passing game and aided by a couple South Carolina miscues. Jordan Ellis capped it off the eight-minute slot with a 9-yard touchdown run to give the Cavaliers a 14-0 halftime advantage when South Carolina's last-gasp attempt to score evaporated with a sack.
The Gamecocks got off to a better start in the third quarter, forcing a Virginia punt after just a handful of plays. But the offense continued its horrendous outing, with Cavaliers defenders swarming Bentley almost as soon as he got the snap, and the Gamecocks went nowhere.
The Hoos went back to the measured approach that served them so well in the first half, weaving their way down the field on the strength of Perkins, Ellis, and Zaccheaus, who eventually took it into the end zone on a short crossing route to put Virginia up 21-0.
The Gamecocks finally got it together offensively, making their way to the Virginia 10-yard line with help from Denson and Edwards. But Bentley and Edwards couldn't connect, then Bentley misfired on fourth and goal on what looked like a miscommunication with Chabis Dawkins, leaving South Carolina still scoreless.
The Gamecocks got a little bit of a break when they forced a fumble on Virginia's ensuing possession, but unfortunately gave it right back when Bentley threw an interception only a few plays later. Ultimately, it was no harm, no foul, as the Hoos went on to miss a field goal.
However, the final indignity for South Carolina came on yet another Zaccheaus touchdown reception in the fourth quarter, when a pressured Perkins basically just threw the ball on a prayer and it found the end zone regardless. That, as they say, is when you know it's just not your day, which was further bolstered by another Bentley interception on the ensuing possession.
The Gamecocks finish the season a disappointing 7-6, and head into 2019 facing questions and an incredibly difficult schedule. I don't really know what else to say right now, honestly, other than this was an embarrassing bowl performance and it will be rightfully derided as such.