COLUMBIA, S.C. — Blame the missed field goals and muffed punts on Will Muschamp.
With consecutive weeks of special-teams blunders still stuck in his craw, South Carolina’s first-year head coach shouldered some of the blame as he answered questions about the 24-13 loss to No. 9 Texas A&M.
“There’s an old saying,” Muschamp said, “You’re either coaching it or you’re letting it happen, so obviously we’ve got to do a better job coaching.”
As the Gamecocks sit with a record of 2-3 (1-3 SEC), this much is certain: Muschamp doesn’t plan on making any changes at kicker, despite Elliott Fry’s misses from 44 and 43 yards.
“I’ve got all the confidence in the world (in him),” Muschamp said. “It’s an 11-point game, he’s missed two and I put him back out there … I’ve got a lot of confidence in Elliott. We’ll continue to toss him back out there.”
That’s not to suggest a change needs to be made. After all, Fry is one of the most successful kickers the SEC has ever seen.
The senior moved into third place in league history for consecutive extra points after A.J. Turner opened the game with a 75-yard scoring run. And, after his second make from 43 yards, Fry moved into a tie for 19th in SEC history in scoring.
Before Saturday night, he missed two field goals in a game three other times, most recently against Vanderbilt in 2015. A year earlier, he did it against Tennessee and Miami, but one of the misses in each of those games was from 58 yards.
Quarterback Perry Orth has seen way more makes than misses by Fry, so he wasn’t going to be too hard on him.
“It’s football,” Orth said. “Everybody messes up.”
That includes Jamarcus King, whose muffed punt with 3:20 to play set up a 35-yard field goal by Texas A&M.
Hayden Hurst echoed Orth’s sentiments.
“It’s a game of mistakes,” Hurst said. “Everybody has their day when they’re not playing great.”
It was the team’s second muffed punt of the night.
Rashad Fenton — South Carolina’s returner in place of the injured Deebo Samuel — muffed a punt midway through the second quarter, but he pounced on the loose ball before a Texas A&M player could reach it.
Fenton was later removed from the punt return unit after his ankle “got banged up a little bit.”
“Those are things — (King) didn’t mean to drop it. It’s kind of like when a receiver drops a pass,” Muschamp said. “He didn’t mean to.”
South Carolina’s special teams play wasn’t all doom and gloom. A third quarter fake punt from Sean Kelly to Hurst went for 36 yards, though the drive did end with Fry’s first miss.
“You call those in those situations — to me, it’s more about swinging momentum back in your favor and that’s why I called it,” Muschamp said. “Coleman Hutzler, our special teams coordinator, does a great job. We executed it very well.”