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January 1, 2018

Will Muschamp

St. Petersburg, Florida

South Carolina - 26, Michigan - 19

WILL MUSCHAMP: I'm really excited for our football team, for the University of South Carolina. I want to thank Jim McVay and the Outback Bowl people and the wonderful week they had for us. The great thing about this bowl game is you don't make us do 400 different things, but the one thing you do ask us to go to, I went. It was great to be there and represent the University of South Carolina in a first class manner.

Huge win for our football program. We don't have all the trophies and the tradition and the history, but we've got some grit. We've got some toughness and resolve. We're 10 3 in one score games in two years. Our players understand how to win close ballgames. You saw us down 19 3, not a lot of good things happening for us, and we found some things. I thought Bryan McClendon did an outstanding job preparing our football team offensively and the entire offensive staff going into this game. Made a lot of adjustments at halftime on some things that we felt like we could take advantage of. We're only the fifth team this year to have at least 300 yards against them; we're right at 5.2 yards a play.

But really proud of those guys, and some shots we took down the field being aggressive and our mentality and what we're trying to do. Certainly the tempo helped us create some cheap yardage for us. I'm not going to address anything else about the offensive coordinator position at this time, but really impressed with Bryan and the job that he did.

Defensively the key to the game to me was obviously the turnovers in the second half. But the first half, holding them to field goals. In those situations thinking to myself, all right, we've held them to nine in two situations they wanted 14, and we gave them short fields in two situations and obviously on the punt, and then we had the personal foul and Ben ran into the returner.

I really all three phases, a really great team win for us, ninth win for this year, only the seventh team in school history to do that. But all the arrows are pointing up for us. Our administration is investing in our program, our football operations building, the things that we're doing to be successful. We're going to have those trophies soon, and I'm looking forward to our future. So I appreciate it. It's been a great week. I guess I'll open it up for any questions.

Q. Whose call was it to go for the touchdown immediately after the turnover?
WILL MUSCHAMP: Bryan. All of my offensive coordinators call all the plays. I don't call any plays, regardless of what you all may write.

Q. With 5:45 left in the third quarter, you go down 19 3. Did anybody give a speech at the sideline to the guys, just refocus?
WILL MUSCHAMP: No, I wish those worked. I'd be good at them, but they don't. No, I think that it's 365 days a year how you run your program and the culture of your program, and our guys understanding at halftime we're at 9 3. We gave them three short fields. We actually moved the ball decently well against a very good Michigan defense. But, you know, at the end of the day, we play for 60 minutes, and our guys understand that, and they keep chomping and they keep hanging in there, and they realize when you have Jake Bentley and you have Hayden Hurst and you have Bryan Edwards and you have some guys that are able to make some plays, and those guys are eventually going to make some plays for us, and that's why you just keep chopping and keep playing. Never once did I feel like the game was in the balance as far as that was concerned.

Q. When did you know Rico (Dowdle) would be available to play?
WILL MUSCHAMP: Really not until yesterday. He came to me, and I just didn't feel I told y'all I guess whenever the press conference was that I didn't feel like he would play in the game at the time, but we gave it a go in pregame. He said, hey, I feel good, I want to give this a shot, and he certainly gave us a charge. What a great run on the option play on the check by Jake out the backside against the look that we had.

So again, he's a really good football player. We've certainly missed him as far as the latter part of our season and the charge that he gives us. Donell Stanley in pregame didn't feel good enough to go. Zack (Bailey) was able to play. And Sherrod Greene I don't think was able to get in. We thought we'd be in emergency only.

Q. Skai Moore gets a Gatorade bath at the end of the game. What are his contributions to the program?
WILL MUSCHAMP: Well, again, there's not words I can really put into his contributions to our football program at South Carolina. He's going to be a great pro. He's an every down linebacker. He's instinctive and he's tough, and he's really, really smart, and in my brief time in the National Football League, that's one attitude that you've got to have in order to have some longevity in the league, and that's to be extremely intelligent, and he is. But again, you said it, 14th player ever, and that says a lot, and also a linebacker to have 14 interceptions, and he dropped the boot on the side over here. He should have had that one.

But that shows you his instincts. That shows you his ball hawk mentality. He's an outstanding football player. We're certainly going to miss him.

Q. What does it say about this program that you were 3 9 two years ago and now you're where you are today?
WILL MUSCHAMP: Well, I think it says that we've made progress. It's easy to point at tangible things and say, this is good. It helps in recruiting, obviously. It obviously helps your fan base. We've got to continue to move forward. The great thing about it is we're building, and 70 percent of our offense was freshmen and sophomores. We have a bunch of really good players coming back next year.

We need to have a great off season. I told the guys, I thanked the seniors, but I told the underclassmen, when you come back in January, all gas, no brakes, let's get ready to roll, and that what we need. You've got to keep pressing forward. You've got to stay hungry in everything you do, and that's what we're going to do in our program, and certainly we've scratched the surface of what I think we can do.

Q. How important was it for you to win a bowl game here in Florida?
WILL MUSCHAMP: I don't really have any this is my first win in this stadium. I was defensive coordinator against Miami Dolphins and we lost here I think 17 9. I think Anderson was running back from Fresno, 32? You don't know, all right. I can't remember his name, either. He was No. 32. He hit a run late on us.

And then we lost here in '95 when I was at GA at Auburn against Penn State 43 14. I think that's still the points record. I was just a graduate assistant, I was not a full time defensive assistant. (Laughter.) And then when I was at Auburn and we played Wisconsin here, we lost in overtime. So I'm just happy to win in this stadium.

Q. That was Mike Pittman.
WILL MUSCHAMP: That's right, Mike Pittman. I get Anderson from the Falcons mixed up with that, thank you.

Q. You've told us of Bryan's experience in the role, but did you communicate with him any differently in the lead up, and did you talk to him at all at halftime?
WILL MUSCHAMP: Didn't even visit with the offensive staff at halftime. Had total confidence in making the right adjustments. We got on the field in the third quarter, generally I get on the headsets, what do we like in the run game, what do we like in short yardage because it's not working, what is our plan with that moving forward, and how can we create some explosive opportunities down the field. We answered all three situations. We did not have a short yardage situation come up. There could have been a 4th and 1, but I felt like at that time of the game, it was a field position game, I think, so I didn't feel like in that situation at mid field going for it on 4th down. Punt and play field position.

Q. Defense is 90 percent effort; how proud are you of your guys?
WILL MUSCHAMP: Well, we've come a long way. We couldn't stop the run against anybody last year if you watched us, and so it's good to see that you play blocks up front, you tackle, you leverage the ball, you understand formations. The one run that they had, we had people at the point of attack, and we missed a tackle on 22, (Karan) Higdon, down our sideline. Again, being in the right spots and understanding leverage and formations, we're getting stronger as a program. We've got to continue to do that. That's going to be a huge part of our off season. You know, hand strength is critical for defensive players to be able to disengage and get off blocks. We've come a long way, but we still have miles to travel.

Q. What were some of the issues with the special teams today, especially in the first half?
WILL MUSCHAMP: Well, you know, Chris (Lammons) thought Javon Charleston hit the ball on the punt return, so that's why he tried to field it. Again, we've had two situations with that this year where we've not done a good job of communicating with that. They had never sky kicked to the side of the kickoff, and having Shi (Smith) back, he needed to attack it, be aggressive with it. We need to be more aggressive in that situation.

That ball ended up, I believe, on the 12 yard line. He should have had plenty of time in operation to catch the ball and field the ball, so that was obviously disappointing. Ben ran into the returner. He needs to be more under control in that situation, which gave them, again, a ball at the 50 and a short field situation.

Obviously those things are tackling and special teams, when you go into bowl games, are the two things that are my biggest concern going into a game. I thought we tackled okay today, but certainly we had some special teams issues that we need to move forward with.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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