The word South Carolina coach Will Muschamp muttered as he sidestepped questions Saturday about the refereeing in his team’s 38-27 loss to No. 9 Florida: “gutless.”
No, the seasoned SEC coach wasn’t about to focus his energy — and potentially risk fines — on a few borderline calls that came at crucial junctures of the game. Instead, he was displeased with the manner in which he was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
“The guy ran 40 yards away and dropped the flag,” Muschamp said after the game. “I have no idea.
“I’d rather him drop it on my feet. ... Drop it on my feet next time.”
That call came with the game well out of reach and Muschamp reiterated several times his displeasure at how the ref made that call.
Muschamp was asked about some of the calls that went against his team, and he brushed that off.
“I’m not going to comment on that,” Muschamp said.
Asked about the potential of another ref to help in a more global sense, something being discussed in the NFL, Muschamp delivered a curt “no comment.”
Several players said they didn’t think the emotional nature of handling those calls deflated them as they let a lead slip away in a 21-7 fourth quarter.
The most notable pair of questionable officiating moments came on a 75-yard touchdown run that tied it 17-17. There appeared to be a missed false start from the Gators right tackle. Then, corner Israel Mukuamu was blocked well downfield with the receiver holding a handful of jersey.
“I was getting held down the field the whole time,” Mukuamu said. “The refs didn’t see it, I guess.”
He went on to say he and his teammates had to be able to tune out the calls.
“They didn’t help us either,” he said of the refs. “We can’t let the game get into their hands.”
ESPN rules analyst Matt Austin said he didn’t think the non-hold was a bad call as Mukuamu didn’t appear to be forcing the issue (his phrasing was “appeared satisfied”).
Later in the game, the Gators scored a touchdown on a pick play where an offensive player appears to start blocking a defender well before the pass was completed. That is acceptable when the pass is caught behind the line, but not ahead of it.
“I had a conversation with Steve (Shaw) and the commissioner (Greg Sankey) yesterday and we’ll continue to move forward, but it’s in their hands,” Muschamp said. Sunday “I don’t want to take anything away from UF. They won the game. Nothing I’m going to say is going to change anything. We all saw what happened. That’s in the conference office’s hands.”
Who: South Carolina vs. Tennessee
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee
TV: SEC Network
Line: USC by 4.5