South Carolina held its first on-site practice for the Birmingham Bowl on Monday afternoon at Birmingham-Southern College.
The Gamecocks (6-6) will play South Florida (10-2) on Thursday at 2 p.m. at Legion Field, which is less than a mile from their practice site for the week, a turf field that serves as the Panthers’ home stadium.
The field here is named Battle Field, and that’s what first-year South Carolina coach Will Muschamp is hoping his team will do Thursday against the Bulls, who are 10-point favorites.
“Having a winning record after 3-9 (last season) would be a huge step forward for us,” Muschamp said when his team arrived in Birmingham. “I think our guys understand that and understand what is at stake. Our preparation in Columbia was really good, so we need to continue it here.”
The Gamecocks have won their past four bowl games, dating back to a 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl loss to Florida State in 2010.
“Ending the season with a win going into the offseason, it makes you feel better about where you are,” Muschamp said. “Regardless of whether it really matters or not, it’s just the way you feel as a human being, as a person, as a coach, as a player, as a competitor.”
The Gamecocks worked out for about two hours Monday in what was their last padded practice. The team’s remaining practices will be limited contact. Monday’s workout started with one-on-one blocking drills.
“We want to be able to go out on the right note and ultimately send this program in the right direction in the offseason,” senior offensive lineman Mason Zandi said.
South Carolina’s players had three days off prior to Monday’s practice and many, like running back A.J. Turner, went home for the Christmas holiday.
“The holidays, you eat a lot,” Turner said. “That’s why you have to do some stuff while you’re home so you don’t come out here looking like crap.”
Who: South Carolina (6-6) vs. South Florida (10-2)
When: 2 p.m., Thursday
Where: Legion Field, Birmingham, Ala.
Line: USF by 10