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The Citadel Bulldogs 23, South Carolina Gamecocks 22: When Losing Doesn't Matter Anymore

The hits keep coming for the Gamecocks, who lost at home to an FCS team for the first time in a quarter-century

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

You could focus on the underlying causes for The Citadel Bulldogs' only slightly surprising upset of the South Carolina Gamecocks in Columbia. How the military school's option attack churned out 350 rushing yards on 61 carries to provide more proof of the Gamecocks' defensive woes. How South Carolina outgained The Citadel (439-387), but had to settle for a field goal on three drives that moved the ball inside the Bulldogs' 25-yard line.

You could even laugh a bit at some of the factors in the Gamecocks' loss. Bulldogs QB Dominique Allen was 2-of-3 for 37 yards, a stat line that brings back memories of some SEC teams' past defeats to option-oriented teams from the ranks of the FCS. How a game-winning touchdown was called back by an illegal shift penalty of the kind that became sickeningly familiar to South Carolina fans even at the height of the Steve Spurrier Era. How even 191 yards on 11 receptions from Pharoh Cooper wasn't enough to salvage the Gamecocks' hopes.

But the overarching question that accompanies this game after South Carolina's first loss to an FCS team in 25 years -- also against The Citadel -- is, so what? We already knew that the Gamecocks were one of the worst teams in the SEC; this simply confirms that they are likely the worst, and among the worst in the Power 5 conferences, if not the entire FBS. There were already signs that interim head Shawn Elliott wasn't going to be successful enough to lock up the full-time job at South Carolina after Steve Spurrier's midseason resignation. And the loss to Florida last week had officially extinguished any long-shot hopes that the Gamecocks had of making a bowl.

When a loss to an FCS team comes at the beginning of the year, it often ruins a team's season. But the Gamecocks' season was already ruined. All that's left now, all that's been left for a while, is to play out the string on the worst year since Lou Holtz's first team went 0-11 in 1999 -- and the 2015 campaign might even be worse than that milestone season. (The Gamecocks did not play an FCS opponent that year.)

It's certainly a nice win for The Citadel, which can add a Power 5 team to its resume for the FCS playoffs and has given its fans a set of memories that will last a long time. But for South Carolina and its fans, the loss Saturday was just another blow in a season that can't end soon enough.