“The game we played was great. We won the game, and I couldn’t be happier,” Buchner said. “But for me, personally, I didn’t play to the standard I wanted to play. I think I accounted for two extra touchdowns they didn’t want me to account for. That’s not the standard I hold myself to.”
Buchner, who regained the starting job after Drew Pyne entered the transfer portal following the regular-season finale, threw for 274 yards. He also ran for 61 more. He had a 75-yard TD pass to Logan Diggs and a 44-yarder to Braden Lenzy — both one-play drives.
But his three interceptions nearly proved too much to overcome.
Spencer Rattler completed 29 of 44 passes for 246 yards for the Gamecocks (8-5, No. 19 CFP), with an interception and two touchdowns to Xavier Legette.
South Carolina was missing a number of key starters, including running back MarShawn Lloyd, versatile tight end Jaheim Bell, tight end Austin Stogner, defensive lineman Zacch Pickens, safety Devonni Reed, cornerbacks Cam Smith and Darius Rush, and receivers Josh Vann and Jalen Brooks.
“For us to be down that many players and for those guys to play their butts off like they did and leave everything out there like they did, I’m really really, really proud to be their coach,” Gamecocks coach Shane Beamer said. “In that locker room there’s a hurtin’ group of guys that left it all out there.”
Notre Dame played without All-American tight end Michael Mayer, standout edge rusher Isaiah Foskey, cornerback Cam Hart and defensive lineman Jayson Ademilola.
“This is what real life is about: the ability to respond to situations,” Freeman said.
Notre Dame: The Irish gave Freeman his first victory following a lengthy layoff. Notre Dame lost its bowl game last year to Oklahoma State after naming Freeman the head coach and dropped its season opener at Ohio State.
South Carolina: Special teams are usually Beamer’s specialty, but he had a few uncharacteristic mistakes to go along with the punter-to-long snapper touchdown pass. Dakereon Joyner was flagged for a block in the back in the second quarter, a call that got Beamer so irate that he drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Those penalties resulted in a 45-yard swing. The Gamecocks also were flagged in the second half for having two guys wearing the same number on a punt and twice for delay of game.
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish are expected to land highly coveted transfer quarterback Sam Hartman, a three-year starter at Wake Forest who holds the Atlantic Coast Conference’s record for passing touchdowns with 110. He will have one year of eligibility remaining.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks have numerous holes to fill, none bigger than at offensive coordinator after Marcus Satterfield left for Nebraska. All eyes will be on his replacement, former Arkansas tight ends coach Dowell Loggains, in spring practice.
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