A 7-2 Record and All is Well?

Well, Andy, I just spent the last hour directing my energy to a blog post wondering why people are so satisfied with a 7-2 record and #13 BCS ranking. Is it not OK to have wanted more?

In the last couple of weeks I’ve seen and heard a lot of what Andy Demetra is talking about above.  I even participated, telling the Gamecock Nation to “enjoy the ride” and quit complaining when we were 7-1 and had won 17 of 21 regular season games.  But Sunday morning after the Arkansas loss it really hit me – Georgia is in position to win the SEC East, and actually is likely to win the SEC East.

At that point my perspective changed. Because if that happens, we will have blown a golden opportunity.

Before I go any further, let me state that I’ve been a diehard Gamecock fan since 1987, my freshman year in Columbia. So I’ve lived through Sparky and Fat Brad, I’ve lived through 1-10 and 0-11, and I’ve seen many, many more disappointments than triumphs in 24 years. But I kept coming back, and I will continue to come back.

Unfortunately, through nine games in 2011, I must say this season has been a disappointment.  

But Buck, you just said you lived through 1-10 and 0-11? How can you be disappointed with 7-2 and a top 15 national ranking?

First of all, stop trying to relate what was going on in 1998 and 1999 to what we have today. The program is light years ahead of where it was in those years, but is it wrong to expect more? To want to improve on improvement? Lou Holtz took us to a new level, and Steve Spurrier has taken us to a level, or maybe two, above that. 1999 should not be our reference point for 2011.  2010 should be our reference point for 2011.

Second, yes, I will agree that 7-2 is a nice record after nine games. It’s how we’ve gotten to 7-2 that I have a problem with. We simply have not played up to expectations.

Don’t you know we still have a lot to play for? We still have a shot at the East, a shot at double-digit wins, a chance for a BCS bowl. This could be a historic season.

Right, I keep hearing that, and all those things are still in play. But what have you seen from this team, this year, that makes you think it can achieve any of those things? Please don’t take this the wrong way. I love our team, our players, and I think they play their heart out every week. But something is missing from an above average team that could make it great. Just look at how our season has played out:

  • East Carolina – should we have really struggled with this team for as long as we did? A team that is now 4-5 and lost to Houston 56-3?
  • Georgia – a great win no matter how you slice it, but we didn’t play particularly well, and could have easily lost this game. And I’m THRILLED we didn’t.
  • Navy – again, a major struggle against a team that is now 3-6. If we were anywhere near elite, Navy shouldn’t stand a chance against us.
  • Vanderbilt – yawn.
  • Auburn – unfortunately, the game that is likely to define our season. A team depleted by graduation/defection to the NFL, searching for an identity after being crushed by CTU, comes into our house and takes away our margin for error. You CANNOT lose to this Auburn team if you want to be great.  
  • Kentucky – easily our best game of the year. For once in the Spurrier era, we stepped on a team’s throat and crushed them.
  • Mississippi State – a game won by pure force of will, which is why I love our players and coaches. But that’s a team we have to pull away from.
  • Tennessee – much tougher than it should’ve been.
  • Arkansas – the best team on our schedule and we really didn’t stand much of a chance. There’s no shame in losing to the ‘Hogs, but it would’ve been nice to have been competitive with them without the aid of dropped passes and missed field goals.

Every week I keep thinking we’re going to turn a corner, but the corner keeps moving further away.

But we’re playing without Lattimore, Nunn, Garcia, and played Saturdy without Antonio Allen!

Let me ask you, were we playing without those guys against East Carolina? Navy? Most importantly, Auburn? There is no doubt we miss them, but we weren’t playing very well WITH them in the lineup. And please don’t use it as an excuse for any losses we may have from here on out. That’s why you recruit. One man goes down, the next guy steps in. That’s what great programs are made of, and that’s where I hope South Carolina can get to someday. Soon.  

Back in August we were saying this was the most talented Gamecock team ever.  We had the three-headed monster of Garcia, Lattimore and Jeffery. We had a dominant defensive line. We were the odds-on favorite to win the East.

In September we cleared the Georgia hurdle. We continued to “win anyway” against inferior teams despite injuries and…well, whatever you want to call the Garcia situation.

But in the midst of it we wet the bed against Auburn, and sitting here today I can’t help but think we’ve blown it. We let one get away when we didn’t have the luxury of letting one get away.  

So stop telling me to be happy with 7-2 because in 1999 we were 0-11. This is a different team, a different era.

There are plenty of people that will be Pollyanna about Gamecock football and let me have it for saying the season has been a disappointment to this point even though we’re 7-2. And that’s fine.

I guess it beats being 6-3.