Some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 26-22 loss to Kentucky:
Watershed. On January 1, 2014, South Carolina defeated Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl. Six days later when the final college football rankings were released, the Gamecocks were ranked fourth, the best finish in school history. In April 2014, Jadeveon Clowney was taken by the Houston Texans with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft. The University’s athletic department ran a campaign called “Top Ten Program” featuring the football team’s successes.
Since then the Gamecocks have played a mere 15 football games, winning 8 and losing 7, including Saturday night’s loss to Kentucky. In the process, South Carolina has either lost ground to or been passed by every football program in the SEC aside from Vanderbilt and possibly Florida.
We are now, at best, the 12th best program in the SEC after falling for the second straight year to the Wildcats. You don’t believe it? Then who would you put us ahead of out of Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi, Mississippi State, LSU, Arkansas or Texas A&M? (Don’t even get me started on how Clemson has passed us like we were standing still.) Even though we’ve beaten Florida twice in a row, they have a new coach, new energy, and because of a rich recruiting base a program that doesn’t have far to go to insert themselves back into the national conversation.
The fall of the Gamecocks has been fast and painful. Apathy from the head man has reflected mightily on the recruiting trail and that has translated in a bad way to the football field. Recruiting is the lifeblood of college football, and we have failed miserably in that area for the last few years. Especially considering we had a run of three straight 11-win seasons and we actually WERE a top 10 program.
Steve Spurrier has done more for South Carolina Gamecock football than any other coach in our history. Maybe more than all the others combined. He has taken us to places we only dreamed of. He has put us on the map, and he has entertained us. Most of all, he has won a lot of important ball games for us. And I have a feeling we will be thanking him for many years and in many ways for his contributions.
But now Steve Spurrier is not winning. Or at least he’s not winning enough. In addition, there are signs things are not going to get better any time soon, and we don’t need a 70-year-old coach leading a rebuilding project anyway. And please spare me the “how soon we forget 1-21” speech. I haven’t forgotten that at all, but it WAS fifteen years ago and lot has changed, not the least of which are our expectations of wins and losses. Just because we experienced 1-21 doesn’t mean we should put a cap on our expected success.
I realize we are only two games into the season, and lot of things can happen. But I have also witnessed a precipitous fall from what was our football mountaintop. I have a feeling we’re going to be looking for new head coach in December. It will be a sad time, an uneasy time, and an exciting time. But it will be time.
Take your pick. The loss to Kentucky was the epitome of a team effort. Failed red zone trips, a fumble returned for a 2-point conversion, a crucial interception, two unsportsmanlike penalties, miserable first half tackling. They say games between equally matched teams are usually decided by 1-2 plays. But last night, even if we overcame one bad play, there was another one waiting around the corner to doom us.
A tale of two halves. For our defense, it was the worst of halves, and the best of halves. But most of what I’ve been reading has been praise for the defense for shutting the Wildcats out in the second half. That’s all well and good, but how about let’s not give up 24 points and 300 yards in the first half that makes the game virtually unwinnable.
QB conundrum. I was sorry to see Connor Mitch get hurt, and was glad to hear he would probably only be out six weeks instead of the entire season. I know the kid has worked hard to earn his spot, and that should not be forgotten. However, he was borderline atrocious in the North Carolina game, and even worse last night. Perry Orth came in and showed surprising poise and confidence. We’ll have to see how the battle between he and Lorenzo Nunez plays out over the next few weeks, but unless both go completely in the tank (along with Michael Scarnecchia) I have a hard time seeing Mitch win the quarterback job back.
Mouth running Wilds. Brandon Wilds had some great quotes after the game:
Most of the time I’m not a big fan of players calling out coaches publicly, but in this case I really love it. Wilds has gone to battle for four years for our school. He’s seen the highs, and now he’s experiencing the lows, and he doesn’t like it one bit. Here’s a guy who knows what it takes to win from every member of the team, including the coaches. I don’t blame him for bitching. Give the man the ball.
Georgia on our minds. And they’re going to be on our jocks on Saturday. They opened as a 16-point favorite. While they didn’t play well on Saturday against Vanderbilt, I would feel comfortable laying the 16 based on what I’ve seen from USC so far.
I hope I’m wrong about all this. Regardless, I’m in it for the long haul.