After a 35-7 win over fifth-ranked Georgia, the national media was ready to crown Steve Spurrier as the SEC’s Coach of the Year. Two losses later, one during which the Gamecocks appeared to give up, some writers are pointing their finger at the Head Ball Coach.
Including this one.
To put it bluntly, South Carolina looked afraid of the big stage during Saturday’s embarrassing 44-11 loss at Florida, a game that could’ve put the Gamecocks in the driver’s seat for an SEC East title. Quarterback Connor Shaw — mainly on the road — had his usual deer-in-the-headlights stare while the offensive line was dominated for the second straight week.
In the second half with the game out of reach and the coaching staff apparently throwing in the towel, South Carolina’s vaunted defense finally gave up some yardage to an offense that has struggled with consistency throughout the season. The result was the Gamecocks’ worst loss in 22 games and snapped a string of 12 straight wins vs. Eastern division competition.
No need for visor tossing after Shaw was yanked for sophomore Dylan Thompson to start the second half. The game was decided in the opening 30 minutes. And that’s what was so disheartening.
South Carolina’s defense has been the only reliable unit during Spurrier’s tenure, the offense usually a sputtering mess. For him to be known as such a master playcaller, South Carolina’s approach has been awfully generic in recent weeks. Part of that blame falls on the level of competition, but most falls on the staff. Where will the Gamecocks go from here at 6-2 overall with virtually every preseason goal evaporated? That’ll be up to the coaches and whether or not they give the players the best chance to win.
Spurrier said after the Florida game that he would “re-evaluate which players want to play for South Carolina” during practice this week. He may need to re-evaluate his own coaches as well. Special teams play (3 fumbles, 2 lost) was abysmal and the offense predictable and vanilla against the Gators.
The Gamecocks weren’t ready to play, plain and simple. You could tell that from the opening snap. That’s too often the case away from Williams-Brice Stadium.
Four wins to close out the regular season would give the Gamecocks a shot at a second consecutive 11-win season, a commendable achievement. But will the players — or the coaches — care? Can South Carolina avoid coming out flat at home next week against Tennessee? Elite level talent should play like it and that hasn’t happened the last two weeks for South Carolina.
Most Gamecocks believe the proverbial corner was turned in 2010 afer the school’s first-ever East title, but Saturday may have proved otherwise. It’ll be interesting to see where they go from here. A collapse similar to 2007 would force Spurrier to re-evaluate his options after this season.