When you beat the No. 1 team in the country, you are always ripe for a letdown. When you beat the No. 1 team in the country by two touchdowns, you should dominate every other game you play. That's not the case with South Carolina, and it apparently isn't the case with Steve Spurrier.
Spurrier stated several times that he hammered that point home. Bob Davie said that if you say it enough your team begins to think that it's unpreventable. Maybe Spurrier hammered it a little too hard.
The Gamecocks laid an egg against Kentucky in a 31-28 loss, especially in the second half. Stephen Garcia had a career day in yardage. Marcus Lattimore had a career day. Alshon Jeffery had less than 100 yards receiving for the first time in quite some time.
To quote professional wrestling legend "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, "every time you think you've got the answer, I change the questions." I think that's what Spurrier was saying all through the week, and nobody picked up on it.
LSU head coach Les Miles has been getting slaughtered in the media for his clock management skills. There's a big problem with that though. His team is undefeated.
Spurrier had his Gamecocks in position to drive the field to either tie or win against Kentucky. He had two timeouts in his pocket. He took them both with the clock stopped. The final one, with 11 seconds on the clock, after an out-of-bounds play with 1st-and-10 to go.
His next play call will have the Gamecock fans across the country and world scratching their heads for the rest of his tenure at South Carolina. He calls a timeout, then throws a pass in the end zone—not to Alshon Jeffery, not to Tori Gurley, but to Lamar Scruggs. Nothing against Scruggs, but you just have to ride your proven winners. That isn't the time to give someone else the chance.
The pass was batted around and intercepted to seal the Gamecocks' fate and prove the Gamecock fans—not only the cynical ones—right. It also put a smile on the face of the detractors, and the odds makers in Vegas.
South Carolina falls to 4-2 (2-2 in SEC play) on the season. The biggest win in school history is now a distant memory. A win in which the South Carolina defense played likely their best game. A game in which they allowed 300-plus yards through the air. The Ellis Johnson "system" is questionable at best. A bend-don't-break philosophy is hard to win with in the SEC.
Many will point to Garcia's turnovers in both the Auburn and Kentucky games. Those were issues, but look at the defensive performances in both games—horrendous. Players made big mistakes, but the unit as a whole doesn't have it figured out. With that being said, Ellis Johnson still has adamant vocal supporters.
After South Carolina lost to Auburn—excuse me, got manhandled by Auburn's offense—Johnson defended himself and said his players didn't execute. Nice way for a coach to teach his players. After this game, his post-game comments will be interesting to hear. It'll likely be along the same lines. His defensive backfield is the softest, as far as coverage, in major college football.
There were also many questionable on the field plays by individual players. Stephon Gilmore had maybe the worst game of his life. Undoubtedly he was trying to make a play on the loss of yards punt return, but on the fumble, he was calling for a fair catch and simply misjudged the ball.
Ace Sanders fumbled away a likely score before the half and missed a huge third-down conversion after it bounced off his hands. Garcia couldn't have thrown that ball any better. There were singular plays you can look at and break down throughout the Kentucky game that could have or would have changed the outcome.
In college football, shoulda, woulda, coulda doesn't matter. What matters at the end of the day is you threw away the ability to control your own destiny—again. There are so many questions swirling around the University of South Carolina right now that there may not be enough answers to find a correct answer.
I hate to end with a question but, after the performance against Kentucky and the decisions made against Kentucky, there is no way more fitting.
Will Steve Spurrier's tenure be remembered for his win against Alabama, or will it be for the questionable calls, strategy and the losses?