Thursday, November 15, 2007

Cockadoodle Don't: For Spurrier, the Bottom Has Fallen Out

"Thinking about winning the SEC about four years ago was a realistic thought," South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier said recently when he reflected on the Gamecocks' 2007 campaign. "But obviously it turned out to be very unrealistic."
As the season winds down, Ole Ball Coach is finally facing the reality that is oh so obvious to the casual SEC observer: The Gamecocks pretty much suck.
"Somebody told me, 'Coach, if you don't go to a bowl, at least you won't have a losing record this year,' " Spurrier said. "Well, that's one way to look at it."
But Spurrier and the South Carolinians had much bigger plans.
When he met with the athletic director this summer for an honest assessment you had to figure their meeting went something like this:
Spurrier: Well, boss, I think we got ourselves an SEC East contender.
A.D.: Really? A contender in less than 4 years? Let's run down the schedule, shall we?
Spurrier: Yes-sir-eee, let's do it.
A.D.: Louisiana-Lafayette?
Spurrier: Yeah, easy.
A.D.: Georgia?
Spurrier: Hell yeah.
A.D.: South Carolina State.
Spurrier: (laughs, adjusting his visor).
A.D.: At LSU?
Spurrier: Well, (grimacing) we'll make a game of it.
A.D.: Okay, um, Mississippi State?
Spurrier: We'll get that one.
A.D.: Kentucky?
Spurrier: Com'on, now. You kiddin' me?
A.D.: At North Carolina?
Spurrier: Battle for the state? No problem.
A.D.: Vanderbilt.
Spurrier: (stares at him) It's Vandy (shrugs with both hands out)
A.D.: At Tennessee
Spurrier: It'll come down to the last play. It's 50-50.
A.D.: At Arkansas?
Spurrier: They don't have a passing game. We'll kill 'em!
A.D.: Florida?
Spurrier: They can't recruit since i left. Done.
A.D.: Clemson?
Spurrier: (deep breathe) They'll be at the bottom of the ACC. Course!
Before the season, Spurrier had every reason to expect a two-loss campaign. They had high hopes for senior tailback Cory Boyd, who had over 800 yards the previous season and a 5-yard-a-carry average for this career. Hopes were even higher for freshman Chris Smelley, a Tuscaloosa kid who spurned the obvious school choice to experience a little Cock N' Fire, and compete for the starting position with seasoned senior Blake Mitchell. Spurrier has tinkered with the lineups so much that both quarterbacks have turned in uneven seasons, but it didn't start out that way.
The Gamecocks proceeded to run the table early on, except for a Purple-and-Gold speed bump in Baton Rouge, where the Ole Ball Coach even accused LSU of
"dirty play".
But they regrouped for awhile. At their highest, they made it to No. 6 in the country, despite a bad showing against the Tar Heels. But they managed to hold up their end of the bargain.
Then came Vanderbilt. A perennial cupcake, the Commodores would stop two deep USC drives and stymie many others with their secondary play. The loss was a stunner, to say the least.
And the Tennessee game? USC spotted the Vols a 21-0 lead before a furious comeback was spoiled by special teams in a 27-24 loss. Spurrier sensed that the bottom could fall out even then.
"When we were 6-1, you guys heard me talking, I wasn't sitting on the table here telling you how great we were," Spurrier said after that game while preparing for the Razorbacks. "It sort of just all caught up to us against some good teams."
And then the Arkansas, a 48-36 laugher, saw Razorback running back Darren McFadden personally do a Heisman highlight reel through the Gamecock line and secondary.
"I don't know if Arkansas was that great a running team or we're that bad," Spurrier said then. "I guess we're going to find out as we finish the season here."
He'd find out the following week, as Florida came to town.
Gator quarterback Tim Tebow was so dominant, scoring all seven of the Gators' touchdowns in a 51-31 romp, that he astoundingly contributed 80 percent of Florida's entire offense.
He had 424 of Florida's 537 total yards on offense.
Spurrier, like his team,
had no answers.

And he doesn't have any today as the Gamecocks look to finish against Clemson next week.

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