Instant Analysis -
Connecticut 20 ... South Carolina 7
How do you fire Steve Spurrier? Can you fire him?
Any other by any other name would be done after this game and with the
way the second half of the season went. 35-27 in six years at the helm,
Spurrier has received plenty of time to get his players in place and has
gotten more than a few chances to turn things around. South Carolina
might be a tough place to win because of the lack of tradition, but
after not getting enough out of Lou Holtz and with this failed
experiment, it might be time to try something else.
Spurrier has never been able to fix his offensive line, and to run a fun
'n' gun attack in any way, the quarterback needs time to let the
downfield plays develop. That's not happening. Also not working is a
running game that was always the tremendously productive and always
underappreciated aspect of Spurrier's Gator squads. But above all else,
the team just isn't winning.
Beating Clemson with a strong running game and an excellent defensive
effort only makes the rest of the clunkers stand out that much more. Not
only did the Gamecocks struggle down the stretch, losing five of the
seven games, but four of the wins on the season were by a touchdown or
less including a two point win over Kentucky and a scintillating 14-10
victory over Vanderbilt.
His defenses have been great and he has cranked out some talented
offensive players, but Spurrier needs to do something special next year.
He no longer rules the SEC roost, and after a second straight disastrous
bowl performance, he needs to give the Gamecock fans some hope that the
program can get back on the right track over the next eight months.
As much as I'd love to rip South Carolina in this space, that'd be doing an injustice to Connecticut, which deserves all of the ink following a total domination of the PapaJohns.com Bowl.
I've been accused in the past of overstating the abilities of Husky head coach Randy Edsall, often by folks who've never seen the program in action. Guilty as charged. This is one of those rare guys worthy of all of the adulation and hyperbole. What he does at this school is remarkable, perennially taking other university's afterthoughts and molding them into NFL-caliber players. It's uncanny and it's the reason how this Northeast basketball school can run circles around an SEC team that's led by Steve Spurrier and is supposedly peaking heading into 2010. Andre Dixon ran for 126 yards and a score. Marcus Easley had four grabs to cap a brilliant senior year. DE Lindsey Witten and LB Lawrence Wilson did their parts in a tremendous defensive effort, holding the Gamecocks to a little over 200 yards and no points until the fourth quarter, when the game was out of reach. The common thread among these four players? None arrived in Storrs with many accolades, yet all will have an opportunity to play on Sundays. Coaching.
Connecticut had a gem on the sidelines before kickoff of today's game in Birmingham. The impressive 20-7 clinic only served as a reminder to those who'd forgotten. Even more special is the fact that he's stayed put, resisting the temptation to bolt for a program that would offer more money, more publicity, and a much better chance of playing in a different kind of January bowl game. As the darker side of the coaching fraternity has surfaced over the past month, it's important to celebrate a guy like Edsall, who does it the right way, even if he isn't earning the pub to match his output.
1) West Virginia's face-plant against Florida State reveals a program that is clearly on shakier footing under head coach Bill Stewart. Cincinnati is losing a lot of talent, not to mention the man who made the Bearcats hum, Brian Kelly. Rutgers lacked signature wins last season. South Florida is a program with clouds of uncertainty hanging overhead. Louisville will need a few years before Charlie Strong puts the pieces together. Syracuse is… well… Syracuse. This authoritative, physical and fairly efficient (save the third quarter) performance in Birmingham suggests that Connecticut could very well be the foremost challenger to Pittsburgh for the 2010 Big East championship. The Huskies will host the Panthers next season, and after enduring the Jasper Howard tragedy in 2009, they'll be a close-knit family when they break camp in August. Brian Kelly's departure means that Randy Edsall is the best coach in the Big East. United, sobered and strengthened by the tears they've shed over the past few months, the Huskies will be primed to produce something special next Autumn. What's more, they have the combination of coaching and confidence that can lead them to a higher place in the college football world.
2) Before the 2009 season, Nick Saban had his Alabama players receive the professional expertise of the Pacific Institute. The Seattle-based organization provides life coaching, or what one could refer to as "psychological strength training." Needless to say, Saban's investment paid off handsomely, and now Bob Stoops is giving Oklahoma the "Pacific Treatment." Stoops is a good friend – and former employee of – one Steve Spurrier. After seeing his team lay down like dogs and fade away into a chilly Birmingham afternoon, Spurrier – who knows his Xs and Os but has not been able to change the subculture in South Carolina – has to find a way to create a durable and lasting form of confidence in the minds and hearts of his weak-willed players. He should call Bob Stoops, and get the phone number of the Pacific Institute. Pronto.
When South Carolina football players stop doubting themselves… stop going charmin-soft in cold weather… stop making mental mistakes… and stop shriveling at the first sign of adversity, they might actually be able to achieve something. With all the transitions in the SEC East, South Carolina won't be facing an impossible situation in its division next fall, but if the Gamecocks continue to be the manifest mental midgets they've been for so long, they'll go 7-6 once again, and leave their loyal fans muttering in the darkness.
2010 pretty much started out exactly like 2009 for the South Carolina Gamecocks – and that's not a good thing. Whatever motivational tactics the Gamecocks coaching staff employ during bowl practices obviously isn't working. Maybe they should try something different.
For the second straight year, the Gamecocks looked totally unprepared and uninterested in playing a bowl game.
The loss to UConn in the Papajohns.com Bowl is far worse than the egg that the Gamecocks laid in the Outback Bowl a year ago. They were coming off a dominating win over their intra-state rival (Clemson), who just so happened to be the champions of the ACC Atlantic Division.
Considering the turmoil going on in Gainesville, this would have been a nice time to bring some momentum to the program to the off-season.
Before this game, I was prepared to proclaim South Carolina to be the dark horse to win the SEC East in 2010. After all, why not? Stephen Garcia seemed to have settled in, throwing for more than 300 yards in three of his last five games. He might not have been able to do that in eight quarters vs. the Huskies.
If nothing else, the expectations will be low after this clunker.