|Spurrier coach struggles with South Carolina's losing streak|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 11 November 2007 14:15|
For the second straight year, Spurrier's Gamecocks flopped when it counted most and sent the ball coach to another losing SEC season.
It was after falling at Florida 17-16 a year ago that Spurrier decided to up his team's goals to challenge for a conference title. For half this season, Spurrier seemed like a prophet as the Gamecocks rose to No. 6 in the country at 6-1 (3-1 in the league) and were in control of the SEC's Eastern Division.
But four demoralizing conference losses later had Spurrier wondering what had gone wrong.
``Thinking about winning the SEC about four years ago was a realistic thought,'' Spurrier said Sunday. ``But obviously it turned out to be very unrealistic.''
The final blow came a night earlier when Tim Tebow and Florida showed Spurrier what it's like on the bad side of a Gator-style blowout. Tebow accounted for seven touchdowns in Florida's 51-31 win over its former coach.
There was even a touch of Spurrier's ``Darth Visor'' days on Florida's sidelines, Tebow throwing into the end zone for the Gators' final touchdown with less than 2 minutes left and ahead 44-31.
Tebow said the late TD pass was more about respecting Spurrier's offensive output than rubbing anything in. ``When you have coach Spurrier on the other side, it makes you want to score some more points,'' Tebow said.
Spurrier could've used more points along with better tackling the past month.
The slide started at home Oct. 20 against Vanderbilt, who Spurrier had beaten all 14 times he had faced them before the Commodores' 17-6 victory.
A week later, the Gamecocks had hoped to win their second straight game at Tennessee under Spurrier. They rallied from a three-touchdown deficit to lead 24-21 late in the final period. But Vols kicker Daniel Lincoln tied the game at the end and won it in the first overtime. South Carolina's standout kicker, Ryan Succop, may have hit his poorest kick of the season that was dead right of the goal posts trying to extend the game.
Arkansas followed on Nov. 3 when South Carolina's defense, a group that had fueled early victories over Georgia, Mississippi State and Kentucky, fell apart against Razorbacks runner Darren McFadden.
McFadden finished with 321 yards, tying the SEC record, in Arkansas' 48-36 win.
The Gators closed out Spurrier's second straight 3-5 SEC record. It also left Spurrier with a four-game losing streak, something he hasn't gone through since his first year as a college coach at Duke in 1987. Two years later, Spurrier led the Blue Devils to an Atlantic Coast Conference title.
Can the same thing happen here? ``You always got to have hope,'' Spurrier said.
The past nine years, two national championship coaches in Lou Holtz and Spurrier have tried to get South Carolina turned around with only limited success.
Holtz had the most successful two-year stretch in Gamecock history, going 17-7 with two Outback Bowl victories in 2000 and 2001. The Gamecocks started 5-1 in the SEC each year, yet finished 5-3 and out of the SEC's title game.
The Gamecocks had winning SEC records midway through two of Holtz's final three seasons. However, South Carolina lost its last four league games in 2002 to finish 3-5, and two of its last three in 2004 to end 4-4.
Spurrier turned that trend around his first season at South Carolina in 2005 when he opened 0-3 in the league and then didn't lose again, part of a school record six-game SEC winning streak.
The past two seasons, though, have shown Spurrier how far he has to go to reach his goal of an SEC title.
Spurrier says he'll spend more time watching defense at practice the next two weeks. The Gamecocks finish the season at home against No. 15 Clemson on Nov. 24, likely needing to break the losing streak to guarantee a third consecutive bowl.
``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.''