Members of the South Carolina football program are going to get plenty of unwanted questions this week. In case you missed it, the weekend wasn’t a great one for the Gamecocks. And the lost ballgame at Georgia seems to be the least of Carolina’s worries.
After the Bulldogs had registered a 41-30 victory over the Cocks, the screeching in the postgame press conferences began. The first comments were in regards to a on-field shoving match between linebackers coach Kirk Botkin and defensive line coach Deke Adams. It was an argument caught on camera:
Told about the incident after the game, Steve Spurrier responded by saying, “Well, at least they care.” Yesterday, he followed up: “Out of character. Obviously, that need not happen anymore. They’re OK now, and hopefully that will not happen again.”
Carolina’s assistants might be OK with one another, but one has to wonder how defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward feels about Spurrier tossing him under the proverbial bus following Saturday’s poor showing. Reminiscent of previous incidents, the Ol’ Ball Coach let everyone know that the screwups on defense need to be corrected… by an underling:
“We’ve got to be a little more creative. We can’t just sit there and never disguise and say, ‘Com on.’ I look out there and I see all those either redshirt freshmen or second-year guys and I’m starting to wonder if we were expecting a little bit much out of all those guys. But it is a freshman-laden defense out there, and they’re going to take their lumps, I guess, but we’ve got to be creative. We’re going to change our defense a little bit. We’re not going to just stand there like we did today. I’ll give Coach Ward some suggestions.”
While there was plenty of coach-on-coach crime to go around, the Gamecocks’ star player did a little griping his own self. Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney — who Georgia steered clear of for the vast majority of the game — wasn’t happy with his lack of playmaking opportunities on Saturday.
“Very frustrating,” Clowney said. “I told the coaches you got to put me somewhere else. In the middle if you want to. Somewhere I can make some plays, help my team get in position to win.”
He added: “It’s hard out there trying to chase from the backside, and they just took me right out of the game. They want to move me around, that’s up to (the coaches). I’m going to keep playing my assignments, I set the edge most of the night, the ball went away from me on the backside chasing. That’s just how the game went.”
All this fussing tells us that the Gamecocks have now won enough that losing makes them flat angry. That’s a positive and Spurrier deserves credit for raising the expectation levels in Columbia to that point.
But Carolina’s season is now hanging in the balance. Will coaches with hurt feelings forgive and forget or will there be some ongoing fallout from Saturday’s verbal and physical scuffles? Has Clowney undermined his coaches in any way with his comments? How will the players respond?
Vanderbilt visits Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday night. There’s a blueprint for dealing with Clowney — run where he ain’t. If USC’s coaches move Clowney around and all the Gamecocks’ hatchets are buried, it could be a long night for Vandy. The Commodores might just be the squad that Carolina takes its frustrations out upon.
But Vanderbilt tends to give Carolina a pretty good game when they meet. The boys from Nashville won two in a row over Spurrier in 2007 and 2008, and they fell by just points in 2009 and last season.
If the Commodores hang with USC on Saturday, might some of the scabs be ripped off those wounds suffered in Athens last weekend? Suddenly, this year’s South Carolina/Vanderbilt game has become a lot more interesting.