Sunday, January 14, 2007

REVIEWAPALOOZA -- South Carolina Season, Part I

Back in the Lou Holtz days, South Carolina fans got used to the inevitable up and down of the season. The up would happen over the first seven games. The Gamecocks would hammer (or at least defeat) some hapless out-of-conference foe, come close to Ugha, drill another few out-of-conference teams and cut a few calls too close, then come into November with a 5-2 or 5-3 record.

And then it would all fall apart in inexplicable fashion, a team that seemed bowl-bound imploding before our eyes in a fireball of mismanagement and exposed lies.

The first few months of a Lou Holtz season. The same results afterward.

The first few months of Steve Spurrier's first season? Not so promising. The Gamecocks went 2-3 before stringing together five straight conference wins and ending the season 7-4.

So maybe it shouldn't have been a surprise when the first three games of 2006 were ... well, a bit unnerving.

The first few months of a Steve Spurrier season.

Defensively, the Gamecocks weren't doing a lot wrong. In fact, they allowed just 9.0 ppg to their first two opponents -- Georgia and Mississippi State. Unfortunately, South Carolina was scoring just 7.5 ppg.

So after an uninspiring 15-0 defeat of MSU -- in which the sole TD pass was thrown by Syvelle Newton, when he was still a WR -- and an almost unwatchable 18-0 loss to Georgia, the jury was at the very least still out on this Gamecock squad.

And then, Blake Mitchell went and got stupid.

Not just dumb. Colosally stupid. Driving-with-your-infant-in-your-lap stupid.

Blake Mitchell, circa Sept. 13.

Yes, good ol' Blake decided he wanted to take an underage companion into a bar in Five Points. In fairness to Mitchell, he might not have been aware that it was illegal to take underage people into bars in Five Points, since the rule is, shall we say, sparsely enforced.

In any case, a bouncer at Pavlov's (why did he go to Pavlov's?) told Mitchell he couldn't bring the women into the bar. Mitchell responded by punching the bouncer in the face.

So there might have been a few more steps in there. But the long and short of it is, he punched a bouncer and cleared the way for Syvelle Newton to step in at QB.

And there was great rejoicing.

Fan favorite now calling the signals, a Division I-AA team coming into Williams Brice, the faithful could have been forgiven for feeling a little confident.

And as South Carolina staked out a 24-10 lead by halftime, they could have been forgiven for thinking the game was over.

But they should have remembered that this is South Carolina.

The Terriers rallied -- a phrase that's almost embarassing to type -- and pulled to within 27-20. Then, they drove to the South Carolina 9 with the game clock ticking down in the fourth quarter.
And, somehow, Dakota Walker got a hand on a pass/pitch from Josh Collier, Cody Wells ended up with the ball, and South Carolina was 2-1.

But, somehow, it felt like this was going to be a long, long season.

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