This past Saturday in Auburn, the Gamecock defense was run over, our starting QB had two critical fumbles, and we were manhandled in the trenches. Yet, somehow, we still had a shot to win the football game. Nonetheless, the final score was Auburn 35 South Carolina 27.
What none of us could have expected was the way the Auburn rushing attack would perform. If someone would have told me that the Tigers would have 334 rushing yards against our vaunted defense I'd have thought they were crazy. If that same person, or anyone else, would have told me that Carolina would only have 79 yards on the ground I certainly wouldn't have believed them. However, that was the case and the simple truth is that we lost the line battle on both sides of the football. The DL and OL have to perform better for us to have the kind of season we need.
Last week I wrote a story entitled "Not Good Enough" that detailed my thoughts on Stephen Garcia's performance thus far and his inability to protect the football. I urged #5 to prove me wrong. Unfortunately, he made me look like a savant. Garcia will not, maybe cannot, guard the football the way it should be guarded. I don't know how many times he's going to have to lose it to recognize that throwing it away, sliding, or using two hands to cover it up as he's being hit will keep drives alive. At this point, I don't want to know how many times it will take because I don't want to give him that opportunity. I think Connor Shaw is close enough, as a true freshman, to Garcia, a redshirt junior, that it's time to make a change and go with the young gun. Sure, he threw two picks, but the second one was one of those that a separate category other than INT should be created for, and the first was a nice drop back disguise by the Auburn LB. Plus, talk about a pressure cooker of a situation to be dropped into. Sheesh. Shaw looked good avoiding the pass rush and did a great job keeping his eyes focused down field. Even my wife noted how much more fluid he looks compared to the awkward Garcia. Either way SOS goes with the QB decision, controversy has arrived.
This loss hurts. A win would have put on us on a nice path to at least a nine win season. Though that or better is still possible, it didn't make things easier. On top of our loss, Georgia losing to Mississippi State and moving to 0-3 in the SEC takes away some of the luster of that victory and puts doubt in the minds of Gamecock fans as to how good we are. I think we're pretty good, but I don't know that we're ready for Atlanta. We SHOULD win every game left on the schedule except for Alabama, Arkansas, and Florida. That doesn't mean we can't or won't win any of those ballgames, but I doubt we'll be favored in any of the three. South Carolina needs to win eight games in the regular season. We need that to show recruits (specifically Jadeveon Clowney in this cycle) and the college football world that we're making noise and will be back next year to compete again.
We can still vie for the East in 2010. I've not abandoned all hope. The team has got to truly take things a game at a time and work to get better every day. We're not supposed to beat Alabama on October 9. We probably will not beat Alabama that day. However, upsets obviously exist, and regardless of that outcome there is still a lot of football to be played after that game has passed. Unlike many teams we've had who've lacked effort, that's not the case here. We didn't quit on the Plains last weekend; we lost. If Alabama beats us in Columbia in two weeks, they'll have to earn it. A Gamecock fights to the death, and we're still alive.