If I were to do the normal "5 POINTS," these are the five things I would talk about:
1. Tim Terrific. Normally I like to write these things myself, but I see no way to phrase it better than The State:
For the second consecutive week South Carolina helped an opposing player's Heisman Trophy hopes and hurt its bowl chances.
Yes, Tim Tebow rang up 424 yards of total offense. Granted, he didn't pull a Darren McFadden on South Carolina -- at least in the sense that he didn't break any records -- but Tebow still scorched the field. That means ...
2. The defense still sucks. Yes, it's easy to allow just 16.6 ppg when you're playing Louisiana-Lafayette, a floundering (at the time) Georgia, S.C. State, LSU, Mississippi State, Kentucky, North Carolina and Vanderbilt. Some of those teams were and are very good, but none of them (save LSU and the mysterious, imploding Kentucky) were offensive powerhouses when South Carolina faced them. When the defense was most needed -- against Tennessee (27), Arkansas (48) and Florida (51) -- it instead allowed 42 points a game, 44.5 ppg the last two contests.
Spurrier pinned most of the blame on the defensive line.
"We're just not getting much out of our D-line the last two games," Spurrier said. "We're just getting shoved around the line of scrimmage. It makes it hard to win against good teams."
That was Spurrier’s view from the sideline. Safety Emanuel Cook, who once again led the team in tackles, was asked whether he saw the same thing on the field.
His answer told it all.
"I couldn't really tell," Cook said. "I was getting blocked myself."
3. The bad start. All the blame can't fall on the defense after the offense basically gift-wrapped 13 points for Florida to begin the game. The offense fought back. After a few good series, the defense folded.
But Spurrier said the way the USC defense played made the poor start irrelevant.
"What difference would it have made?" Spurrier said. "Until we can stop and force people to punt, they're going to go 20 yards or 80 yards or 60 yards."
4. Blake doesn't kill us, can't save us. The line: 26-of-42 (61.9 percent), 316 yards, a TD, an INT. Mitchell didn't cost South Carolina the game. He also didn't win it. All that's left for Blake now is to be the QB when South Carolina beats Clemson in consecutive years for the first time sice 1969-70. Yeah. That'll happen.
5. Races and rankings. It's all over. Mathematically eliminated from the SEC East, for anyone who was still clinging to delusion. And barring blowout wins over Clemson and a bowl opponent -- and a bowl will only happen if the Gamecocks beat the Tiggers -- it looks extremely unlikely that South Carolina will crack the Top 25 at the end of the year.
After all that, I'd put: OVERALL GRADE: D. The defensive flaws destroy any value from the offense's delayed success.
Allow me, though, to go beyond the normal "5 POINTS" routine here.
This season came down to the defense. Everyone said that side of the ball was the one that was going to power South Carolina to its best season since the heady days of the middle of the Holtz Era, a period best described as a magician pulling some of his old tricks.
It didn't happen. Granted, the defense furthered the mirage by its play during the 6-1 stretch to start the year, but there were warning signs then. Among those saying that South Carolina might not be as good as we thought: Yours truly.
But this isn't an "I-told-you-so" post, because I didn't. There is no excuse for this season to turn out the way it did. The warning signs about the running defense were there long before Arkansas took advantage of them with lethal efficiency. Scoring just six points against Vanderbilt, while giving Boyd and Davis just 11 carries, is almost unforgivable. The defense destroyed this season, but the offense did little to stop it.
There are bright signs: Kenny McKinley is coming along as a No. 1 threat, and Dion Lecorn appears to be emerging as a solid No. 2 option. By next year, Chris Smelley could be mature enough to lead the offense. If not, then SAVIOR OF THE PROGRAM Stephen Garcia is ready to step in as the mobile quarterback that Spurrier never recruits or uses.
But what of this year?
I said repeatedly that the minimum I would consider a success this year would be eight wins in the regular season and a decent bowl. Both of those are now gone. Mathematically, eight wins is impossible. Practically, a decent bowl berth is also beyond South Carolina's reach.
This season now can not be a success. If the Gamecocks find a way to defeat Clemson, and if they can win a Random American Value Bowl, it's still not what should have been expected from this team.
It isn't a success. It also might not be a failure.
In the end, the best it can be considered is a lost year.
Grade the Gamecocks.
This poll is closed