It won't be easy for me to write what I'm about to write.
But the time has come.
I have rarely, if ever, used this space (or Cock & Fire) to call for someone's dismissal. I pride myself on that. For the most part, I don't find it particularly constructive, and I think it can divide fan bases if it's done too often.
But I can't stay quiet any longer.
The continued employment of the South Carolina defensive staff needs to be seriously re-evaluated.
The University of South Carolina was embarrassed tonight. Not just defeated, not just thumped, but embarrassed.
On offense, the Gamecocks played decently enough. There were some bad calls. And there were a few screw-ups on special teams. The second on-sides kick, specifically, was just dumb. There were also some good moments; witness the first on-sides kick.
But the efforts of everyone else on the team were wasted by the defense. And there's no other word for it: Wasted.
That's the kind of performance you expect when the defensive staff hasn't seen any tape on the team involved. If there were any attempts to rearrange South Carolina's formations to answer the Wild Hog, I didn't see them. If those moves did take place, they were certainly impotent.
The defense seemed surprised by the physical nature of McFadden's running game.
In short, they were unprepared.
Unprepared for a running back that Tyrone Nix and his coaches have prepared for three times. (Rememeber, he took over the play-calling before the Arkansas game last year.) Unprepared for a running attack that everyone alive knows is the best in the SEC.
McFadden's numbers against Nix's defenses the last three years: 187 in 2005, 219 in 2006, 335 in 2007.
In other words, McFadden has increased his numbers each time he's taken the field against South Carolina. It's almost like he surprises the defense more each year.
And it wasn't just McFadden tonight. Arkansas ran for a mind-boggling 543 yards tonight. They quickly rang up a 21-3 lead on drives of 66, 62 and 75 yards -- the last one coming ON TWO PLAYS. (That doesn't count the 29-yard drive that produced a missed FG after Arkansas inexplicably attempted to prove it's a passing team.)
Wondering if that was the worst defensive performance in South Carolina history? In terms of yardage, it was. The 543 yards rushing far outpaces the 502 allowed against Georgia in 1974. Before tonight, the most South Carolina had ever given up in total yardage was 638, surrendered to FSU in 1988; Arkansas rolled up 651. And Darren McFadden's 335 rushing yards is the most by any one player, besting the 299 yards Moe Williams of Kentucky ran for in 1995. (Full box score for Arkansas game here.)
Saturday night also marked the first time South Carolina has given up 48 points since Oct. 1, 2005. But when you're talking about historically bad numbers, what's a mark that's only been around a couple of years?
This is not just a McFadden problem. It's a problem any time South Carolina plays a team that runs a lot and/or uses misdirection.
It was a problem against Missouri, when Brad Smith (remember him) rolled up 431 of the Tigers' 504 yards -- most of it in the second half -- to win the Independence Bowl. (Of Smith's yards, 150 came on the ground.) And it's usually been the problem every time Wofford or S.C. State or Louisiana-Lafayette plays South Carolina closer than they should.
It is a systemic problem, and the system is controlled by a specific group of individuals.
I don't know how high the responsibility should go. Certainly, anyone dealing with the defensive line should be reviewed. Maybe even those who work with the linebackers. Which would bring us, in the case of inside linebackers, to a certain defensive coordinator.
I've usually had nothing but good to say about Tyrone Nix, thinking that the overall defensive numbers justified it, but enough is enough. The running games of the SEC, other conferences and even other subdivisions have learned how to steamroll this team. Year after year after year.
That might work at Southern Mississippi. It doesn't cut it in the SEC. In other leagues, not stopping the run in a problem. In the SEC, it's fatal.
This isn't the first time this has happened. If nothing changes, it won't be the last.
And if it's not the last, then Steve Spurrier can go ahead and give up all hopes of every bringing an SEC title to Columbia.
Because if South Carolina can't stop a completely one-dimensional team that at times reverts to running an offense that was cutting edge in the 1950s, it won't happen.
Please leave comments below. I'd like to see if I'm on an island on this one.