One day after watching his team blow another fourth-quarter lead and walking out of his postgame news conference without taking a question, Steve Spurrier acknowledged his frustration Sunday and added the feeling is not unprecedented during his time with the Gamecocks.
“That thought process (of retirement) has hit me the last 10 years when we have a game or two like this,” Spurrier said Sunday. “Then you look at the big picture and try to regroup. We’ve got a bunch of good players here, we really do, and we feel we’ve got some defensive players on the way that can help us, and some offensive players, too.
“We will see how all that shakes out.”
The same goes for South Carolina’s defensive assistant coaches, who have come under increasing pressure thanks to the team’s poor ranking and late-game collapses.
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“Everybody is safe (through the end of the season),” Spurrier said. “We are going to try to get through these next three games the very best we can. I think every coach evaluates his situation every offseason, but all these coaches were here the last two years.”
The Gamecocks (4-5, 2-5 SEC) fell 45-42 in overtime to Tennessee, which entered the game 1-8 in its previous nine conference games.
“Obviously, I like to beat teams that look like you’re supposed to beat them,” Spurrier said. “I have had some losses I am not used to having, especially all together here this year.”
The Gamecocks have lost four straight SEC games after opening the conference slate with wins against Georgia and Vanderbilt. South Carolina must win two of its final three games – Nov. 15 at Florida, Nov. 22 against South Alabama and Nov. 29 at Clemson – following this week’s bye in order to be eligible for a bowl game.
“We have picked up pretty well after Kentucky, after Missouri, after Auburn,” said Spurrier, who started to chuckle ruefully as he rattled off his team’s earlier losses. “Our guys are pretty resilient. One thing I think you can say positive about the entire team, the guys did come to the ballpark ready to give it their best effort. Somehow as the game progresses into that fourth quarter, we are not quite as good for whatever reason. Getting ready to play in first quarters, we’ve been pretty good all year about that.”
South Carolina surrendered 21 points to the Volunteers in the final 6:34 of regulation Saturday night, and the Gamecocks have been outscored 102-62 in the fourth quarter this season. They lost Saturday despite having touchdowns of 85 and 70 yards of their own in the fourth quarter.
“These things haven’t happened in the past, but I guess if you coach long enough, maybe the odds are you will have some games like this. Certainly we’ve had our share this year,” Spurrier said. “But again, we have to move on. I’m not the only coach that loses a heartbreaking game. You have to learn from them and come back the best you can.”
The Gamecocks fell back to last in the SEC in total defense (allowing 460.4 ypg.) and scoring defense (allowing 34.1 ppg.) after the loss.
“We can coach better, we all can, me included,” Spurrier said. “We plan to regroup, go down to Florida, give it our best shot.”