Steve Spurrier summed it up in the best way possible.
“Can we continue?” Spurrier asked. “Can we continue, is the big question.”
South Carolina answered a lot of questions with a 52-7 thrashing of Arkansas on Saturday.
Yes, the Gamecocks can win on the road, and in a place where they have historically not won. Yes, their defense can play a full game. No, they weren’t distracted by a circus around their most talented player during the previous week.
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Spurrier, a veteran of such things, put it simply. It was great to see it one week. It was especially great since Georgia lost to Missouri and re-opened the hive of possibilities about USC playing in Atlanta in December.
But it’s over. The road ahead is the only thing that matters, specifically, next week’s game at Tennessee.
USC gained a lot of momentum from winning so big on the road. Its offense continued to produce in the way that Spurrier has always wanted it to. The defense shut down the SEC’s leading rusher (by yardage) before the game and responded with two huge three-and-outs, when the Gamecocks had fumbled in the red zone and then had to punt out of their end zone. Spurrier wasn’t whistlin’ “Dixie” when he said that it was the best game the Gamecocks had played all year.
Doubtless that it was insanely crucial to win this game to keep the season’s goals intact and the quest for the SEC East alive. The Gamecocks did it. But it’s still the sixth game of 12. The next one, then the next five, will determine where USC will be.
Before Saturday, USC had a problem of sustaining momentum. It nearly slipped away on Saturday when a 17-7 lead became a fumble in the red zone, but the Gamecocks snatched it back.
The Tennessee game looked to be the easiest of the three straight road games before the year, and still looks the easiest (although that may change since Mizzou quarterback James Franklin is expected out for an extended period, as was being reported late Saturday). There is no easy win on the road in the SEC, no matter how easy USC made it look in Arkansas.
USC came together and played its best ball of the season on Saturday. It must do it again next Saturday.