SATURDAY WAS NOT a sterling night for the South Carolina football program, and it went beyond the late-game collapse and stunning 45-42 overtime loss to Tennessee at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Immediately following the game’s final play, the stadium scoreboard went dark, an old trick employed following home losses. The tactic prevents the opposing team and its fans from taking pictures with the final score illuminated.
Minutes later, the USC band played the now-traditional alma mater. Normally, win or lose, most – if not all – team members stand in front of the band to salute the school. On Saturday, it appeared to be mostly reserves among the 10 or so players who remained afterward. No coaches were spotted.
Steve Spurrier spoke for 42 seconds at his postgame meeting with the media, then said he would not take questions and departed.
Embattled defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward answered every question from the media. So, too, did the USC players who were called to the news conference, including quarterback Dylan Thompson, who thanked the media after the questioning.
It started in the USC season opener, when unknown quarterback Kenny Hill made his first start for Texas A&M and completed 44-of-60 passes for 511 yards and three touchdowns. The number of completions and yardage remain season highs for Hill, who since has been benched.
Vanderbilt’s Darrius Sims returned kickoffs of 91 and 100 yards for touchdowns against USC to tie an NCAA record. In the four games since, Sims has returned five kickoffs for 85 yards with a long of 20 yards.
Missouri’s Marcus Murphy rushed for a season-high 98 yards against USC. Then Kentucky’s Jojo Kemp ran out of the wildcat formation 17 times for 131 yards and three touchdowns. In the four games since, Kemp has rushed 14 times for 27 yards. Furman’s Hank McCloud ran for 106 yards and a touchdown against USC. In games since against Samford and VMI, McCloud has totaled 77 yards rushing.
Finally, there was Joshua Dobbs on Saturday for Tennessee. Making his first career start, the sophomore rushed 24 times for 166 yards and three touchdowns and completed 23-of-40 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns.
The SEC and the Pac-12 each lost two contenders Saturday. Georgia and Mississippi each suffered a second loss, leaving the SEC with Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State in the field. The Pac-12 lost Arizona and Utah to second losses, leaving that conference with Arizona State and Oregon as playoff contenders.
The other teams remaining in the field include Duke and Florida State from the ACC; Baylor, Kansas State and TCU from the Big 12; Michigan State, Nebraska and Ohio State from the Big Ten; Marshall from Conference USA; and independent Notre Dame.