FOUR GAMES, 49 POINTS and one looming question: Is it time for Steve Spurrier to take over all of South Carolina's offensive play-calling again?
That was the $1.75 million question on Gamecock message boards following Saturday's 33-16 loss to Arkansas - the fourth consecutive game in which USC failed to break 17 points.
This is not the lowest-scoring, four-game stretch during Spurrier's five-year USC tenure. The Gamecocks managed a total of 37 points over the final three games of last season - lopsided losses to Florida, Clemson and Iowa - and the 7-3 opening win at N.C. State this year.
But the inability to find the end zone consistently has prompted many fans to wonder whether the Gamecocks would be better off with Spurrier calling all the plays, as he did his first three seasons in Columbia.
Since Spurrier began sharing play-calling duties with his son, receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr., before the 2008 season, the Gamecocks are scoring about 21 points a game. USC averaged 26 points in 2006 and '07.
While discussing USC's pass distribution after the Arkansas game, Gamecocks tight end Weslye Saunders indicated Spurrier Jr. was the principal play-caller.
But Spurrier said Sunday he still calls most of the plays, including the ill-fated, third-quarter fade pass to Alshon Jeffery that the Razorbacks intercepted in the end zone to thwart a USC drive and change momentum.
"I'm still in charge of the play-calling. I don't call all of them like I used to. But we have a system here that's not bad," Spurrier said.
That system involves Spurrier Jr. sending the plays from the press box to the field, where quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus signals them to quarterback Stephen Garcia. Spurrier overrules some of them, and offensive line coach Eric Wolford also makes suggestions.
"A lot of times our offensive line coach will call the goal line run - run this or run that, or third-and-1 - he'll yell that in and we send it in," Spurrier said.
"There's all kind of ways to call plays. But ultimately, I'm the head coach, and if there's an offensive coordinator title, I got it. So we need to do better. We need to block better and we need to score more points than we've been scoring."
The Gamecocks are 98th among 120 teams nationally in scoring offense at 21.3 points per game. Their 24 touchdowns are next to last in the SEC, ahead of only Vanderbilt.
And while USC is the league's second-best passing team, the Gamecocks' rushing attack - the main offseason emphasis - has steadily declined and ranks last in the SEC and 91st nationally at 121.6 yards per game.
USC ran for a season-low 53 yards at Arkansas, although the Gamecocks lost 32 yards on one play when center Garrett Anderson sailed a snap past Garcia on a play that resulted in a safety.
After USC drove inside the Razorbacks' 10 on its first possession, the Gamecocks had trouble getting plays off. Spurrier burned two timeouts before Garcia converted a fourth-and-1 and settled for a field goal after a delay-of-game penalty on fourth-and-goal.
When USC drove into Arkansas territory near the end of the first half, Spurrier said the play calling became too conservative, resulting in a punt after three consecutive runs.
"We could've had some better plays on than what we had on at times," Spurrier said. "There was some good offense there in the course of the day, but we didn't score a lot of points."
Scoring could be a challenge for USC again this week against No. 1 Florida, which gives up fewer points (10.1 per game) than any team in the country. The Gators are second nationally in total defense, allowing 230.8 yards per game.
USC apparently will stick with the same play-calling system. Even if he were inclined to make a change, Spurrier likely would do so quietly, thus avoiding the mess ex-USC coach Lou Holtz created when he demoted son Skip before the '04 season.
The Spurriers realize the sensitive nature of their father-son, coaching arrangement.
"It can go either way," Spurrier said. "Depends on if you're winning or losing and how that particular phase is playing - the offense or the defense."
Lately, the offense hasn't been going so well.