Cue the questions.
It’s not that South Carolina still has glaring issues and not nearly enough solutions. We all knew that nothing was going to be final-stamped about this team until midseason, considering the inexperience at crucial positions and the schedule.
The questions – again, deservedly – concern how this program was thought to have turned the corner into the nice part of town, instead of wallowing in the ghetto of mediocrity as it mostly has since it joined the SEC. It was only two seasons ago – shoot, 16 games ago – that the Gamecocks won 33 games over three years. Eleven wins in three straight seasons? At USC?
How could there be any more proof that the bad times were gone forever?
And yet here they sit, humbled more than thought possible, after Kentucky did whatever it wanted to in the first half of a 26-22 victory on Saturday. Never mind that it was the Wildcats’ first true road win in 23 tries (although that is deplorable enough). Never mind that Steve Spurrier has split his last six games against Kentucky after winning every one of 17 tries before them.
The win was still there to be had, too. The Gamecocks couldn’t get it done, after having to kick three red-zone field goals.
The question pulsing harder than anything else is – how did USC fall so far in so short a time? From 2011-13, USC never won the SEC East but it topped the SEC East champ every season. It was the Gamecocks and Georgia as the teams to beat in the East.
Sixteen games ago.
Now, Missouri has won back-to-back East titles. Tennessee has patiently waited through years of bad coaching hires and was a strong candidate as preseason East favorite. Each beat USC last season.
Add Kentucky to that list. After two straight wins, the Wildcats have also passed the Gamecocks.
What’s particularly galling for USC fans is the truth.
Kentucky was better.