You can talk about play calls and about how momentum was that close to being seized, but the honest truth was Clemson would have had to have the bus break down for South Carolina to win.
All the Gamecocks had was hope, which was snuffed in small doses throughout the first half and then extinguished when Deshaun Watson took advantage of a horrendous reversed fumble to jog 30 yards for a 21-3 lead.
So, it ended as everyone expected to. It was mentioned after Kentucky, reinforced after Georgia and chiseled after Missouri. This would be the worst season the Gamecocks have had since 1999, and once the misery was over, USC would be left looking at just how much damage was done in the past two years.
A new coach will put a nice shiny bow on the package, but inside is a box of coal and rocks with not much Christmas candy around them. The Gamecocks’ most electrifying playmaker, Pharoh Cooper, is (rightly) headed to the NFL. Skai Moore might follow. I’m sure several other underclassmen will decide to try their luck elsewhere – junior Chris Moody was honored on Senior Day and was most likely the first of the wave.
USC needs a rebuild. It wasn’t just a coach losing his touch and being able to hand a successful program off to the next guy. This has been a demolition, in just 25 games, of what looked poised to finally be a consistent national power.
The new coach will find out that whatever system he wants to install will have to be constructed from the recruiting trail. There simply isn’t a lot of returning talent to lean on. And whether he’s an “offensive” or “defensive” guy, he’s going to have find players of both.
He’ll have to get a staff. He’ll have to hold on to what recruits USC has and get whatever else he can. He’ll have to take that and mold it into something that will still have to compete in the SEC.
The final book on coach X won’t be known for four, five years down the road. It’s hard to win at USC. Even with the recent success, the Gamecocks are a mere 24 games over .500 lifetime, in well over 1,000 games. USC has been good, but it’s been a brief flash instead of a sustained sunny day.
Saturday turned the page on a sorry two chapters. The next starts to be written today.
We’ll see you Sept. 1.
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