Don’t lose sight of the forest fire for the trees.
Even if that’s not exactly how the saying goes, it provides an instructive lens through which to view South Carolina’s 2015 football season.
There have been so many trees this season with the resignation of coach Steve Spurrier, the loss of a home game because of a natural disaster, two starting quarterbacks lost to injury and a fan base that has embraced a homegrown interim coach, who, at least for a moment, brought back some hope.
All those story lines are meaty enough that they’ve distracted from the bottom line, and that is – the Gamecocks are 3-7 overall and 1-7 in the SEC. For the first time since 1999, South Carolina won’t get to two wins in the conference. For the first time since 2003, the Gamecocks will have a losing overall record.
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This was supposed to be the season that moved South Carolina football back toward to those not so long ago good ol’ days of a division title and 11-win seasons. Instead, last year’s 7-6 record is now the good ol’ days.
In July, Spurrier said he believed his team had “a fighting chance” to be the nation’s top 10 team again this year. In November, it seems impossible to imagine that optimism.
“To sit back there in August and say, ‘We’re going to make a run at the SEC Championship,’ you might could have said that, but realistically I didn’t think we had the horses at that point to go make the run,” Elliott said. “I don’t think anybody can sit up here and tell you they thought we did. We’ve got good players. We’ve got to get better players. We’ve got to do a better job coaching in order to get back to where we need to return, the 10-, 11-win seasons.”
Elliott had his team ready to run through a brick wall for a couple weeks. The cold truth is the brick wall always wins.
“The art of winning is hard. I don’t care who you are,” first-year Florida head coach Jim McElwain said. “Each one of you competed at one time in your life, and you understand how hard winning is and figuring out how to win. That’s what I like about our guys. There’s never any panic. They play in the moment, and they figured out a way to sweep the East. It’s not a bad gig. Let’s get excited about it a little bit. That’s a happy locker room that’s figured out how to win.”
The Gamecocks had it figured out, too, for a while. Now, South Carolina has lost 11 of its last 13 conference games. It doesn’t even have a loaded SEC to blame.
Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas A&M have combined to win nine SEC games this season. Three of those have come against the Gamecocks. The only notable win of the season came in the first game, 17-13 over a North Carolina team that hasn’t lost since. That game seems further and further away with each passing day.
“Keep playing for your brother. That’s what we’ve got now,” junior linebacker Skai Moore said. “Play for the name on your back, play for your brother. We just have to keep fighting.”
That’s all they’ve got left.