BIRMINGHAM, Ala. | Just when you thought South Carolina football could not further embarrass itself in front of a national television audience, it did so Thursday afternoon in the Outback Bowl.
Oh, wait. ... that was a year ago.
Let me correct myself.
Just when you thought South Carolina football could not further embarrass itself in front of a national television audience, it did so Saturday afternoon in the Papajohns.com Bowl.
At least the Outback Bowl bashing came against a formidable team from a much-respected conference. Losing to Iowa of the Big Ten does not look so bad in retrospect; the Hawkeyes finished the season ranked 20th.
"I feel for our fans that came down here and spent a whole lot of money," Spurrier said a year ago following that 31-10 blowout in Tampa, Fla. "I wish we could have performed better, but that's the way it happened today. Give Iowa credit for kicking our tails today."
Getting trounced by Connecticut of the Big East? Well, there almost is no explaining how that could happen. Connecticut is an excellent team, but it finished fourth in its conference. It did not receive a vote in the last Associated Press poll.
"I don't know what else to say. I'm embarrassed," Spurrier said following the 20-7 debacle at Legion Field. "Blame me. I don't know what else to do. We think we coached our butts off and had guys ready to play but obviously did not, especially the offense. The offense was really sad."
Spurrier's apology, for the second consecutive year, was aimed at USC fans who spent their hard-earned money to support a team that might as well have remained in Columbia.
As I suggested a year ago, if Spurrier has such concern for the fans, he should split the $100,000 bowl-game bonus he receives among the 20,000 or so fans who trekked to Birmingham. It might be the cost of only one slice of Papajohns pizza for each fan, but the gesture would mean much more.
From the third play of the game, when USC quarterback Stephen Garcia got drilled in the chest by a Connecticut pass rusher, to the onside kick following the Gamecocks' only score, nothing went right.
The latter play was indicative of the game, according to Spurrier.
"Why didn't you hit the guy that was catching the ball on the big hop?" Spurrier said he asked a player who was covering the onside kick with 3:21 remaining in the game.
"I missed him," Spurrier said the player responded.
"That makes sense," Spurrier said, "we've missed everything about the whole day ... passes, tackles, just thoroughly got beat."
Here is a CliffsNotes version of how thoroughly USC was beaten, and embarrassed:
- Spurrier opted to go for a first down from USC's 32-yard line in the first quarter and failed, leading to a Connecticut field goal.
- USC's initial first down came with 7:47 remaining in the first half.
- USC's first chance to score came up empty when holder Stephen Flint fumbled the snap on a field-goal attempt.
- One Connecticut drive in the third quarter was extended by a running-into-the-kicker penalty and then a personal foul for a late hit, signaling the wide difference in discipline between the teams. Connecticut was not penalized the entire game.
- USC had a 10-play drive in the third quarter that covered 5 yards.
- Without an offensive line coach because Eric Wolford departed for the head coaching position at Youngstown State, USC needed radio sideline reporter Terry Cousin to offer pep talks to players on the bench.
- On one late series, USC receivers dropped passes on three consecutive plays.
For USC's sake, it only can hope fans across the country were watching the International Bowl or the Cotton Bowl, which overlapped this game on TV. Then fans would not have seen USC reserve running back Jarvis Giles leave the field before the final seconds had ticked off.
"Everybody was first-class," Spurrier said of the Papajohns.com Bowl. "Our team wasn't, though."
Spurrier's words rang true, all the way down to the 20 or so players who headed for the USC locker room at game's end instead of going to midfield to shake hands with Connecticut players.