Testy Spurrier sticking up for his team

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

The Head Ball Coach sounds a bit testy these days.

Maybe he’s just trying to stick up for his young team, one that includes just seven scholarship seniors and one that started nine freshmen or sophomores last week in an ugly 31-13 loss at Tennessee.

Maybe he’s trying to make sure his team doesn’t lose its confidence heading into a part of the schedule that has tormented the Gamecocks ever since they joined the SEC.

Maybe he’s just trying to be realistic.

“We still believe our big, big seasons are on down the road,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier told reporters Tuesday. “Don’t try to make us feel bad. We don’t feel bad. We had a lousy game last week, but we don’t feel bad.

“And you guys can’t make us feel bad.”

Spurrier hates losing, and he loves playing for championships. That said, he knew heading into this season that this wasn’t a championship-caliber team.

But he was also genuinely enthused by all the young talent on this team. Stephon Gilmore, Alshon Jeffery, Devin Taylor and DeVonte Holloman are freshmen who all have star potential, and sophomore quarterback Stephen Garcia has shown marked improvement.

So I agree with the Head Ball Coach. The Gamecocks’ best football would appear to be down the road.

But what they can’t let happen (and I know he doesn't want to hear this) is for this season to unravel the way it did the last two years. Three years in a row becomes a trend.

Spurrier is correct when he says that the Gamecocks are 6-3 right now and that it could be a lot worse.

But you’re not judged as a football team on where you are the first week of November. You’re judged on where you are the first week of January.

It sounds simple, but South Carolina just needs to play well this Saturday at Arkansas. The closest the Gamecocks have come to playing a complete game was against Ole Miss back on Sept. 24, and they only scored 16 points in that contest.

In their last four SEC games, they just haven’t been sharp. They were fortunate to beat both Kentucky and Vanderbilt at home, didn’t score a touchdown in the loss at Alabama and turned it over four times in the loss at Tennessee.

In a lot of ways, this Arkansas game is the most important game the Gamecocks have played, not only for this season, but for the direction of the program.

A loss would ensure their fourth straight non-winning season against SEC competition, and with Florida coming to town the next week, it’s not going to get any easier.

In sum, an 8-4 finish would be a really good season for the Gamecocks, especially when you consider the youth on this team and the injuries they’ve incurred.

A 7-5 finish would be an OK season, especially if the Gamecocks could play well in their bowl game and win.

But a 6-6 finish would be unacceptable … and reignite some serious questions about where this program is headed under Spurrier.