South Carolina's defeat of Clemson adds a few more chapters to the Head Ball Coach's list of achievements in Columbia. It also continues to raise the important question of what happens when he's gone
When he came to South Carolina several years ago, and through the periods when he enduring 7-5 season after 7-5 season, Steve Spurrier stressed the reason that he enjoyed being in Columbia: The chance to do things that had never been done, or at least to do things that had not been done in a long time. On Saturday, he added a few more accomplishments to a growing list.
With his 65th victory as Gamecocks head coach, Spurrier passed Rex Enright as the winning coach in South Carolina history. But he did so with 32 fewer losses and in seven fewer seasons than Enright, virtually ensuring that he will go down as one of the greatest head coaches in two programs -- his alma mater of Florida being the other. And Spurrier extended the winning streak against rival Clemson to four games, the longest in nearly 60 years and only the second to ever go that far. That was also an Enright mark.
And South Carolina did it with a mix of things we have come to expect from them under Steve Spurrier, and things we have not. Dylan Thompson, a late replacement for Connor Shaw, had a solid day -- going 23-of-41 for 310 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. The Gamecocks had mixed success with the run but generated 444 yards overall.
The defense, meanwhile, did what we've seen Spurrier's defenses do frequently since he came to South Carolina: Shut down, as much as anyone can, the Clemson offense. The Tigers gained 328 total yards, their second-smallest total and only 33 more than Virginia Tech allowed in the lowest-octane performance Clemson had turned in so far. South Carolina sacked Tajh Boyd six times, including 4.5 sacks from Jadeveon Clowney alone.
All of which keeps South Carolina's very faint hopes of a BCS at-large invitation alive. In another year, a 10-win SEC team with its only losses coming to two other SEC teams with at least 10 wins each would at least be in the running. But the rise of South Carolina and the addition of Texas A&M have changed the dynamics of the conference, which will now boast six teams with double-digit wins this season. The Gamecocks will be one of several strong teams trying to keep from ending up in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. It seems that Spurrier's changes in Columbia could have ramifications throughout the league.
Which raises the question: Just how long is Spurrier going to stay at South Carolina? The list of things that haven't been done in Columbia is growing shorter, with only one notable one left that is completely within the team's control -- winning the SEC. If Spurrier can do that within the next year or two, he might decide that it's time to ride off into the sunset with a surefire Hall of Fame invitation waiting to be mailed.
And then it will fall to South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner to do something else that has never been done in Gamecocks history: Find a coach who can repeat all of Spurrier's accomplishments. The first time a program can do certain things is a milestone for the program's fans, but it's only a fading memory if it isn't followed by the second.