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Scott Davis: Keeping it real

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Columnist Scott Davis, who has followed USC sports for more than 30 years, provides commentary from the perspective of a Gamecocks fan. You can follow Scott on Twitter at @scdonfire.
Hi there.
My name is Scott Davis, and I'm a frustrated South Carolina fan.
At the end of the day, I know we're just talking about teenagers and twenty-year-olds playing a game with an inflated piece of pigskin - not nuclear weapons policy or global warming.
I get it. In fact, this isn't even close to being the most important thing happening in South Carolina right now, and my thoughts and prayers are with anyone who has been affected by the flooding.
I know that I often act like an uncivilized imbecile watching these ultimately meaningless games, and have never pretended otherwise. Just in case anyone isn't sure where I stand on the topic, let's reiterate it once and for all: I'm an idiot.
But I'm also an idiot who happens to love the University of South Carolina and wants to see it succeed. I'm an idiot who was born and raised in the state of South Carolina and wants good things to happen there. Call me crazy, but I actually love my home state and my alma mater and feel bad when things aren't going well for them.
If you doubt that, remind yourself that I'm the same guy who spun himself into circles attempting to look for sunshine rays after last week's thoroughly unimpressive win against what might be the worst Division I team in America. I'm the same guy who told you I needed to watch '80s movies instead of continuing to watch our game against Kentucky because it hurt me too much to keep watching. Trust me when I tell you it's all coming from a place of love.
And that's why I want to tell you this before we go any further: We're going to keep it real today. We're going to talk about this team and the state of this program like real fans do when they talk and text each other during and after the games.
This is your disclaimer note: If that sounds like a problem and you don't want to hear it, stop reading right now. I promise I won't be mad at you. No one's pretending I'm an expert or have all the answers, or even the beginnings of an answer.
Are we good? Good.
Typically when I post my thoughts after a game, I re-hash the events of the game itself and hand out game balls to players, coaches, fans or anyone else who deserves praise. We're not doing that today. Instead, we're handing out Roger Goodell Deflated Balls for the second time this season to the following:
Coach Steve Spurrier's "Central Florida Probably Has One of the Best Defensive Lines We'll Face All Season" Comment After Last Week's Game to Try to Make USC's Offensive Sluggishness Seem OK - Missouri's defensive line says hi. The Tigers compiled four sacks during the game and got pressure seemingly at will. I'm gonna go out on a limb and assume the defensive lines of LSU, Florida, Tennessee, and others have a little talent too and will find life to be fairly enjoyable when facing USC. Oh and that vaunted Central Florida team? They gave up 45 points to mighty, mighty Tulane yesterday to fall to 0-4.
Me for Writing a Column Supporting Spurrier's Bizarre, Eccentric "Enemies" Press Conference This Summer - I'll wave my hand and admit this happened. Wanting to cling to any possible signs of life surrounding this program, I rode hard for Spurrier's incredibly strange monologue about the program being inundated by "enemies" back in July. Seemed fun at the time, and I enjoy Weird, Honest Spurrier very much and always will. But as they said in the old '60s comic "Pogo": "We have met the enemy and he is us."
South Carolina's Never-ending, Mystifying and Ultimately Soul-Killing Struggles Along Both Lines of Scrimmage - Anyone enjoy USC's offensive line performance on Saturday? Anyone? No takers? We're not going to call out anyone in particular - we don't pick on college kids individually in this column - but let's just say that group keeps getting lauded as a "strength" of this team and has been for about five years now, and the results just simply don't suggest that's true or has been true. When you're trotting out a true freshman quarterback for his first SEC start on the road against a traditionally rugged defense, you might want to get the very best effort you can out of your linemen. Unfortunately, there were a few guys who didn't appear to be terribly interested in, you know, laying a hand on other people and stuff. If you're just getting overwhelmed by more talented players, then so be it and life is cruel. But there are some players along that line who seem to be under the impression they're getting ready to go to the NFL and attempt to block the likes of J.J. Watt and Clay Matthews, but didn't appear terribly committed to blocking the University of Missouri's defensive linemen. Good luck with that.
As for the defensive line, what can I tell you? They managed to accumulate two sacks during the game, but at no time did they really make life difficult for true freshman QB Drew Lock. For the vast majority of the game, Lock had an immaculately clean pocket in which he had time to order pizza, read the entire Old Testament and watch a few seasons of "Breaking Bad" on an iPad before he had to decide which receiver to throw to. Missouri isn't a particularly good football team, and they pushed around South Carolina on both lines of scrimmage with ease and with total confidence. Is that a problem? Um, yes.
Georgia QB Greyson Lambert Immediately Being Bad Again the Very Second He Was No Longer Facing USC's Defense -After struggling so much against woeful Vanderbilt that there was talk of him being benched, Lambert exploded and set an NCAA completion record against South Carolina the very next week, completing 24 of 25 passes against USC's defense. Saturday against Alabama, Lambert went right back to being Lambert, going 10 for 24 for an astonishingly anemic 86 yards, and getting picked off once. Please don't come at me with the "Well, it was against Alabama" thing. Ole Miss hung 43 points on the Tide in Tuscaloosa. Lambert is not an elite quarterback against anyone in this league except South Carolina. Drew Lock showed some poise yesterday and may go on to have a nice little career at Mizzou, but still…an untested true freshman walked out there and completed 21 of 28 passes and didn't break a sweat doing so. South Carolina: Where We Make Average Quarterbacks Look Like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers Combined! And on that note, we've got to drop a Deflated Ball on…
Anyone Still Trying to Suggest USC's Maddening Decision to Line Up Its Defensive Backs 90,000 Yards from the Line of Scrimmage Makes Sense - This past week, I noticed a few fans working feverishly to convince themselves and others that it actually wasn't all that ridiculous that Gamecock coaches keep insisting on lining up the DB's a mile or two from the line of the scrimmage. At this point, I'm going to just say it: Yes, it is, in fact, ridiculous. When the last two SEC quarterbacks you've faced have gone a combined 45 for 53 against you passing the ball, and neither of them even remotely resembles Joe Montana, and almost all of those passes were short and extraordinarily easy to complete, your scheme isn't working. I'm not good at math, but when your competition posts an 85 percent completion rate against you, it might be time to get in the woodshed and start looking for a different solution. Right now, if you have the capability of standing erect and throwing a football at least 2 yards, you WILL complete a pass against this South Carolina defense. A screen play? It's available. How about a wheel route? It's open. You want a slant? The slant will be there for you. Stop the madness.
Geico's Odd Decision to Include Forgotten Hair Metal Band Europe in Commercials That Run Incessantly During Football Games - Was anyone sitting at home thinking, "You know what? What I really need in life is for someone to put '80s one-hit rockers Europe back on television for the first time in 30 years, because that might make me want to buy insurance." No. It's the "final countdown" for my sanity.
USC's Defense Twice Giving Up Third-and-Long Situations on Runs Up the Middle - Forget about defending the pass, when your opponent faces a third-and-10 and decides its best course of action is to run the football up the middle, and you give up a first down to them not once, but twice under this scenario, you might be having a tough year defensively.
Me for Drinking an Appletini After This Debacle and Still Pretending I'm a Tough Guy - My wife enjoys the apple martinis at Bonefish Grill, and we headed over there after the game to try to make sense of it all by splitting a giant plate of Bang Bang Shrimp (as I think we all do when times get tough). Perhaps overwhelmed with emotion, I made the bad decision to also drink an appletini instead of beer or whiskey. Then I drank a second one. You know what? I don't regret it. It's absolutely an appletini kind of season for South Carolina.
The University of North Carolina Tar Heels - How did this group lose a football game in their own home state to USC? Does anyone know? They've reeled off four wins since and looked pretty good doing it. Their loss to USC is starting to loom as one of those "Wow, I can't believe we lost Furman"-type losses like we've had on a few occasions during my lifetime.
My Wife for Commenting During Georgia's Game that Mark Richt "Is No Longer Hot" - Wait, did I realize Mark Richt was EVER hot? According to my wife, he was. Now, apparently, he's old and tired like all the rest of us are. Tough crowd. On the bright side, I can cross off Richt as someone my wife would ever leave me for.
Anyone Who Keeps Saying the Only Game We'll Win the Rest of Year is The Citadel - Um, why exactly are we confident about that Citadel game? When exactly have we ever dominated Southern Conference opponents? I remember a Wofford team driving with a chance to win the football game in Columbia against a USC team that was far better than this one is. I remember The Citadel giving a USC defense fits for three quarters or so, and that defense had All-American candidates and a bunch of guys currently playing in the NFL. If you've already penciled in that W, it might be time to grab an eraser, because there are no automatic wins left on USC's schedule right now.
Dabo Swinney's Post-Win Rant - I can't talk about this without becoming homicidal. So I'm not going to.
Anyone Still Trying to Cling to the Tired, Lame and Utterly Bankrupt Argument that No Coach Can Win Here Because "We Don't Have Tradition" - Gosh, I remember so fondly all those decades when Baylor University was one of the best football teams in America and always kept stockpiling Cotton Bowl trophies and beating Texas and Oklahoma and…wait, hold on. You're telling me Baylor WASN'T always good? You're telling me they have absolutely no tradition whatsoever, even less than South Carolina has? You're telling me teams like Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma annually feasted on them in the same way we feast on teams like South Alabama and Louisiana-Lafayette? Oh.
Have you ever been to Waco, Texas? I have. There's not much to do there. On top of that, Baylor is a private, Baptist institution with difficult entrance requirements for athletes and fierce competitors throughout their home state, all of whom have far more resources than they have. Oh and for good measure, they have no tradition and not all that many fans.
Did that stop Art Briles from winning and winning big there, and doing so consistently? No. Baylor will be one of the teams at the end of the season in the playoff hunt, just like they were last year. Briles has produced a Heisman Trophy winner and multiple national championship contenders at a program that was the Big 12's equivalent of Vanderbilt before he got there.
Here's the deal, folks: The right coach at the right time can succeed at any college and in any sport. Oregon stunk for 100 years. Kansas State was the worst major college football team in America based on winning percentage before Bill Snyder got there. That's correct: The WORST team historically ever. Snyder's won two Big 12 championships during two separate tenures there. You think freaking Texas Christian University is a school that kids from North Dakota and Washington state and Colorado grow up dreaming of attending because of their storied tradition? Please stop.
And yet TCU would destroy USC on a football field if they played USC tomorrow, and they'll also be in the mix for a national championship at the end of the year.
The right coach can win here or anywhere else. If you're still trying to convince yourself and others that it isn't true, you are embarrassing yourself. Yes, I said it.
If you don't believe me, you might want to glance over at your women's basketball team, where Dawn Staley resurrected one of the most lifeless and inept programs in the country and turned it into a Final Four team. She relentlessly spreads a positive message about USC and she relentlessly, tirelessly recruits the best athletes. She doesn't just accept that the elite players in the country don't want to come here. She tries to get them here anyway, and often does. She faces the very best competition in the country and wins anyway at a school that never won before. She also constantly makes sure USC fans know how much she appreciates being here - and stuff like that goes a long way with a fan base.
This isn't the NFL, where the coach may be dealing with a salary cap that forces him to get rid of players he'd like to keep, or finds himself working with players that were picked by a general manager and scouting team whose philosophies he might not share.
In college football, the head coach is the CEO, Chairman of the Board, Chief Operating Officer and largest stockholder of his organization. EVERYTHING is his responsibility. That's wonderful if you're a control freak who wants his hands in every single thing you deal with on a daily basis.
But it also means that when things start to go badly, there's no one else to blame.
Players aren't particularly talented? That's your fault - you're the one who recruited them, evaluated them and brought them here.
Players aren't playing hard, aren't going to class and aren't listening to your message? You're the one who brought them here.
Assistant coaches not getting the most out of the talent they have? Sorry, bro, you hired them.
There is no one else at whom you can point fingers.
I know USC's competition is difficult. I know many of them have larger trophy cases than we do. I know places like Oxford, Mississippi, and Athens, Georgia, are more picturesque towns than Columbia, South Carolina, is.
But excuses are, and always have been, made by losers. And the simple fact is and always will be this: We can win here.
In college sports, the only thing a head coach ever has to answer to is the scoreboard. And right now, the scoreboard is what it is.
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Five things we learned: USC-MizzouClick Hoops: Carey Rich's Inside LookClick Chris Clark's analysis of the football programClick ALSO SEE: In-depth coverage & insider analysisHere to view this Link.Here to view this Link.Here to view this Link.