The Real Coaching Question
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The Clemson Tigers had been hearing for three months about how good this South Carolina Gamecock defense was. And, the truth is that this USC defense is, in fact, a pretty good one. The Cocks ranked 11th nationally in total defense entering Saturday's game after battling a solid SEC slate. But in James Davis' (and perhaps CJ Spiller's) final game in Death Valley, the Tigers did about anything that they wanted to in the running game. CU put up just shy of 400 yards in offense, and Clemson's Interim Head Coach Dabo Swinney now has some serious ammo to take into his interview with AD Terry Don Phillips later today. The situation brings up a question: Who should be more seriously looking for a coach, Clemson or South Carolina?
The game had USC as a 1 point favorite coming in, basically saying that Vegas saw the Cocks as being 7 points better. But soon after kickoff, it was apparent which team was going to deal with the undesirable conditions and which team would not. Clemson went up 7-0. Then 10-0. Then 17-0. Then 24-0.
South Carolina scored with less than a minute to play in the first half to cut the lead to 24-7, and then scored again early in the third quarter on a 23-yard pass from Chris Smelley to Weslye Saunders to pull within 24-14. It appeared at this point that the Gamecocks were going to make this a close game. But after an exchange of punts, Clemson put the final points on the board with a 2-yard James Davis run, the final Death Valley touchdown of his illustrative career.
One key for Clemson coming in was the play of quarterback Cullen Harper, another player suiting up for the home crowd for the final time. He managed to avoid the big disastorous pick-6 which he had been notorious for throughout the 2008 season. He finished the game 12 of 17 for 199 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. USC's Chris Smelley finished 22 of 47 for 212 yards and 2 touchdowns. But the catch here is that Smelley threw 4 interceptions, and those led to Tiger points and a long day for USC.
The difference in the game was story-book for James Davis and CJ Spiller. Thunder and Lightning had struck very rarely in rhythm all season, but this game was different for the duo. Davis had three scores, and Spiller had several more high-light reel catches to set up those scores. The two saved one of their best performances for Tiger fans for their last (or second-to-last with the bowl).
So now that this latest Palmetto State battle has passed, what is next for these two programs? CU has to go with Dabo Swinney, right? He is young and smart and energetic and took a struggling 3-3 "team" in turmoil to a 7-5 TEAM with momentum....sounds pretty good, eh? But CU AD Terry Don Phillips has commited wisely to a national search and despite the obvious signs that Swinney will one day guide a major program, Phillips has yet to show any signs that Dabo will pace the sidelines as boss in 2009.
For the Gamecocks, Spurrier needs to get out of Dodge (or Columbia). He is an injustice to the Gamecock nation as he is a conceited millionaire too lazy to do what it takes to do his job. Spurrier's one-liners will not be well-recieved on the Gamecock Club circuit tour in 2009. The fact is that Spurrier brought his name to Columbia, but didn't bring much else. He brought a wise-ass attitude to his program and it has accomplished nothing in his tenure. Spurrier is now 1-3 vs. Clemson and hasn't even gotten close to contending for the SEC East. South Carolina and its fans deserve better.
I truly believe that Clemson has now found its Head Coach, and it is now South Carolina that is looking for one. I see no reason for USC to settle for this kind of leadership. Yes, I am a Clemson fan, and one would expect me to bash Spurrier simply on the nature of the rivalry. I get that. But the befores and afters of this game are shocking. Coming into this game, I was a little concerned about that USC defense - I really was. But leaving this game, however, I saw USC as one of the easiest - if not THE easiest team we faced on th entire "weak" ACC season. So if you are a USC fan, is this what you want to be reading about in Spurrier's 2.75 million a year seasons?
I think not. Your coaching search is on.
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