College Sports

USC facing pride check

South Carolina's defense couldn't tackle Arkansas' Felix Jones or any other tailback in an embarassing performance last week.
South Carolina's defense couldn't tackle Arkansas' Felix Jones or any other tailback in an embarassing performance last week.

COLUMBIA -- Linebacker Cody Wells is set to graduate in December with a degree in psychology.

What, the question went, is the psycho-analytical term for what happened to South Carolina's defense last week at Arkansas?

"Don't know about that one," Wells answered.

One guess is manic depression.

The Gamecocks' defense allowed a staggering 650 yards in a 48-36 loss to the Razorbacks last week, including 541 on the ground. Each total was the most given up in school history.

Darren McFadden tied an SEC record by rushing for 321 yards and 80 of them came when USC had one last gasp to win the game. Down six points and needing a defensive stop, USC let McFadden rip through a gaping hole, untouched by anybody until his teammates congratulated him in the opposite end zone.

Third straight loss. Likely end to any hopes for an SEC championship. Not to mention completely reversing a nine-week trend that had the defense improving every week against the run.

Now all the Gamecocks' D has to do is heal its wounded psyche and its physical ailments in time to stop another high-octane offense -- Heisman Trophy candidate Tim Tebow, do-everything back Percy Harvin and the rest of the No. 17 Florida Gators.

"That hurt our pride. It really does," Wells said. "We know we're a better defense than that. We came out and watched film to see what happened, see what went wrong. And we'll fix it this week.

"We don't want anyone to run on us like that ever again."

It was a bad time to pull such a disastrous meltdown, considering Florida's potential to get in an offensive groove and light up the scoreboard (see Sept. 15 vs. Tennessee, where the Gators scored 59). It also doesn't help that USC's leading tackler, safety Emanuel Cook, and starting cornerback Captain Munnerlyn are nursing injuries and will be limited today.

But Wells said the injuries or stats last week or anything else isn't a factor today. The only thing that matters is regrouping immediately and showing the Gators the Arkansas game was a one-week blunder, not a spiral that's sinking the season.

"We don't have a choice," Wells said. "Florida's big and fast. That's what you expect a Florida team to be. And it's a big challenge."

The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Tebow could be separating himself from the pack in the Heisman race (although he'll have to hold off McFadden), leading the Gators in rushing and passing. He's thrown for more than 2,200 yards and 21 touchdowns and rushed for 598 and 14 other scores.

Then there's Harvin, who's listed as a wide receiver but lines up at tailback so much it's hard to keep track of him. He's rushed for 442 yards and caught 714 yards worth of passes from Tebow, scoring seven combined touchdowns.

"Hopefully, we'll try some different things, different from what we tried last week," coach Steve Spurrier said. "See if we can't make them throw the ball."

Spurrier will notch just his second four-game losing streak today if the Gamecocks fall, but didn't seem concerned. Wells and the rest of the defense said it'd be inexcusable for a team that was once ranked sixth in the nation to give Spurrier that kind of black mark in a stellar career.

"I felt like people had us up there pretty high, had us on a pedestal," Wells said. "We knew we weren't that good of a team yet.

"We don't, like, look at ourselves losing the next two games -- yet."

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