COLUMBIA -- There are numerous reasons South Carolina has lost its last four games, tumbling from a No. 6 national ranking and a great chance to win the SEC to a team struggling to make any bowl game.
I think I've finally found the biggest one.
The Gamecocks aren't good.
I'm not saying they're not talented, or they're not capable of playing good football.
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But they're not a good team.
Because good teams make good plays when they have to, instead of freezing up and making mistakes when they need a leadership-type play.
Good teams do not:
• Have a fifth-year senior low-snap the first play of the game, causing a lost fumble.
• Have a fifth-year senior throw into double coverage for an interception when the team rallied to take the lead one possession earlier.
• Have another fifth-year senior fumble twice and drop a wide-open pass on third-and-short when the team needed a drive to get some momentum back.
Those offenses were committed Saturday by Web Brown, Blake Mitchell and Cory Boyd, in order. And the list doesn't include all the miscues by the younger members of the team.
With the supposed leaders of the team screwing up right and left, were the younger guys expected to do any better?
"We're just not very good, simple as that," coach Steve Spurrier said. "We're a struggling bunch defensively and not very good on offense. Not a very good team right now."
See? Even The Head Ball Coach agrees.
Let me sum up -- all week, the Gamecocks discussed how they couldn't give Florida any early momentum, as they did the last three opponents; how they had to play fundamentally sound football; how they had to check their pride after tumbling so drastically from the nation's elite.
And they blew all three within the first six plays Saturday. Brown low-snapped on the first play, causing a fumble, and Tim Tebow took the field, ran for 9 yards after a busted tackle and then spun through another tackle for a touchdown, just 2:14 into the game.
That's a good performance. That's an emotional charge for your team.
How did USC counter? By having 12 men on the field; by having Ryan Succop try a running pooch punt right into the arms of Florida's John Curtis; and by somehow allowing Tebow to fumble a snap on first-and-goal, kick it around for a while, and run two directions with it before throwing a wounded duck off his back foot that was an interception until Melvin Ingram missed it.
That last turned into another Tebow touchdown and a 20-14 lead one play later, one possession after USC had taken a 14-13 lead. Needing an answer afterward, Mitchell threw into double coverage for Kenny McKinley and, not surprisingly, was easily intercepted.
Good teams believe they're going to win. Good teams find ways to win.
USC, as it has the past four weeks and for countless other times before Saturday, finds ways to lose. It's not solely the fault of this year's team -- it can't be held accountable for the previous 113 years of mostly miserable football.
But there's got to be some kind of reason why whenever USC has had pockets of success, it's never been sustained. Two or three years of decent results -- like the first two years of Spurrier's tenure -- are followed by a slide back into mediocrity.
No leadership, no commitment, no drive when the team really needs it.
Surprised that what looked to be a better-than-average shot at the SEC title turned into four consecutive losses with a strong chance for a fifth?
You shouldn't be.
Good teams win conference titles and improve year to year.
The Gamecocks aren't good, aren't even close.
Whether they ever will be is what keeps us all coming back.
Florida 13 14 10 14 -- 51
South Carolina 14 0 10 7 -- 31