COLUMBIA -- If it was a question of talent or calling the right plays to win, perhaps it wouldn't even be a question.
But Steve Spurrier sees something more as the biggest reason why South Carolina has lost four straight and is severely limping coming into today's rivalry game with No. 21 Clemson.
"Our attitude stinks right now," he said Tuesday. "Our attitude is pretty sorry right now. As a team, we don't perform at a real high intense level."
Spurrier corrected himself a day letter, explaining that he meant to say "effort" in place of "attitude" and he wasn't displeased at all with his players' personalities. What he meant, he said, was the effort shown by his team in the past four games has been lacking and if it happens again today, well, nobody should be surprised at the outcome.
"So far we really don't know how to compete at a really high level," he said. "It's my responsibility as a head coach. We're still trying to train our players to do that."
Spurrier saying those comments wasn't a surprise -- he's said them since he took the job. But considering he said in the preseason the Gamecocks had the talent to compete for the SEC and it is the same team that was 6-1 and No. 6 in the country five weeks ago, the comments seemed a bit out of place.
Put it this way -- he wasn't full of fire and brimstone about the importance of the USC-Clemson rivalry because he was too busy complaining about his team's play, although his players seemed to agree.
"It's sad," Chris Hampton said. "I don't know why the attitude's that way. I know that's one thing that he's talking about and we're working to do."
"Of course we've had a bad streak going here lately," agreed Cody Wells. "We've had a few bad games. Going out with a 'W' ... we need to get out of our rut right now."
Spurrier's point was USC was a young program and had just signed its best recruiting class before this year, which gives him hope, although it might not mean a lot of wins. He's looking for players who "bust their tails" all the time, which is why the Gamecocks have had a revolving door at most positions this season.
He was frustrated -- and no, not frustrated enough to leave after his third season, he said -- but was encouraged by the younger players on the squad. Of the 21 seniors who will play their last home game today, only nine are key players/starters, which gives Spurrier hope for the future.
If he can get past today first. Today's result won't completely change how he feels, but it may give his program new life, such as the Clemson win did last year.
Spurrier said last year he hoped the 31-28 victory over the Tigers would serve as a benchmark, which led him to travel all over the state selling commemorative game balls with the final score etched on them. He seemed to be onto something when the Gamecocks began 6-1, until their epic fall.
"Early in the year, (things) were breaking right for us," Spurrier said. "We don't do the things that winners and champions do right now. We were still winning some games, but obviously it caught up with us."
With only one definite game left to prove themselves, the Gamecocks head into today with their reputations on the line. Six wins in their first seven games turned out to be a setup for a terrible fall, and if they want to prove their coach wrong, there's only one way to do it.
"We can't worry about the winning and losing," Spurrier said. "We have to concern ourselves with just playing football at a very high level, which obviously we haven't done."