AUBURN, Ala. -- Deep into the Alabama night, just past midnight back in South Carolina, there was screaming coming from the visitors' locker room at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The Gamecocks had cleared out after the 35-27 loss to Auburn, but USC's managers were left behind arguing.
Each vociferously presented his case why South Carolina had again crumbled on the road.
The room was divided evenly between the 334 rushing yards the Gamecocks surrendered and the four fourth-quarter turnovers the offense gave away after taking care of the ball for the first three quarters.
The truth: Both sides were correct.
"We did a lot of little things really poorly," USC coach Steve Spurrier said Sunday on his teleconference."That's one big reason we're losers today. We weren't as sharp as we needed to be to beat Auburn."
The Gamecocks (3-1, 1-1 SEC), who slipped to No. 19 in The Associated Press poll, have two weeks to collect themselves before No. 1 Alabama comes to Williams-Brice Stadium.
Among the questions that will burn in the interim: Who will South Carolina's quarterback be against the Tide?
With six minutes to go and the Gamecocks trailing by eight, Spurrier inserted freshman quarterback Connor Shaw for junior Stephen Garcia.
Garcia had fumbled on consecutive possessions, each leading to an Auburn score. Shaw led promising drives, but both ended in interceptions -- including one in the final seconds that glanced off Alshon Jeffery's hands in the end zone.
"I don't know what we'll do," Spurrier said about the quarterbacks. "We've got too far to go for (a decision). But we're not going to have competition.
"We know what both can do. We've watched both of them now for quite a while. We'll just make a decision on what's best for the team -- and maybe what's best for Stephen Garcia."
That last part was just one of a half-dozen times on the teleconference that Spurrier expressed concern for Garcia's health. He said, rightly, that Garcia makes his neck vulnerable by ducking his head at the point of contact.
Garcia's first fumble ended with a vicious hit that had Garcia wincing on the sideline, holding his neck. Still, Garcia came out for the next series and ran the same way.
"We've talked to him since he's been here about that," Spurrier said.
"He puts his head straight down. I think he closes his eyes and he dives in there. That's a recipe for disaster. I'm really concerned about his health as we proceed. Something bad could happen.
"There's nothing worse for a football coach, or a parent, than to see a player out there not moving."
Spurrier sounded sincere in his concern about Garcia. And also about the defense getting shredded by the league's best ground game.
Quarterback Cam Newton had 176 of Auburn's rushing yards. Most of Newton's yards were gained right up the middle.
Freshman Michael Dyer wound up with 100 yards, as well.
"We didn't know they could run the ball that well against us," Spurrier said, "but they certainly did."
Auburn kept South Carolina off balance all night with fake handoffs that were sold well by Newton.
Defensive head coach Ellis Johnson said varied and new formations kept the Gamecocks confused much of the night. Johnson and his staff tried to get the players to adjust, but they had mental lapses throughout the course of the game.
Galling and surprising as it might be, South Carolina is now 11th in the SEC in total defense -- in front of only Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks are giving up 368.5 yards a game.
In a single night, USC went from first to eighth (128.2) in the league in rushing defense.
"You never expect that to happen," Johnson said.
South Carolina will take today off, with some of its players headed to Kenny McKinley's funeral in Atlanta. The team will return to the practice field Tuesday.
"Hopefully we can regroup and get mentally refreshed for the final two-thirds of the season," Spurrier said.
"We've got everybody coming up that can beat us. I don't know how many we'll be favored over as we go down the line."
Safety DeVonte Holloman (concussion) will be evaluated this week. His status for the Alabama game is unknown.
Tackle Kyle Nunn injured his foot, but Spurrier said he returned to the game later and should play against Alabama.
Notice about comments:
The Post and Courier is pleased to offer readers the enhanced ability to comment on stories. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point.