Hereafter isn't scary for this USC
COLUMBIA -- Panic follows celebration in this town as sure as gravy on a biscuit.
Fans. Talk show hosts. Steve Spurrier.
All worried about The Chicken Letdown Curse going into Saturday night's game at Kentucky, as if Gamecocks past will haunt "GameDay" glory while little children in Irmo and Dixiana start contemplating Halloween ghosts and goblins.
The aberration with this No. 10-ranked South Carolina team was not Saturday's (mild) upset of formerly top-ranked Alabama. It was four turnovers in the fourth quarter of the fourth game of the season.
Other than that blip at Auburn, no one in the Southeastern Conference has stopped a squad that rarely punts.
Of course, there are pitfalls -- these are college-aged young men capable of nutty things under duress or otherwise. But Spurrier's first South Carolina conference title contender, barring injury, should roll Kentucky. And follow with decisive wins over Vanderbilt and Tennessee.
The players get it, even if the head coach Tuesday was trying to make sure by selling the Kentucky game as "one of the biggest in school history."
The SEC Least
"This is a whole new team," linebacker Josh Dickerson said. "A lot of (South Carolina) teams in the past after big wins have made bad choices and lost games that they were supposed to win, but I think this is a more mature team, and I think we'll overcome that. Easily."
There it is, swagger, starting to slip back into a Spurrier-run locker room for the first time since he left Florida a decade ago.
It gets tougher for South Carolina in November: Arkansas, at Florida, Troy and at Clemson.
But October worry is unwarranted, for two main reasons:
"I hope so," Spurrier said. "We were noticing the other day that since we huddle at the line of scrimmage now that we don't get delay of game (penalties). Our personnel, we've been able to get guys in and out and off the field. We had 11 out there all the time. Some people probably think we're real smart coaches now."
More like baseball
New offensive line coach Shawn Elliott, late of Appalachian State, gets credit for emphasizing toughness within the zone blocking up front.
"Shawn has been a very good hire as far as offensive line coach and our style of offense," Spurrier said. "The ability to run the ball inside our 5-yard line, we hadn't been able to do that around here."
South Carolina leads the SEC in red zone offense and red zone defense.
A less mature, less talented and more fragile bunch would have wilted against Alabama after the Crimson Tide opened the second half with a quick safety and field goal to cut South Carolina's lead to 21-14.
But this is not the same group of players who reached a No. 2 ranking and 9-0 record in 1984 only to lose to …
The United States Naval Academy.
Or the Spurrier-coached team that started 6-1 in 2007 and then lost to Vanderbilt at home on the way to a 6-6 finish and no bowl trip.
This is more like the 2010 South Carolina baseball team, the group that followed an Omaha win over No. 1 Arizona State with five more victories.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at firstname.lastname@example.org.