ATHENS, Ga. — By the time Connor Shaw washed away the disappointment in Sanford Stadium's visiting locker room showers Saturday night, his mind already shifted to the big picture.
Georgia had just beaten South Carolina, 41-30, but all was not lost. Wearing his garnet Gamecocks polo, sitting in the visiting team's interview room, Shaw couldn't hide his disappointment.
He found no problem discussing a silver lining, though.
“It's frustrating, but the past two years we've beaten them, and they went on to play in Atlanta,” Shaw said, referencing the SEC championship game. “So that's the mindset we've got to have.”
Funny how quickly things change. In the blink of a final score, something Gamecocks fans would rather forget, the past two years became the program's guiding light. In 2011 and 2012, South Carolina beat Georgia. Georgia played for the SEC title anyway.
If it happened once, then happened twice, surely it could happen for USC. The Gamecocks are due. Right?
“They've got a harder schedule this year,” USC safety T.J. Gurley said of Georgia. “They've got to face a lot of more good teams. So we'll be fine. We've just got to win the rest.”
Coach Steve Spurrier put a halt to his team's wishful thinking.
On Sunday, the Gamecocks dropped seven spots in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. They are down to No. 13, the second-highest ranking among one-loss teams behind No. 9 Georgia. After two games, it's too early in the season to rule USC out of making its first SEC championship game appearance since 2010.
Spurrier wouldn't even discuss a potential trip to Atlanta. The Head Ball Coach didn't mention what happened these past two years to his team, no inspiring pep talk to keep hope alive.
Quite the opposite, actually.
“I hope we're just sort of back down to earth that we're not a very good team right now,” Spurrier said during his Sunday afternoon teleconference. “We better work hard and get our stuff together. We don't have to worry about any kinds of divisions, SEC championships.”
So, what are the expectations for these Gamecocks?
“We're worried about going to a bowl game right now,” Spurrier said. “That's what we need to worry about — winning seven games, or eight games if we can. That's what we need to do. We need to try to beat Vandy this week. That's what we need to worry about.
“We'll let all that talk (of conference championships) go to those other guys right now. We have zero conference wins, and the way we performed yesterday, it doesn't look real pretty for us unless we change our ways around here.”
Spurrier hinted to lowered expectations in his postgame remarks Saturday night, saying hopes were too high for a team with so many youngsters. It's an odd perspective. USC has youth, but there is also a senior quarterback, and junior defensive end less than a year away from potentially being the NFL's top draft pick.
Of course, Spurrier says nothing off the cuff. He is deliberate, and he is calculating. After taking “a good tail kicking” — as he called it Saturday night — perhaps Spurrier just wanted to bring his team down to earth.
The star defensive end didn't have his mind in the clouds.
“We've got to go back and work,” Jadeveon Clowney said. “That's all I'm thinking about now. That's behind me. We've got to get back out there and practice, man. We've got to get back out there and work, and just keep moving forward. Next game we have on our list is Vanderbilt. My focus is on them now.”
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