COLUMBIA - With more than three weeks before South Carolina's next game, Steve Spurrier found a brief moment to reflect on his team's season.
Yes, South Carolina's final-play loss at Tennessee left an ugly scar. An early-season loss at Georgia can be forgiven, if not easily excused. It's impossible to ignore what was stripped away in Knoxville.
The defeat kept USC from winning the SEC East, playing in Atlanta for the SEC title and potentially a trip to Pasadena, Calif., for the BCS National Championship Game. But the Gamecocks recovered from their mid-October stumble, refusing to fold when they fell behind in the divisional race.
South Carolina won its final five games, two victories coming against top-10 teams. With wins over Clemson and Central Florida, it is the only program to beat two teams that will play in BCS bowls next month.
"It's been a very good year," Spurrier said. "We lost one close game, but we won five or six others that a play or two here could have made us a loser. So I'm really proud of the way our guys have played in the second half of games, fourth quarters. That's why we won 10 games."
That 10-win mark is especially relevant at South Carolina.
Before Spurrier become coach, the Gamecocks had only one 10-win season. That came in 1984, more than 20 years before Spurrier was hired.
Now, South Carolina has reached that milestone in each of the past three seasons. It has the SEC's second-longest active streak of 10-win seasons, behind only two-time defending national champion Alabama.
Of course, Spurrier knows what it takes to win 10 games, accomplishing it 12 times. At Florida, he won 10 games six straight seasons in the 1990s.
The Head Ball Coach knows how difficult the task can be for any program, no matter its history.
"Ten's not all that easy," Spurrier said. "When you look around and see Georgia, LSU and Texas A&M, all those guys that won 10 last year and didn't make it. It's not something you do every year. So we're proud that we've done it three in a row.
"In fact, if we're fortunate enough to win the bowl game, we'll have three straight identical years - and I mean identical, almost. Conference record and everything."
That's not all good.
For the third straight year, South Carolina beat the team that ended up representing the Eastern Division in the SEC Championship Game. Each season, the goal is a trip to Atlanta, not merely beat the division champ.
Regardless, South Carolina has plenty of positives to reflect upon as it reports to its first bowl practice Wednesday. If the No. 8 Gamecocks beat No. 19 Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day, it would be their third straight season with 11 wins. Previously, the program had never won 11 games in a single season.
A victory could potentially give South Carolina its first top 5 finish in program history.
"We have all kind of firsts still out there," Spurrier said. "They're just back-to-back firsts now. We're getting into those, which is pretty good also. I was telling my wife the other day, 'Every time we win a game around here, it's a record.'
"Everything's a record now. So let's keep pushing."
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