Holtz has inconsistent Gamecocks on roll

It's easy to forget that when Lou Holtz got to Columbia, S.C., in 1999, the Gamecocks had just suffered a 1-10 season. It's even easier to forget that South Carolina endured a winless 0-11 record in Holtz's rookie season with them.<br><br> Ah, how times have changed. Holtz went on to post a 17-7 record over the next two years — 8-4 in 2000 and 9-3 in 2000 — and defeat Ohio State twice in successive Outback Bowls.

The Gamecocks downed the Buckeyes 24-7 in 2000 and 31-28 in 2001 in the Tampa, Fla., New Year's Day bowl.


Holtz has amassed a 238-115-7 record over a 31-year career, the most notable of which were spent at Notre Dame. While not all of the Gamecocks' wins this season have been what could be considered as dominating or even exemplary, the 65-year-old coach has his team on a roll, bringing a four-game winning streak and a 5-2 (3-1 Southeastern Conference) record to Baton Rouge for USC's SEC matchup with LSU this Saturday.


Most recently, South Carolina survived a 16-12 squeaker at Kentucky. The Gamecocks trailed 10-0 before coming back to take the lead, and had to rely on its defensive unit to squelch a final drive by the potent Wildcat offense in the closing seconds of the contest.


"I think the special part of the win for us is that Kentucky scores 20 out of 21 times when they are inside the 20," Holtz said, "and the one time they couldn't do it, they could have won the game."


"In the second half we threw the ball a little more, but we didn't really change our plan," said USC running back/wide receiver Ryan Brewer. "We knew what their defense was doing at that point, and we felt like our plays would work — we just had to execute."


South Carolina's season opener wasn't quite as close but was a bit more lackluster than most Gamecocks fans would have liked. Holtz notched his 234th career victory as the 22nd-ranked Gamecocks beat New Mexico State 34-24, tying former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler for career wins.


"If I worried about wins and losses, or winning percentages, I sure wouldn't have taken over six losing situations," said Holtz. "All that means is I've coached a long time."


"You can't win pretty all the time," said quarterback Corey Jenkins, who passed for 166 yards on a 9-of-18 performance. "The best part about this all is we won, but we've got a lot of guys who are disappointed."


Obviously not disappointed enough. South Carolina lost its next two games when turnovers led to a 34-21 drumming at Virginia and a potential game-winning Gamecock drive was snuffed by Georgia.


The seven USC turnovers — six fumbles and an interception — in the Virginia contest was something Holtz said he hadn't seen the likes of in his three decades of coaching.


"I've been in this game a long time, and I don't ever remember being in a situation like this," he said. "There were times we didn't have nearly have that many turnovers in a season."


The 0-2 Cavaliers capitalized on the miscues, turning them into three touchdowns and a victory over the No. 22 Gamecocks. Two of the other turnovers stopped potential USC scoring opportunities. The USC defense, already circumspect from its performance against New Mexico State, could also be held at fault, allowing Virginia 339 yards of total offense, 196 of it in the air.


The Gamecock defense played "absolutely outstanding" against Georgia the following week, according to Holtz. In the SEC opener for both teams, South Carolina held the ninth-ranked Bulldogs to only 13 points but scored only seven in program's first back-to-back losses under Holtz in two years.


A freaky turnover led to a Georgia touchdown and the Gamecocks' potential game-winning drive was stopped at the two-yard line with 12 seconds remaining.


In the fourth quarter of the game, South Carolina quarterback Corey Jenkins dropped back into his own end zone to pass but Georgia defensive end David Pollack made a one-handed snag for the interception and TD.


"I don't know how it happened, Pollack said. "When I hit it, I noticed it kind of stuck to my hand."


"I should have listened to Skip," said Holtz, referring to his son and USC offensive coordinator Skip Holtz, who wanted to run the ball on the play. "I knew if we could get the quick pitch, and get (fullback Andrew) Pinnock in the open field running north-south. ... It looked like a good pitch. Skip wanted to run the same play but to the tight end."


The Georgia defense came up big again when it was able to recover a South Carolina fumble at its goal line with 12 seconds on the clock to preserve the 13-7 win.


"This week we added a few calls," said USC defensive end George Gause. "We also made a few adjustments and worked hard in practice. It's hard, but it's a team effort, everyone has to do their job."


Jenkins certainly did his job in the Gamecocks' 42-21 lambasting of Temple, throwing two touchdown passes and rushing for two more. The quarterback finished 18-for-23 for 198 yards in the air, while USC was finally able to solve its turnover problem. After giving the ball away 12 times in the previous three games, South Carolina had just one against the Owls, while intercepting two passes of its own. Senior fullback Andrew Pinnock, who fumbled twice inside the 5-yard line against Georgia, didn't get a touch against Temple, though Holtz still called him "an important part" of the team.


Jenkins also paced South Carolina's league victories over Vanderbilt and Mississippi State, though neither team has been very effective on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.


In USC's 20-14 win at Vanderbilt, Jenkins rushed for 97 yards, threw for 180 more and scored the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter of the game. He added another passing TD and a running one in a 34-10 Gamecock victory over hapless Mississippi State, even while sitting out most of the second half with an ankle sprain.


Jenkins' statistics can be somewhat misleading, as most of his accomplishments have come against sub-par competition. The Gamecocks as a whole aren't really as good as their record reflects, and the inconsistencies they've shown this season should be easily capitalized by LSU, particularly in Tiger Stadium.


If the Tigers can capitalize on any giveaways the way that they did against Florida, the game could quickly become a Tiger rout and further LSU's quest to repeat as SEC champions.


Holtz, though, sees his team as being on a roll and looks to continue their winning ways.


"This was our fourth win in a row, our third conference victory and our second conference win on the road," Holtz he following the Kentucky game. "Our guys are pretty beat up. We face LSU next week, so we will see about our condition come Monday for that game."

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