Time, opportunities running out on Elliott’s chances
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Shawn Elliott and the South Carolina Gamecocks know time is running out, both on the season and the chance for the interim coach to make a strong case for the permanent job.
The Gamecocks (3-6, 1-6 Southeastern) look to end a two-game losing streak when they play No. 11 Florida (8-1, 6-1) at home Saturday.
Elliott likes the improvement he’s seen and the uptick in attitude the past two weeks at Texas A&M and Tennessee. The bottom line, though, was a pair of close losses instead of a resume-building wins.
Elliott believes the breakthrough is coming soon with what he’s seen from the Gamecocks.
”When you look at us the last two weeks, three weeks, you go Vanderbilt, A&M and Tennessee, we’ve stacked up pretty well,” Elliott said Tuesday. ”We haven’t gotten over the hump, but you know we’re knocking on the door, and somebody’s going to answer it shortly.”
Time is running out on Elliott’s candidacy.
Athletic director Ray Tanner said when coach Steve Spurrier resigned in October that Elliott would have be given a chance to get the job. The former offensive line coach had a satisfying debut in a 19-10 win over Vanderbilt on Oct. 17, which was also the school’s first home game after the massive flooding in South Carolina that affected many around campus and in the stands that day.
The Gamecocks kept things close on the road the past two games, but the effort didn’t result in a win. The most heartbreaking defeat was last week when tight end Jerell Adams fumbled a late catch as he was fighting for additional yardage with South Carolina driving for the goal line.
Elliott believes in the approach of a steady progression of getting better, fixing the issues that plagued the Gamecocks in their 0-4 SEC start – and led to Spurrier walking away – and closing in on the desired results.
”If you engage that football team, and I mean really engage them with your eyes, and you can look at them across the room and you can feel they believe in what you’re saying,” Elliott said, ”then you’ve got a chance.”
Florida coach Jim McElwain said it will be a different task to motivate his players with a spot in the SEC title game wrapped up and not much on the line against South Carolina.
”I’m kind of excited about this new challenge and the uncharted waters that we’re in,” he said. ”You know, it’s really about discovery for a program that should be here in this position every year.”
South Carolina’s schedule provides huge opportunities for Elliott. Two weeks after facing a ranked Florida club, South Carolina plays bitter rival Clemson, which is currently ranked No. 1 in both the AP and College Football Playoff polls.
Take downs of one or both would surely gain the attention of South Carolina leaders, along with the college football world.
Elliott, though, won’t play the spoiler card with his players.
”It doesn’t matter what they’re ranked or how successful they are. We got out and compete and any man with a competitive spirit wants to go out there and win. That’s the bottom line for us,” he said.
The end result for the Gamecocks is doing their part to keep Elliott in charge beyond this month.
Left guard Mike Matulis said the team has had a more positive vibe since Elliott took over. Their goal is to win enough games so Elliott can earn the fulltime job.
”We love him as a coach,” Matulis said. ”Ask any player on the team, no one’s got a bad thing to say about him. Everyone respects and everyone wants him here.”
AP Sports Writer Mark Long contributed to this report from Gainesville, Florida.