Originally created 11/24/03

Holtz counts on changes before next season



COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina coach Lou Holtz hasn't figured out the details yet. But after a second straight 5-7 season - and a second straight late-season fold - Holtz knows changes are ahead for the Gamecocks.

"It's too early. I haven't been to bed," Holtz said Sunday. "You think a lot of things, but you've really got to analyze things and you don't want to do it emotionally."

Holtz watched his team's fourth straight loss, an embarrassing 63-17 defeat to archrival Clemson, twice more on tape since it unfolded before his eyes at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday night.

The Gamecocks were 5-2 a year ago and on the verge of a third consecutive bowl trip when they lost five straight games.

A tired-sounding Holtz was sure there would be some assistant coaching changes "after a year like this."

He also hinted at personnel moves, perhaps promising runner Cory Boyd to the secondary, and youngsters Blake Mitchell and Syvelle Newton competing for Dondrial Pinkins' quarterback spot.

Holtz is expected back for a sixth season. Last week, the university extended his contract through 2008, although either side can void the deal on five days notice.

"Nobody else has to believe in the future," said Holtz, who had his eighth losing season in 32 years. "You have no chance to succeed if you don't believe in yourself. At the present time, disappointed. But do I believe? Yes."

That might be hard to swallow for any of the 83,987 people at Williams-Brice Stadium, or those watching on ESPN2.

Clemson had little trouble in rolling past the Gamecocks for the sixth time in seven seasons.

The Tigers were ahead 21-0 with about 10 minutes gone in the game. They scored their most points ever in the long-running series between the schools, which began in 1896.

There were also a couple of low-water marks for Holtz. Never over 32 seasons had his team surrendered as many points or been beaten this decisively. Florida's 54-17 win at Williams-Brice two years ago were the most points previously scored by a Holtz opponent. His biggest blowout loss before this came at Minnesota in 1984, when the Golden Gophers fell to Illinois 48-3.

Holtz was stunned after the game. Officials from the Music City and Houston bowls, the leading destinations for the Gamecocks if they had won, left long before the clock struck zero.

"Our fans, our students, our alumni, our administration deserve more than this," Holtz said.

For a while this season, they got more.

With a 31-7 defeat of then-No. 15 Virginia 31-7, the Gamecocks entered the top 25 and opened 2-0 for the third time in four seasons. They battled at Tennessee before falling 23-20 in overtime and put on a solid showing for three quarters to defeat Kentucky 27-21 in their first ESPN, Thursday night home game in 10 years.

Things turned - as was the case a year ago - with LSU.

South Carolina's defense, a highly regarded unit that was among the country's best through a 4-2 start, crumbled against LSU's Tigers in falling 33-7. Two weeks later, the Gamecocks trailed 43-14 at Ole Miss before a fourth-quarter comeback made the final 43-40. In another Thursday night contest two games ago, South Carolina was manhandled by Arkansas 28-6.

The Gamecocks seemingly rebounded the next week, leading Florida 16-7 at halftime. But then came the play Holtz detractors will point to all offseason long - a risky fake punt deep in South Carolina territory. The ploy failed, the Gators got a go-ahead field goal and held on for a 24-22 win to leave the Gamecocks 2-6 in Southeastern Conference play.

Still, the close Florida game gave fans hope for a strong showing in the finale - and arguably the team's most important game each year. That did not happen.

Cornerback Dunta Robinson felt bad the Gamecocks lost that way for Holtz. "The younger guys have a chance to make it right next year," Robinson said.

Those young guys might get the chance. Holtz made a point several times this week that Newton, a freshman moved to wide receiver this year for depth purposes, would compete at quarterback next spring. Holtz also says prize freshmen tailback Demetris Summers, who at 644 yards finished two short of team leader Daccus Turman, needs to run more from the I-formation and the line needs to get him room.

Holtz says he'll visit with his coaches later Sunday, his players Monday and take a break over Thanksgiving before making plans for next year.

"I think they were good coaches two years ago, doesn't mean that they aren't good coaches, etcetera," Holtz said. "But I would anticipate that there will be changes."

Holtz wants to recapture the momentum of 2000 and 2001, both which ended in Outback Bowl victories. "We had two good years, we were on the right track," before the last two years, Holtz said. "But I don't analyze this, all I know is that I hurt at the present time. I guess you're supposed to. Losing should hurt you."