Spurrier: Gamecocks Extremely Fortunate

When Steve Spurrier opted to become the head football coach at South Carolina, Gamecocks fans believed a run for the national championship was only a few years away.

Conversely, Clemson fans believed it didn't matter who coached them because once a loser, always a loser.

That's probably why it's so intriguing to see that the Gamecocks are ranked 19th in the country and sporting a 7-3 record. Tigers head coach Tommy Bowden said he prefers it that way because it brings more attention to the state and to the winning team when the bitter rivals meet.

While many felt Spurrier could win in time, very few thought he'd be able to pull off this type of season, especially considering the Gamecocks entered the year without their top two running backs and a rookie at quarterback.

"I think every coach has to expect some type of success," Spurrier said. "Our goal this year was to win more than we lose. We didn't know if that was a possibility or not. Over the season, we have improved and gotten some breaks along the way. We haven't beaten ourselves in these games."

For the first time since joining the SEC in 1992, South Carolina has won five straight SEC games. It wasn't too long ago that the Gamecocks had lost 21 consecutive games overall.

"We've improved a lot (since losing to Alabama)," Spurrier said. "There is no question about that. Our tackling is much better than it was back then, and effort and intensity. I still think it can be better. We are still not anywhere close to where we hope to be some day.

"I'm sure the teams we beat can probably say the same thing that their effort and intensity is not near what they hope to be. It's always as one writer said, ‘We are a work in progress.' We are still a work in progress. We've been extremely fortunate, had some good bounces and breaks, and this that and the other. Again, hopefully we can play our best this Saturday night."

It's still somewhat amazing that a team which ranks 112th out of 119 Division I team in rushing and 86th in stopping the run sits where it is. With statistics like that, it's a wonder the Gamecocks aren't sporting just three or four wins.

"You look at all the statistics, which some people like to look at, fortunately this year we are not into statistics," Spurrier said. "I used to be, not this year. There is an old saying, ‘Statistics are for losers and assistant coaches.' I'm sort of like an assistant coach since I coach quarterbacks and call plays and run the offense, so I have always sort of felt in touch with the assistant coaches. This year I'm not into statistics, just wins and losses, that's the only thing that counts."

When taking a closer look, one of the reasons South Carolina has been successful is when it actually reaches the red zone, which isn't very often, touchdowns are usually scored.

By comparison, Clemson has been to the red zone 41 times but has scored only 24 touchdowns. As a result, the Tigers have had to settle for 16 field goal attempts. However, South Carolina has made it to the 20 just 31 times and has nearly as many touchdowns with 22. Also, the Gamecocks have only attempted six field goals when getting in the red zone.

The play of the defense by the Gamecocks in the red zone is another key. Teams have gotten there 41 times against them, but have scored amazingly just 18 touchdowns, and forcing them to attempt 14 field goals.

"We've been pretty fortunate and certainly that has been a big key to not to have gone down there and attempt field goals (that could be blocked)," Spurrier said. "I think we've only attempted 10 field goals this year. Some teams have tried 20 or so in the conference. Josh (Brown) made one good one at Tennessee and the one last week was crucial, to get us an 11-point lead there in the fourth quarter.

We've been fortunate to usually score touchdowns there and that's a big reason we've won these close games. I don't have the answer for it but we do obviously try for touchdowns; we don't try to run three and kick a field goal."

Another reason South Carolina is 7-3 goes against everything that the Gamecocks have represented for more than 100 years, and that's good luck. The term good luck and South Carolina have never belonged in the same sentence – until this year.

"Sometimes you get into streaks of good fortune coming your way," Spurrier said. "Certainly, I think it's really been that way for us. I think what we have done well is not given the ball away and not done some stupid things that occasionally happens to some teams. That's been important for us.

"I really don't have a reason why we have been so fortunate. I hope I'm smart enough to know that it's not any brilliant coaching that we're doing; it's just worked out at the right time. Our players have made the plays at the end of games to give us a chance to be the winner. Sometimes the other guy has 12 on the field and he doesn't know that and we are fortunate. It could be a combination of the other guy messing up a little bit and us not messing up. The other guy has fumbled through the end zone and things like that we've been the recipient of a lot of good fortune the last five weeks."

Clemson fans are banking on everything returning to normal Saturday night.

CUTigers.com Top Stories