Getting Ready For No. 4

South Carolina obviously faces the same short week Ole Miss does in preparation for a nationally televised affair in Columbia. Read about it inside.

The No. 4 Rebels (2-0) face unranked USC (2-1) in this week's national Thursday night game on ESPN.

"We're just getting ready a little bit today for Ole Miss," said Gamecock head coach Steve Spurrier following a helmets and shorts practice on Sunday. "(Monday) will be a big practice day. We'll try to get the gameplan ready (Sunday night) and (Monday) morning. They are pretty similar to last year. We're probably a little different than maybe we were. They are a very good team as we all know. It's a wonderful opportunity and challenge for us."

Last year South Carolina beat Ole Miss 31-24 in Oxford seven days after Ole Miss stunned the nation with a 31-30 win at Florida.

The Rebels had beaten the Gamecocks five straight times before last season's encounter. It was the first USC win against Ole Miss since joining the conference in 1992. The Rebs lead the all-time series 8-6.

This season USC won at North Carolina State 7-3 to open the season, then lost at Georgia 41-37. Saturday night in its home opener, the Gamecocks defeated Florida Atlantic 38-16.

USC wide receiver Moe Brown said normally the team gets some time to relish a victory. Not so with a game coming up Thursday night.

"The old saying is you have 24 hours to enjoy a win," he said. "We didn't have that. We had about a night's rest. Now we get ready for Ole Miss and the No. 4 team in the nation."

Spurrier said the Gamecock offense has come quite a ways since the season opener.

"The offense has made some improvement but still can make so much more," he said. "We can't hit a deep pass to save our lives. We've got a long ways to go, but the running plays were encouraging."

The running game was one of the aspects of Gamecock football Spurrier wanted to improve by bringing in an almost entirely new offensive staff for 2009. Only Steve Spurrier, Jr., the passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach, returned on the offensive side of the ball this season.

The Gamecock rushing attack was a meager 96th in the nation last fall statistically.

So far this season, USC is averaging 170 yards rushing. Through the air, the Gamecocks have averaged 230 yards per outing.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Stephen Garcia has been effective at the controls. Garcia, 1-2 as a starter in 2008, entered the season as the only Gamecock signal-caller with any Division I experience.

Through three games, the 6-foot-2, 220-pounder has completed 63 percent of his passes (64-of-102) with three touchdowns and two interceptions.

"He's got to play really well if we're going to beat the top teams. I mean really well," Spurrier said. "He's not done that yet, but he's capable. So we're waiting on that to happen."

Spurrier said Garcia has been effective running with the football.

"As far as scrambling out of the pocket, he's as good as about anybody doing that," the head coach said.

The Gamecocks have been hampered by injuries, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

"The guys will get a lot of treatment all week," Spurrier said. "Hopefully (fifth-year senior defensive lineman) Nate Pepper (high ankle sprain) will be able to do something. Ladi Ajiboye (junior defensive lineman) is back off of his three-game suspension so he's available. Hopefully some of the other guys will be ready to play also at full speed."

Brown said the Gamecocks know what's at stake Thursday night.

"It would be a big win not only for us, but it would be a big win for our university," he said. "I don't know the last time we beat someone that highly ranked. So we're looking forward to it."

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