Spurrier ready for in-state battle

South Carolina head football coach Steve Spurrier met with the media Tuesday afternoon in his weekly press conference. Spurrier discussed the upcoming game with the Furman Paladins Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium.

"Furman, we have not played them I guess in several years. It's the first time since I've been here. Those guys, they've got a rich tradition. In fact, in the winningest football programs in North and South Carolina, they're second to Appalachian State. Furman's right there. Bobby Lamb's been there several years. Those guys are well coached, do an excellent job, play hard. They're a good team. We need to play well to beat these guys. We need to get ready, have a good week of practice. We had a pretty good practice (Monday). We look forward to playing them."

The Paladins - ranked 24th in the latest FCS poll - enter the game with a 1-0 record. The Paladins defeated then 25th ranked Colgate 45-15 last Saturday. The Paladins, similar to what the Gamecocks did in their season opener, used a two-quarterback approach in their game against Colgate.

"They're 1-0, got a couple of quarterbacks that play a bit, Cody Worley and Chris Forcier," Spurrier said. "I think he (Forcier) transferred from UCLA or something like that. But, anyway, we look forward to playing them here, 7 o'clock here Saturday night. Hopefully we'll have a full house, try to play better than we did last week."

Fifth-year Senior Cody Worley was 9-14 passing for 113 yards and 3 touchdown passes against Colgate. Worley also ran the ball 5 times for 32 yards. Forcier, who was a receiver for the UCLA Bruins in 2009 spring practice before transferring, showed his tremendous athleticism. Forcier was only 2-3 passing for 30 yards, but had 135 yards rushing and 1 touchdown on 7 carries.

Furman will enter the game trying to extend the string of FCS upsets against FBS teams. Kansas and Ole Miss were upset in week one by North Dakota State and Jacksonville State, respectively, and Minnesota lost to South Dakota and Virginia Tech was defeated by James Madison in week two.

The last time Furman played in Williams-Brice they upset the Gamecocks. Spurrier believes he doesn't have to talk about those games with his team because he only has to look back at his own program's struggle with FCS teams to tell his team they can't overlook the Paladins.

"No, we don't have to talk about that, because we know we barely got by Wofford twice when we played them," Spurrier said. "South Carolina State played us very close until about the middle of the third quarter last year. We hit some balls on them. Of course, that was the only game they lost. They were a very good team. No, Furman, like I said, they've probably been pointing to this game all year. This is their chance for an upset. They're going to give it their best shot. We've got to be ready for anything – onside kicks, fake punts, whatever. We've got to be ready for it. When you're an underdog like they are, you've got nothing to lose. You've got to try everything possible to get a victory. We've got to be ready to play. They'll be jacked up. We haven't won any easy games around here much. I don't know how in the world we could ever be overconfident. We haven't done enough to even think we should be heavily favored over a team."

Arguably the biggest upset in college football history occurred in 2007 when the Appalachian State Mountaineers went into Ann Arbor and beat the Michigan Wolverines. South Carolina's offensive line coach, Shawn Elliot, was on that Mountaineer staff.

"We know it can happen," Spurrier said of FCS upsets. "We know it does happen. Shawn Elliott, our line coach, was of course with Appalachian State. That was, I guess, considered the biggest upset at that time, some people said in college football history, when App State went and beat Michigan. We know it can happen. We'll be ready to play this week."

There are many reasons that are thrown out as to why these upsets occur. Some will argue it's the rise in high school talent across the country. Some say it's good coaching and gimmick offenses. Others will argue it's because of the reduction in scholarship offers. Spurrier isn't quite sure what the answer is, but he has his own ideas.

"I don't have the exact answer but if you watched Miami of Ohio almost beat Florida a couple of weeks ago, then you can see they were really ready to play. I'm not sure if some of the bigger schools get as fired up as they need to be to play some of those smaller schools, or what have you. Football is a game of emotion. It's not the size of the dog in the fight but the fight in the dog when it comes to football. Certainly that's how upsets can happen. Get a big play here or there, get a loose fumble, pick it up and score, things like that - you generally need to get one or two big breaks to pull an upset. If you get those and not give the other team anything, it can happen. That's how James Madison did it the other day. I don't think Virginia Tech punted but they had to kick field goals and they had about three turnovers. They got 16 points without punting. James Madison didn't give them anything. That's how it can happen."

Playing the In-State Teams

Furman will be the fifth in-state team (other than rival Clemson) that the Gamecocks have played since Spurrier arrived in Columbia in 2005. The Gamecocks defeated Wofford 27-20 in 2006 and 23-13 in 2008, and beat South Carolina State 38-3 in 2007 and 38-14 in 2009.

"We have three choice games," Spurrier said. "I guess when I got here, somebody – the athletic director – said, ‘Do you mind playing the in-state schools?' I said, ‘No, why not? Got to play somebody.' They want to play us and they're willing to come here. We don't have to go to their place. It's a good game for everyone. They get fired up about it. Fortunately, we've won them all thus far, so it's been good for us. But if we'd lost a few of them, it probably wouldn't look very good. We probably would've lost to someone else anyway. Anyway, I think it's good for our state, good for those schools to get a little bit of a paycheck and come here and play. We've got to be ready to beat them. We've had some very close games and this one very likely could be a very close one also."

Elliot's Game

Each week Spurrier assigns an assistant coach to talk to the team about the upcoming opponent. Offensive line coach Shawn Elliot was chosen to talk about the Furman game. Coming from SoCon school, he has the experience of playing against Furman on a yearly basis. Of course it doesn't hurt that he was on the sidelines during "The Miracle In the Big House" in 2007.

"This is his game, Spurrier said of Elliot. "We assign each game to one assistant coach. This is his week to talk a little bit about Furman and so forth. Yeah, he's played against them. Obviously, we have the tape of Appalachian State against Furman last year. We've been watching it a little bit this morning."

How Has Lattimore Handled the Praise?

Following his 37 carry, 182 yard effort in the victory over Georgia, Gamecock running back Marcus Lattimore was the most ‘tweeted' subject on Twitter. After carving through the Bulldog defense it would be easy for a true freshman to buy into all the hype. Though Spurrier won't know for sure until Lattimore takes the field Saturday night, he believes it will be back to business as usual for Lattimore.

"We haven't been together all that much – just one practice," Spurrier said. "But Marcus comes from a big-time high school program, up in Byrnes, as we all know. He's had a lot of praise, a lot of accolades, a lot of recognition – high school All-American and Mr. Football in the state and all that. So, he's had a lot of attention. Hopefully he'll stay well grounded, which I think he is, and get ready to play this week. But he's only played a couple of games. Certainly everyone knows about him now. He's got a lot of goals. His commitment level is very good. So, we expect him to be ready to play this week. He had a good practice last night, nothing different. In fact, I had to get on him a little bit the Georgia week. He wasn't running his plays out, 20 yards or so. So, he picked that up a little bit. Last night he was running them out a little farther than 20. That's always encouraging."

Many Gamecock fans are already comparing Lattimore to Gamecock great George Rogers. The running back is also getting some recognition as a possible Heisman candidate, something unheard of for a true freshman. Spurrier says it's up to Lattimore and the coaching staff to handle the praise.

"That's only human nature," Spurrier said of the praise Lattimore has received. "When you have a sensational game like Marcus did last week, I think that's going to happen. He's got to handle it. We've got to handle it, not get full of ourselves and be ready to play every week. With Marcus, I think we're all smart enough to know one game doesn't make a career. I really believe he'll be fired up and ready to go against Furman. It's a school pretty close to where he grew up, up there. He likes playing football. He'll be ready, along with the rest of the guys."

During Lattimore's recruiting process, many teams used Spurrier's ‘fun-n-gun' approach against the Gamecocks. Spurrier believes that Lattimore's performance proves that a running back can put up big numbers in the Spurrier offense if he's successful.

"Certainly, historically, or the last several years, no running back – What's the most one's carried? I'm not sure – but if you have a back that continues to make yards and you're' not throwing very well, then he's going to get it a whole bunch with any coach," Spurrier said. "Certainly that was a line a whole bunch of schools used trying to recruit Marcus. We basically told him he'd have an opportunity to do that. It came the second game of his career here. Will we have a game where he gets that many in the future? I don't know. You can't say. You don't know how each game progresses. As long as he stays healthy, he needs to get the ball a lot."

Spurrier compared Lattimore's running style to a former Florida Gator running back and NFL Hall of Fame member Emmitt Smith.

"I mentioned earlier his style is a lot like Emmitt Smith," Spurrier said. "Emmitt, his shoulder pads always seem to be square when he's coming through line of scrimmage. Tacklers don't get a good, clean shot at his body because his pad level is so low. Even when they're diving at his feet and ankles, he's getting his feet out of the ground when they come in there real low. That's why running backs stay healthy for so long. Emmitt, I don't think he ever had any knee surgeries or anything. He lasted a long time without injuries. I think Marcus's style will keep him healthy, I believe. Hopefully it will. He doesn't give tacklers a good, clean shot at him. He has the ability to just glance off, break tackles, and so forth."

Change in Offensive Philosophy?

After Lattimore's performance some may wonder if they will see a change in philosophy from the fun-n-gun to a grind it out offense. Spurrier continues to believe that you've got to do what it takes to win the game. If that means giving it to your running back 37 times, so be it.

"Well, if your quarterback goes back and gets sacked," Spurrier said. "And your right tackle, then your left tackle, let a guy run right around them, they may. They may see up the middle. No, we hope to throw the ball better than we did last week. We'll see if we can, as we go down the stretch."

After watching the film, Spurrier wasn't too happy with his offense's performance, particularly in pass protection.

"When we watched the tape, we realized we didn't play all that great," Spurrier said. "The offensive line played, oh, pretty decent most of the time. But we had a lot of mistakes up there. Obviously a couple of guys were waiting on Marcus as soon as he got the ball. We messed up a few blocking assignments and pass protection a few times. It could've cost us the game. One time Stephen got hit, sort of from the blind side, and fortunately he held on to the ball. So, anyway, that didn't cost us. But we didn't complete much downfield. I think we had four passes past the line of scrimmage the other day. So, we've got a lot of work to do. Pass protection and throwing the ball and catching and this, that and the other. We've got a long way to go if we're going to have a great year."

Lucky 13?

With the win over the Bulldogs, the Gamecocks moved up to 13th in the latest AP poll. That has some fans thinking that the Gamecocks may be ranked a little too high and worried that it might lead to a let-down. Spurrier says that the team goals aren't even close to being met, so there's really no need to worry about a let-down.

"Oh, I bet you half our guys don't even know where we're ranked," Spurrier said. "That shouldn't have anything to do with the game. We've got good senior leadership. They've talked to the guys. The team's got some lofty goals this year. We're nowhere close to achieving anything yet."

Red Zone Perfection

The Gamecocks are a perfect 8-8 in the red zone through two games. More importantly, the Gamecocks have found the end zone 75% of the time, compared to last season's 53%. Spurrier is surprised that his team has had that much success running the ball at the goal line.

"I don't have the answer for that," Spurrier said of the red zone success. "I don't have the answer for that. We don't have but one touchdown pass all year so we're running it into the end zone, which is something we have not been able to do since I've been here. Very difficult to run it in from the two or three yard line. Try to sweep them or something to get in. We've been pretty fortunate enough to run straight and get it in there."

Injury/Suspension Notes

Spurrier said that Shaq Wilson continues to be out with a hamstring injury. There is still no timetable on if or when Wilson will return to practice. Antonio Allen did practice with the team on Monday night, but was in a yellow jersey. He status for this weekend is unsure, but coaches said he should be back for the Auburn game.

Hutch Eckerson sprained an ankle in the Georgia game and may not be available this week. Terrance Campbell was also in a walking boot at practice last night, but should still be cleared for the Furman game.

Kenny Davis injured his hand on the helmet of another player in the Georgia game, but Coach Brad Lawing believes he will be fine. Weslye Saunders is still suspended and not with the team.

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