Spurrier Talks Florida

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier met with the media to discuss Saturday night's showdown for the SEC East championship against the Florida Gators. Spurrier discussed the match-up, the loss to Arkansas, past Carolina/Florida games, and the latest on some injuries.

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier held his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon at Williams-Brice Stadium. The Gamecocks are preparing for the biggest game in school history when they travel to Gainesville, Florida to take on the Florida Gators for a spot in the SEC Championship game as the Eastern Division champions.

"Obviously it's a big game coming up for us and for Florida," Spurrier said. "At the beginning of the season one of our goals was to win the eastern division. I'm sure Florida had the same goal. We feel fortunate to be in the final game. We haven't played extremely well lately, but our record is the same as Florida. The winner will be the champion and go to Atlanta to represent the East and have a shot at the SEC (title)."

While both teams enter the match-up with identical 6-3 records overall and 4-3 in the SEC, the two teams are currently anything but identical. The Gators are coming off their best performance of the season in a 55-14 win over Vanderbilt in which they dominated every phase of the game. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks are coming off their worst performance of the season in a 41-20 loss to Arkansas in which they were dominated in every phase of the game by the Razorbacks.

"For us to beat them we have to play better than we've played lately," Spurrier said. "This game will stand on its own merit. I'm sure they'll be ready to play and we should be ready to play our best down there. A few weeks back I remember after we lost to Auburn that our team felt if there was anyway we could get to Florida with a shot at the eastern division, it would be good. It worked out. Florida had a slump in the middle of the year that enabled us to play them. We've had a slump here a couple of games late. It is what it is and should be a heckuva game."

Some fans and media members have wondered - and perhaps hoped - that the Gamecocks were looking towards the game with the Gators in the Arkansas loss and that could be the reason they played so poorly at home where they've been so successful the last two seasons.

"This game has nothing to do with Arkansas," Spurrier said. "Arkansas kicked our tails the other night. They outcoached, outplayed, out-blocked and out-tackled us. That was one reason I wanted our guys to watch Arkansas (tape). (Show them) This is how you play the game. I don't think those guys missed a tackle. They play ball. Their offensive line blocked. Man did they block. I just wanted to show our guys, this is how you play the game if you want to win. We haven't been doing those kinds of things very well, blocking and tackling. We'll do some of that in practice today."

In order for the Gamecocks to have a chance to beat the Gators they must get off the field defensively, something they haven't done lately. In the last two games the Vols and Razorbacks converted 15-of-27 third down conversions, more than 50% of the time.

"We have to force punts and maybe get turnovers," Spurrier said. "Defensively we have to force more than two punts a game. Pass defense has been our nemesis for quite a while. Our run defense is still leading the conference. We've had some sacks that's helped that."

For much of the season, the Gamecocks were the best team in red zone offensively. Ever since the Stephen Garcia interception to end the Kentucky game, the Gamecocks have slid drastically. Prior to that interception, the Gamecocks were 21-for-22 inside the red zone. Starting with that interception, the Gamecocks have only converted 9-of-15. The Gamecocks are now 30-for-37 on the season and have slid all the way down to seventh in the conference. Meanwhile, the Gators are fourth in the conference in red zone defense, allowing opponents to convert 21-of-27. The most impressive stat is that the Gators' opponents are putting the ball in the end zone less than 50% of the time (13 touchdowns).

"Offensively, we need to score when we're in the 10-yard line, which we've done well earlier in the year but lately have had issues with turnovers down in the red zone," Spurrier said. "What we have to do is try to play our game. Our game is to stay on the field a bit. We have to run Marcus Lattimore and whoever the running back is in the game. We have to throw completions and stay out there.

"Florida is very good on defense," Spurrier continued. "They're second in the conference and seventh in the nation in total defense, so they present a big challenge. They have outstanding athletes at all position and are very well coached. We have to execute to move the ball against them."

Way back in August, many predicted that the Gamecocks and Gators would meet with the SEC East on the line. Though few expected the winner to still have three conference losses, it just proves that either team is capable of winning when they play well and losing when they don't play well.

"It's what we hope happens," Spurrier said. "It would be difficult to have a two game lead playing Florida in the last one. We're excited in this position. We haven't been in this position until this year. We'll see what we can do.

"We'll go play," the head coach continued. "I believe we're capable. We have to go down there with a lot more fire than we've had lately."


Raucous Crowd

The noise level is always something you must be worried about when playing in the "Swamp." More than 90,000 fans will file into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Saturday night. Florida coach Urban Meyer has asked all Gator fans to wear blue to the game for a "blue-out."

"That's what coaches do," Spurrier said. "We all get our fans ready to go scream and yell. They'll have their guys doing that. That's part of it. In 2006 we had an excellent chance to win down there and didn't do it. The noise didn't bother us. I don't think you've ever had to get the Gator fans fired up, and you don't have to get our fans here fired up when its an important game. But that's what coaches do. You try to tell the fans and get them pumped up."

The "Swamp" has always been a difficult place to go and win at and the Gamecocks are the prime example. Carolina has never beaten the Gators in Gainesville, though literally being a fingertip away in that 2006 meeting. The Gamecocks have not heard as much noise as they will hear Saturday night since the Auburn game.

"The crowd noise will be a little different," Spurrier said. "I think we've only had one loud (road) game all year and that was Auburn. We'll use a lot of hand signals and all that stuff. We'll start working on that today."

Reliving the past

In 2000 Lou Holtz took the Gamecocks down to the "Swamp" to face Spurrier's Gators with the SEC East title on the line - the first and only time that has happened for South Carolina.

"South Carolina had a chance to win it in 2000," Spurrier said. "We (Florida) had to beat them to go. That's the only year that that happened, so it's similar to that year as far as whoever wins it."

The Gamecocks used two blocked punts to jump out to a 21-3 first quarter lead and stun the Florida fan base in attendance. However, it would all go downhill from there for the Gamecocks. Everything seemed to go right for the Gators in the second quarter, scoring 28 points en route to a 41-21 victory. The Gators would go on to beat Auburn, 28-6, in the SEC Championship game before losing to Miami in the Sugar Bowl, 37-20.

"It was one of the best second quarters I ever had in my life," Spurrier said. "We scored 28 points in the second quarter somehow and had a lot of freakish things go well for us. We faked a punt down 21-3 and made it. We threw a pass they batted down and one of our offensive linemen ran it five yards for a touchdown. Lito Sheppard ran a punt back for a touchdown. That's when you know it's going your way, that it's meant to be. It was meant to be for us that night and we won in Atlanta as well. That's the last championship I've been a part of, so certainly I'll remember about every play."

Reliving the Past II

In Spurrier's first season in Columbia and Meyer's first season in Gainesville, the two met for the first time when the Gators came into Williams-Brice. Daccus Turman scored two first half touchdowns and Mike Davis had one as the Gamecocks jumped out to a 20-3 lead late in the first half. Josh Brown's extra point was blocked and returned for a two-point conversion to cut it to 20-5. Chris Leak would lead the Gators down the field and into the end zone on the next drive, cutting it to 20-12 heading into the locker room.

The Gators would cut the lead to 20-19 before Mike Davis scored and Josh Brown kicked a field goal to push the lead to 30-19. The Gators would add a field goal late in the game and was about to get the ball back with a minute and a half left. However, the Gators had too many men on the field on the South Carolina punt, giving the Gamecocks a first down and allowing the Gamecocks to run out the clock in a 30-22 win.

"That was a day we only threw 17 passes," Spurrier said. "Blake Mitchell was 7-of-17 and Sidney Rice had a few catches. Every touchdown we scored was a run-in score. That was a game we maximized our scoring in the redzone. Four touchdowns and a field goal."

Injury Notes

The Gamecocks suffered several injuries in the loss to Arkansas. Lattimore sprained his left knee early in the game. Though Lattimore did return to the game, he was never effective and was never a focus of the offense.

"Marcus was able to go back in," Spurrier said. "He really didn't quite run the way he normally runs. He slipped a couple of times. I guess running backs are like passers sometimes. Sometimes it's really sharp and sometimes its off. I'm not so sure he was quite as sharp last week as he's been all season. Certainly for us to have a shot he has to be sharp. Our line has to block too though. We have to block a lot better. We'll see if we can block, tackle and play some ball this week."

Center T.J. Johnson left the game with a sprained knee and did not return, Connor Shaw suffered bruise ribs on a late hit towards the end of the game, C.C Whitlock and Jarriel King both suffered concussions. The good news is that it appears all will be healthy and ready to go by the end of the week.

"T.J. is coming around. He had a sprained knee. A lot of treatment and I believe he'll be ready to play by Thursday. He and Connor won't do too much, but Connor was able to lightly toss a few balls last night. C.C. should be ready although Marty Markett probably played better than he did. I think Coach Ward wants to watch them practice and determine which starts."

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