Ready to turn a corner?

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier is holding his tongue, but he appears close to thinking his team is finally turning the corner. The Gamecocks enter their regular-season finale with in-state rival Clemson the owners of an 8-3 record and looking to earn a ninth win for only the third time in school history and the first time since posting a 9-3 mark in 2001.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier is holding his tongue, but he appears close to thinking his team is finally turning the corner.

The Gamecocks enter their regular-season finale with in-state rival Clemson the owners of an 8-3 record and looking to earn a ninth win for only the third time in school history and the first time since posting a 9-3 mark in 2001.

One of the reasons Spurrier believes his team has a better attitude this season is the mind-set of the players now being recruited and signed.

"I think our guys know what we are trying to do," Spurrier said. "They know every game is important. We've got a wonderful group of team guys who really believe it is all about team, and whatever we achieve as a team is what we will remember this year.

"I think the seniors and the young guys coming in are more team-oriented guys. We've got a lot of players who actually played on state championship teams, so they understand. (Freshman running back) Marcus (Lattimore) up at Byrnes High School -- the night I went to see him play, I think he had four carries the first half. They were throwing it all over the place. I think they were ahead of the team (they were playing) 42-0 at the half. He got a few carries the second half, but he had a lot of games where he didn't do much at all. Byrnes obviously emphasized team.

"(Sophomore cornerback) Stephon Gilmore up at South Pointe (High School), I think those guys are playing for another state championship this year. They've all come from some better high school programs than some of the guys in the past. But it still depends on the older guys. Their attitudes generally rub off on the younger guys."

With the Gamecocks scheduled to meet Auburn in a battle for the school's first ever Southeastern Conference championship on Dec. 4 in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Spurrier believes the team is on the right track.

"The guys are starting to understand that we can still achieve more goals that are out there," Spurrier said. "We set several goals every year and see how many we can hit. One of them is always beating Clemson. One of them was winning nine games this year. So we are in position; if we can finish strongly we have a chance.

"We've turned it a little bit. That's all. We've turned it a little bit in winning the East. The next two weeks will determine what we've done this year. Our players know that, and our fans know it. We'll keep pushing this week and next week, then we'll have some time off before whatever bowl game we go to. We'll try to play our best these two weeks and then see where we are."

NOTES, QUOTES

--RB Marcus Lattimore scored three touchdowns in South Carolina's 69-24 win over Troy, giving him 19 on the season. While that is a school single-season record, he needs two more scores to break the Southeastern Conference record set by former Tennessee running back Reggie Cobb in 1987. Lattimore has topped the 150-yard rushing total three times this season and is second in the league in rushing yards per game (106.6).

--WR Alshon Jeffery is the all-time leader in single-season reception yards for a South Carolina player at 1,210 yards, breaking the standard held by Sidney Rice. He leads the SEC in both receiving yards per game (110.0) and receptions per game (6.4). He has caught 70 passes this season, which is good enough to make him one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award.

--South Carolina, which claimed a 34-17 victory over Clemson in 2009, is seeking to win back-to-back games against its rival for the first time since 1970.

SERIES HISTORY: Clemson leads South Carolina, 65-38-4 (last meeting, 2009, 34-17 South Carolina).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Gamecocks are on a roll, having scored at least 36 points in three of their last four games. That came to a head on Saturday when they scored 69 against Troy, with 59 coming in the first half. The team has officially become a run-first attack, with freshman Marcus Lattimore leading the way with 1,066 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. Counting receptions, he has 19 scores on the campaign. His running ability has allowed quarterback Stephen Garcia to put together his most consistent campaign yet. Part of that has been passing to record-setting wide receiver Alshon Jeffeery, who has yet to be stopped this season.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Gamecocks have been stout against the run all season, leading the Southeastern Conference by allowing only 96.1 yards per game, which ranks seventh nationally. Stopping the pass has been more hit and miss. The team has been vastly improved in that area in dominating wins over Florida and Troy. The Gamecocks face a Clemson team that features inexperienced receivers and has been mediocre at best through the air.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We are a very close-knit bunch. There is just love. Losing Kenny McKinley really brought us closer together. We really appreciate the days we have. Coach (Steve) Spurrier showed us something on the board that 18 to 23 or 24 is when you get to play football. Most people live to be at least 70 years old, but he said these are the times of your lives you will remember. It just makes me appreciate playing football, and the way I can give back to the team is giving it my all." -- Redshirt sophomore WR Tori Gurley, on the 2010 South Carolina team.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: South Carolina at Clemson, Nov. 27 -- South Carolina can make history if it can top its in-state rival, then knock off Auburn in the SEC championship game.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Ride Marcus Lattimore. The freshman running back has proven he can carry the load, having toted the ball 40 times against Florida and 37 times against Georgia. That allows QB Stephen Garcia to select when the team wants to challenge Clemson's talented secondary with WR Alshon Jeffery. If the defense can stop RB Jamie Harper and force Kyle Parker to pass, it will be ahead of the game.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

RB Marcus Lattimore -- Coach Steve Spurrier has hitched his team's wagon to the talented freshman, now calling his squad a running team. That is an amazing statement from the creator of the "Fun N Gun" attack. When Lattimore has been on his game, it has been impossible to stop the Gamecocks.

QB Stephen Garcia -- After being the butt of constant criticism from his coach, the redshirt junior has played so well that even Steve Spurrier has taken notice. He admits his quarterback has done everything that has been asked.

DE Cliff Matthews -- Although he struggled much of the season, the senior captain has come on strong since getting the medical clearance to remove a shoulder sling that stunted his performance. Probably no player wants to defeat Clemson more than this in-state performer.

ROSTER REPORT:

--CB Stephon Gilmore (concussion) is expected to play against Clemson on Saturday. After missing the first two days of practice, he was scheduled to return to action Wednesday.

--SPUR Damario Jeffery (right quadriceps contusion) is expected to play against Clemson.

--LT Jarriel King (concussion) played as a reserve last week after missing the Florida game. Junior Kyle Nunn earned his second straight start at the position.

--DE Chaz Sutton returned to action last week after missing four games with a broken hand. He was credited with a tackle and returned an interception 56 yards for a touchdown.

--CB Marty Markett, a junior walk-on, sprained his knee but managed to finish the Troy game. Coach Steve Spurrier is hopeful Markett will be ready to play against Clemson on Saturday. Markett has started the Gamecocks' last two games, but his status remains unknown.

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