South Carolina Accepts Bowl Invitation

On Friday afternoon at Williams Brice Stadium, South Carolina officially accepted a bowl invitation to play in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta, Ga. on December 31st. Gary Stokan, President and CEO of the Chick-fil-A Bowl extended an offer to the Gamecocks to play the Florida State Seminoles, an offer that was accepted by Athletic Director Eric Hyman and head football coach Steve Spurrier.

"I got to know Gary pretty well I guess four years ago at the golf tournament, Chick-fil-A Golf Tournament," Spurrier said. "We started talking with Gary, he said ‘We'd love to have you in our bowl game,' and I said, ‘We'd love to be there some day if it works out,' and fortunately it worked out."

South Carolina will be returning to the site of last week's embarassing loss to the Auburn Tigers in the SEC Championship game - the Georgia Dome.

"We didn't play our best the last time in the Georgia Dome and we're going to see if we can try to compete and look like a first-class team the way we were most of this season," Spurrier said. "We're looking forward to coming back in there and showing how to play football like we did here at South Carolina the entire season."

South Carolina will bring it's 9-4 record into the game that includes wins over Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, and Clemson en route to its first appearance in the SEC Championship game, as well as their first appearance inside the Georgia Dome. That appearance didn't go so well in a 56-17 loss to the Tigers.

"Other than just getting thoroughly beat, Auburn scored seven touchdowns in 10 possessions," Spurier said. "We had a couple of interceptions, moved the ball a little here and there, not a lot. But we didn't play near our best and they played very well. They played very well and we didn't play very well. And they're probably a little better than us anyway. So that's how you get clobbered."

The Gamecocks are hoping to have a better fan ratio than last week for the SEC Championship game. Carolina was out-numbered by Tiger fans by a fairly wide margin, something that likely won't happen against the 'Noles.

"Sometimes that championship game gets tilted because usually the Alabama fans buy them during the summer," Spurrier said. "I think Alabama and Florida fans bought then during the summer. Auburn people were a little quicker to jump on those Alabama and Florida people than we were but that wasn't our problem, that wasn't our problem in that game. But we'll find out that our fans easy driving distance to Atlanta, hopefully stay a few days if they can."

When the Gamecocks take the field on New Year's Eve they will be taking on more of a team similar to themselves than Auburn. The Seminoles enter the game with an identical 9-4 record and also suffered a disappointing loss in their championship game. FSU trailed Virginia Tech by as many as 18 midway through the third quarter before eventually falling, 44-33, in the ACC Championship game.

"it should be a heck of a matchup," Spurrier said. "We're excited. FSU's a very good team, almost the exact year that they had, we had, 9-4. They lost their conference championship game and they feel like they're on the way back to being what Florida State used to be in the 90s there and so forth"

The Seminoles are led by first-year head coach Jimbo Fisher. Fisher is in his third year in Tallahassee, serving as offensive coordinator the previous two seasons under legendary coach Bobby Bowden. Fisher was also the offensive coordinator for LSU in 2003 when the Tigers won the National Championship. He also coached at Auburn as offensive coordinator. Fisher played his college ball as a quarterback for three years at Salem College before ending his collegiate career at Samford under Bobby Bowden's son, Terry.

"Jimbo Fisher's a heck of a coach, a good guy," Spurrier said. "I got to know him real good the last several years and our coaching backgrounds are very similar - quarterback coach, offensive coordinator, he calls the plays, runs the show and so forth. So I've got a lot of respect for Jimbo and what they've been able to do there in Tallahassee this past year."

Spurrier says his coaching staff has not watched a lot of film on the Seminoles so far, but plans to do so in the coming days before bowl practice kicks off. Instead, the coaches have been busy visiting high school prospects.

"I've watched just a little bit of their defense, not a lot yet," Spurrier said. "In fact, our coaches have sort of been out on the road recruiting. But we'll round up next Wednesday and practice Thursday here for bowl practice."

There is one thing Spurrier is sure of; the defensive line is good. Really good.

"They are a good team," Spurrier said. "I read somewhere where they led the nation in sacks (46). I think we're third (tied with 39). Good defensive line, lot of good athletes on that Florida State team as you would imagine."

The Gamecocks will be trying to avoid the bowl struggles it has suffered in the last two seasons, with blowout losses to Iowa in the Outback Bowl and UConn in the Papa John's Bowl. The Gamecocks will be preparing differently than they did the last two years.

"It will just be different, put it that way," Spurrier said. "Be some different stuff."

Many in the media claimed Spurrier just doesn't put the emphasis on bowl games that other coaches do unless it's a BCS Bowl. Spurrier vehemently disagrees.

"It's very important," Spurrier said. "It was important last year. Some of you guys said I don't think it's important. I know how important it is. You say why didn't you get the guys to play. Why didn't I get them to play against Auburn? We got the SEC Championship on the line. We just got clobbered. I don't have the answer. Why didn't we play well against Arkansas? I don't always have the answers. I can tell you I coach them all the same. I coach them all the same. Sometimes guys have good games and sometimes we don't. But we'll try to do some things different to try and get the attention of our guys a little bit better."

Spurrier and FSU

Spurrier is obviously no stranger to the Seminole program. While coaching at Florida, Spurrier infamously called Florida State 'Free Shoes U.' Things got heated up in 1996 when Spurrier said Florida State players were bragging about trying to or injuring quarterbacks. It reached a boiling point in Spurrier's last season at Florida when he accused Florida State defensive tackle Darnell Dockett of twisting running back Earnest Graham's knee in a pile-up following a second half carry by Graham that sprained his knee.

"That happened in 2001," Spurrier said. "That happened then. That was an individual thing. I don't think the coaches were involved in that at all. But I wasn't the only coach that had some issues with trying to hurt quarterbacks. You can maybe talk to some other coaches they played in that time, they probably weren't as outspoken as I was. I was probably a little more outspoken in those days."

That led to a response by then-FSU Athletic Director Dave Hart to say that; "It'd probably be good if somebody just spanked him (Spurrier) and put him to bed and hope that he wakes up all grown up."

Whether there was a lot of dislike between the fan bases prior to the 2001 season, it certainly escalated with those exchanges

"Fans didn't like each other very well," Spurrier said. "And they probably still don't like each other very well. I heard the biggest roar, when Clemson played FSU, Bart Wright, that was covering the Clemson game, he said the biggest roar of the night was when they announced South Carolina 36, Florida 14, the biggest roar of the night was in Tallahassee. They still don't like each other, the fans, very well at all."

Players Send Papers to NFL

Spurrier confirmed that wide receiver Tori Gurley and offensive lineman Rokevious Watkins each sent evaluation papers to the NFL to see where they may get drafted.

"We've had a couple to send in their papers," Spurrier said. "Let's see …Tori Gurley and Rokevious. I think they're our only two. They still got time if they want to, I think."

While it's still not known if any other players will send in their papers, it's common for players eligible to enter the draft while still having college eligibility to see where they may be drafted. It doesn't mean they will go pro - and in this case - it seems fairly unlikely that either will sign with an agent and enter the draft.

"They know how we feel," Spurrier said. "If you're not projected as a first-rounder, you shouldn't go out. But some of our players in the past think, ‘I'm gonna be a first- or second-rounder.' Then when they get drafted in the seventh round, like Clifton Geathers, he should have come back. He wanted to go. If they want to go, we can't stop them. Lot of times, players don't listen to coaches. They think, ‘I'm going to be an early pick.' There's nothing we can do to keep them here. We just try to educate them. But if they don't want to stay, that's OK with us too."

Spurrier Not Leaving Any Time Soon

This is always the time of year when Spurrier is asked how much he has left in him. With the resignation of Florida head coach Urban Meyer earlier this week, Spurrier was asked what his future at South Carolina was. As has been the case in each of Spurrier's years at Carolina, the answer remained the same.

"I always say four or five," Spurrier said. "Three, four, five. I look at four, five. Marcus is a freshman. We've got some good recruits coming in, we think, and we think we're going to get some others. We believe we've got an up-and-coming team here. Like I said, all this year, I don't think this is the best team we're going to field. I think we can field a stronger team in the future. We know Marcus has got at least two more years. Alshon's got at least one more, maybe two. Depends on if he stays or not. We've got some good young players, I think, ready to go. I look at four or five."

Notoriety for Marcus and Alshon

Running back Marcus Lattimore and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery have been regulars for awards following their 2010 season. Lattimore and Jeffery were selected in both the coach's and AP's first-team All SEC. Lattimore was named Freshman of the Year by CBSSports.com and Alshon Jeffery was a finalist for the 2010 Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation's #1 receiver.

"That's neat, that's neat," Spurrier said of Lattimore's Freshman of the Year award. "And he's earned them. We're proud of him. We're proud of Alshon, up for the Biletnikoff, didn't win it, but he was considered one of the three-best in the country. Certainly, Marcus is well-deserving. But he'll put it aside, try to win us a bowl game here. Sure that will be what's on his mind right now."

Notes

- Eric Hyman's statement of accepting the bowl invitation:

"We couldn't be more excited to play in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. In the time I've been here, I've had our fans come up to me and express a high level of interest in playing this game. It's been a long time since we've been down there. We look forward to participating in your bowl game. We want to make these opportunities a lot more closer together than they have been in the past. When our site-team went down this week and visited with the Chick-Fil-A folks, they came back with rave reviews about the hospitality and professionalism of your people. We're appreciative of that. I know our student-athletes will have a good time."

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