Notebook: Spurrier thrilled with win

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier was thrilled following Saturday's 17-12 win over the Florida Gators. The Head Ball Coach was not thrilled just because it was his alma mater, but because for the second straight year the Gamecocks have beaten the "big three" in the SEC East.

In his days as Florida head coach, Steve Spurrier was well-known for throwing the ball around and running up the score on opponents. It is a bit ironic that in two of Spurrier's wins over his former school as South Carolina's head ball coach that the Gamecocks completed just seven passes in each of those games. Former quarterback Blake Mitchell completed 7-of-17 passes in a 30-22 win over the Gators in Spurrier's first game against his former school, and Connor Shaw and Bruce Ellington were a combined 7-of-13 in Saturday's 17-12 win over Florida in Columbia.

"I know our offense didn't look real pretty at times," a pleased Spurrier said following the game. "We stayed on the field about the whole first half, and it seemed like they stayed out there (in the second half). We got two or three first downs in that last drive to get it down to about 38 seconds."

It was another stifling defensive performance that limited the Florida offense, and a Gamecock offense that did just enough to top the Gators. For the second consecutive year, Carolina has swept the "big three" in the East with wins over Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida.

"This one was a special one, I don't mind telling that," Spurrier gushed. "When I took this job seven years ago some of my buddies down in Florida said ‘Steve, you're crazy. You're going to go up there and get your butt kicked like every other South Carolina coach. You're not going to beat Florida, and you can't beat Georgia and Tennessee. Why do you want to get into all that?' I just said ‘Well, I believe South Carolina does have a chance. They have excellent high school athletes in this state and if we do a good job recruiting and get the right players, we have a chance to play just like everyone else.' So it's special to know we're 6-0 the last two years against Tennessee, Florida and Georgia."

All Carolina can do now is sit and hope that Auburn can somehow top Georgia to advance to their second consecutive SEC Championship game.

"We're very happy to be 8-2," Spurrier said. "Whatever happens between Auburn and Georgia, we'll see how Georgia plays when they know they have to win. They have to win two actually. We'll wait and see how the dust settles before we over-celebrate, but this was a good win for us. Our players should be commended for this one."

The win over Florida will end Carolina's SEC schedule with a record six wins and sweeping the Eastern division for the first time.

"This was a good win for us," Spurrier said. "I'm really happy with this one. This was one of the best one's I've ever had. Not because it's my old school, but because it's six wins in the conference and beating those three schools that have dominated South Carolina prior to '05."

Dominating defense

The South Carolina defense continues to be a dominant force most of the 2011 season. After a disappointing performance in last week's 44-28 loss to Arkansas, the defense came out with a chip on their shoulder. The Gamecocks limited the Gators to just 84 yards in the first half before struggling a bit in the second half as the Gator offense ended up with 261 yards after surrendering 435 yards last week to the Razorbacks.

"The most impressive thing to me defensively is that we didn't lose our poise," assistant head coach Ellis Johnson said. "They didn't lose composure like I think they did last week and start making mental errors. The only real ugly play was as much my fault as anybody. We got a little greedy and we brought pressure trying to get to the quarterback because we thought they'd probably take a shot with the ball at midfield."

The "ugly play" was a 47-yard run by Chris Rainey, a game-high play in yards gained, down to the South Carolina two yard line that set up Florida's lone touchdown of the game.

"Our defense was sensational holding Florida to 12 points and our offense scraped out 17 points," Spurrier said.

Perhaps the biggest reason the Gamecocks walked away winners was that the defense held Florida to two field goals in its three red zone appearances, one with the Gators inside the Gamecock five yard line.

"We play well on the goal line and I think it's mainly because guys understand their roles in the scheme," Johnson said. "The one time they did score they ran an adjustment where they shifted and then brought people across in motion and we did not adjust correctly on that. That was the only poor play we had down there."

Florida quarterback John Brantley, who is far from a mobile quarterback to begin with, was still suffering from an injured ankle that further limited his mobility. That allowed for the Gamecocks to pin their ears back and head straight for Brantley, sacking him three times and forcing him to scramble all afternoon.

"Travian got the last sack, Melvin was in there a lot, and Devin rushed well today," Spurrier said. "That's what we have to do. We have to get pressure – that's how you stop every passing team."

As the Gamecocks move toward the final two games of the regular season and a bowl appearance, it will be important that the Carolina defense not take any more steps backward the rest of the way.

"I thought we took a giant step back last week," Johnson said. "I know Arkansas is probably the best offensive team in our conference by far, but still I thought we took a step backward last week. I thought we improved in that area this week."

Shaw to Sanders

After the Gators scored to trim the Gamecock lead to 14-12, a struggling offense took the field in need of a spark. That spark would come immediately as Shaw found Ace Sanders streaking down the field for a 46-yard completion, Carolina's longest play from scrimmage since Bruce Ellington's 61-yard touchdown run against Kentucky, to set up the final points of the game.

"He does all week during practice," Spurrier said. "He sort of gets a little hesitant at times. It seems like guys get in his face a little bit and he's used to taking off, but Ace came over after we ran a little curl in front of that guy when we got the interference and he said ‘Coach, I think I can run by him.'"

Running "Wilds"

Freshman running back Brandon Wilds had his second 100-yard rushing performance in his three starts on Saturday, running for 120 yards on 29 carries. Wilds, who entered the season fifth on the depth chart among the running backs, has been quite the surprise since being thrust into action after injuries sidelined Marcus Lattimore, Shon Carson, Kenny Miles, and Eric Baker.

Wilds carried the ball 17 times for 81 yards in the first half, before carrying it just twice for nine yards in the third quarter. Spurrier went back to Wilds in the fourth quarter, and the Blythewood graduate carried it 10 times for 30 yards in the final quarter.

"We got in the third quarter and tried some other things and then we didn't have the ball I was over there thinking we've got to give Brandon and do what we were doing in the second quarter," Spurrier said. "Brandon is a good back – 121 yards. He's a good runner with the ball."

Notes

GENERAL NOTES


• After Saturday's 17-14 win over Florida, the Gamecocks finish SEC play with a perfect 5-0 record against SEC Eastern Division opponents for the first time in school history. The Gamecocks have also won six games in the SEC for the first time in school history.

• South Carolina now has back-to-back wins over the Gators for the first time since 1936 and 1939.

• Steve Spurrier is now 3-4 as the South Carolina head coach against his alma mater after two-straight victories over the Gators.

• After giving up a field goal in the first quarter to Florida, the Gamecocks have surrendered the first points of the game in all 10 games this season and in 13 straight games dating back to last season. South Carolina is 9-4 in those 13 contests despite the early deficits.

OFFENSIVE NOTES

• Junior wide receiver Alshon Jeffery tied Kenny McKinley on the all-time receiving yards list in South Carolina history with 2,781 yards on a 14-yard pass from Connor Shaw during South Carolina's first offensive possession of the game. Jeffery passed McKinley in the second quarter on a three-yard pass from Bruce Ellington to finish the day with 17 yards on two receptions.

• Senior kicker Jay Wooten's 40-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter was his first attempt since Kentucky on October 8, 2011. Wooten also added a 28-yard kick in the fourth quarter. The Gamecocks are still the only team in the country to not have a field goal attempt of less than 40 yards this season.

• Sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw collected his fourth and fifth rushing touchdowns of the year in the second quarter. The first score came on a 10-yard run which gave the Gamecocks a 7-3 lead and the second on keeper from one-yard out.

• Shaw's 46-yard pass to Ace Sanders matches his previous career high pass play of 46 yards which came on a connection to freshman tight end Rory Anderson against Kentucky.

DEFENSIVE NOTES

• True freshman Brison Williams made his first career start on Saturday. He is the 20th Gamecock to make his first start this season.

• Junior cornerback Stephon Gilmore collected his first sack and his first forced fumble of the season on Florida's first drive of the game. Junior defensive end Devin Taylor collected his second fumble recovery of the season on the play.

• Freshman defensive end Jadeveon Clowney recorded his fifth forced fumble of the season in the second quarter. The play ties Clowney with LSU's Tyrann Mathieu for the most forced fumbles in the SEC with 0.50 per game (LSU faces Western Kentucky at 7 p.m.). Rodney Paulk recovered the fumble for his first recovery of the season.

• Senior defensive end Melvin Ingram's quarterback sack in the fourth quarter brings his total to 6.5 on the season. The total ties him with Auburn's Corey Lemonier for the second most sacks in the SEC (Auburn faces Georgia at 3:30 p.m.).

• The 47-yard rush by Florida's Chris Rainey was the longest allowed by the Gamecocks this season. The previous high was a 30-yard rush by Navy's Gee Gee Greene on September 17, 2011.

SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES

• Freshman Bruce Ellington's 31-yard kickoff return in the third quarter was his second longest of the season. Ellington also added a fourth quarter return of 30- yards and finished the day with 103 kickoff return yards on four attempts.

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