When fourteenth-ranked South Carolina takes the field Saturday afternoon against the Citadel, the Gamecocks will be trying to avenge one of the program's worst losses in its history for the second time this season. Earlier this season Carolina avenged a 1984 loss to Navy that kept the Gamecocks from playing for a potential National Championship. Six years later Carolina suffered an embarrassing 38-35 loss to the Citadel. Much as was the case against the Midshipmen, head coach Steve Spurrier has given his team a little history lesson.
"I told our team about it," Spurrier said at his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon. "I think I was in Charleston this summer at the Gamecock booster meeting and one of the guys down there I think played football at The Citadel. It is a very big deal if an in-state school beats the state university anywhere.We'll be ready to play these guys. I'm sure they'll be ready to play, too."
The Citadel has struggled this season, winning just four of their ten games entering Saturday's contest, including just a 2-6 record in the Southern Conference. However, five of the six Bulldog losses were by 10 points or less, including a seven point loss to Appalachian State and two point loss to Georgia Southern.
"Citadel is a well-disciplined team," Spurrier said. "They've had some tough luck this year. They've lost most of their close ones. Lost in overtime to Elon, lost a close one with Furman, Appalachian State. Georgia Southern beat the by two points. Georgia Southern was No. 1 in the country in that division. And then Samford scored at the end of the game last week to nip them by 19 to 14."
The Citadel, much like Navy, runs a disciplined triple-option attack. The Bulldogs average 291 yards rushing per game and only 35 passing yards. The biggest problem presented by a triple-option attack is that it is hard to simulate during practice. The defense usually has to learn as the game progresses, much like the Gamecock defense did earlier this season against Navy. The Midshipmen scored two touchdowns in four possessions in the first half, but the Carolina defense did much better in the second half by allowing just on touchdown and shutting down the Navy run game the rest of the game. The defense must do the same this week.
"They are an excellent running team," Spurrier said. "They run the triple option similar to Georgia Tech, Navy, those teams. I think they average around 290 yards rushing per game. So we've got to play. We've got to come to play or else they can stay out on the field like Navy did a bit. We might be in trouble. But we're looking forward to it."
In Spurrier's illustrious coaching career, he has yet to lose to a non-BCS team, though he admits to barely surviving several upset bids to in-state schools at Carolina.
"We've had a few close games here and there, certainly with our in-state teams here," Spurrier said. "Wofford almost beats us every time we play them. Furman comes close too. South Carolina State has given us fits. We don't talk about it. We just need to make sure we're ready to play. We've got to make sure we're ready to play. I think our guys will. We've gotten the last game out of our system, I believe and we'll be ready to get some good practices in Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and be ready to go at noon on Saturday."
Matulis to Start at Tackle
Spurrier was thrilled with the performances of several players in Saturday's 17-12 win over Florida in the SEC finale. Offensive tackle Mike Matulis was one of those players, earning a game ball for his performance in trying to protect quarterback Connor Shaw. Matulis got the start at tackle after not playing often this season.
"He got back in because I told coach Elliott let's give him a shot this week in practice and see if he can't play a little bit better than who has been playing there," Spurrier said. "So that's how that happened. We had a chance to redshirt him. I think he played earlier in the year, but he had a little nagging injury. It wasn't that bad. He played pretty well. He didn't play great, but he played well enough to get a game ball."
The tackle position has been a sore spot since the injury to senior Kyle Nunn earlier in this season that has sidelined him for the season. Redshirt freshman Cody Gibson has seen the most playing time at the tackle position, but has struggled recently, opening up the door for the true freshman Matulis. According to Spurrier, his performance was good enough to keep him there.
"Still Matulis," Spurrier said. "Yea, still Matulis is in there, Hopefully he'll get the signals a little better – some of the other guys also. We still go the wrong way every now and then. The play is slide right, and he slides left. Things like that happen that shouldn't be happening. That happened on the ball that was knocked down and Justice caught the tipped ball."
Goals Still Left to Achieve
10 minutes into last week's Georgia/Auburn game Carolina fans knew that the Gamecocks were not going to represent the East on December 3rd in the SEC Championship game. Despite an undefeated record in the division, the Gamecocks will likely be watching. While that has disappointed many Gamecock fans, Spurrier is quick to remind fans that this team can still do special things this season.
"We set more goal than just (winning the) Eastern Division," Spurrier said. "We actually hit one of our goals last week, winning eight games. Winning nine is one of our goals. We're shooting for No. 9 this week. So that's one of our goals right there. I believe in setting, with the team, several goals, which we do. I think we set about eight or nine goals this year. A bunch of them are still out there for us. They're still out there."
After going to last year's conference championship game with a 5-3 record, not even a school record six conference wins in 2011 appears to not be enough for Carolina to play for the championship this season.
"If it was meant to be, maybe you're going to win it, like it was for us last year with a 5-3 record," Spurrier said. "This year we're 6-2, maybe it was not meant to be."
Though Gamecock fans will be doing some scoreboard watching and praying for Kentucky to pull off a miracle upset against Georgia, Spurrier says his guys are focused on playing the Citadel.
"We don't talk about (Kentucky/Georgia) much," Spurrier said. "Really didn't talk about Georgia-Auburn that much either. I did mention I had a good feeling, but my feeling was wrong, that's for sure. But what was I supposed to say, I had a bad feeling? You've got to go under the assumption that something good is going to happen. It didn't work out, but nah, we won't worry about that game."
Return to Fun-N-Gun
Steve Spurrier will be remembered as the coach that re-revolutionized offense in the SEC. After long being known as a "three yards and a cloud of dust" league, Spurrier game in with his air attack and changed the way football is played in the South.
Seven years into his tenure at South Carolina and the Gamecocks are a running team. Carolina is averaging 20 more rushing yards more per game than passing yards and 160 more rushing attempts than pass attempts. Spurrier does not want things to stay that way.
"I hope not," Spurrier said. "I hope this is not going to be our style of offense. When I watch the tape, up the middle, up the middle for one yard, two yards and stuff like that. I don't like watching it, either, to tell you the truth. But on the upside, I know we all like winning better than we like guys getting sacked, throwing interceptions and things like that. So we're just not real good at throwing yet. But really, even last year, our big wins, we didn't throw 35, 40 times. We'd throw about 20, 22, something like that. This has been, really, our style the last couple of (years)."
Holloman Should Play
After sitting out last week's game against Florida after suffering a concussion the week before against Arkansas, safety DeVonte Holloman should return to the field this week.
"Yeah, we think so," Spurrier said. "We think his concussion has healed up. He will still go through some of the tests the trainers give him. We think he's going to be OK."
After suffering an ACL injury a month ago against Mississippi State, running back Marcus Lattimore is set to have surgery on the knee this week. Despite the long wait, Spurrier says there has been no delay for the surgery and everything is still on schedule.
"There hasn't been a delay," Spurrier said. "That's the way they do it now a days. They try to get the knee completely calmed down, get all the swelling out, and they're able to, I guess, isolate the ligament to repair it and so forth. I believe it's going to be this week some time. I believe it is the latter part of this week."
Spurrier says that Lattimore, who spoke publicly Tuesday for the first time since suffering the injury, is just ready to get it over with.
"He's been pretty good," Spurrier said. "I saw him walking around yesterday, He is off his crutches. He can walk without the crutches now. He's looking forward to getting it over with and start rehab. We all know he will work extremely hard, as hard as any player, to get it back 100 percent and ready to go. And we feel confident we've got one of the best orthopedic surgeons in the country, Jeff Guy. So he's ready to get it done and start rehabbing the next day or so afterward."
Carolina not looking past the Citadel
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