USC and Bama Square Off at The Williams-Brice

Following the Georgia game, Carolina fans realized they were a play or two away from coming out of Athens as victors. Many fans were encouraged by Bama's need for a miracle as they managed to sqeak by Southern Mississippi. All things considered, there was cautious optimism as the Gamecocks took on the Crimson Tide in the conference opener at the Williams-Brice...

Both teams approached this game as if they were on the proverbial crossroads of the SEC. Bama is desperate to get back into the upper echelons of the conference and USC eager to begin their own winning traditions.

Bama fans have contended the past two consecutive losses to USC were, in large part, attributable to the abscence of Tide quarterback, Brodie Croyle. They seemed determined to bring their best game and their starting quarterback in an all out effort to silence the boasting Gamecocks for 2005. They did an excellent job.

While the Crimson Tide managed to score on their opening drive, the Gamecocks of South Carolina returned that favor with a scoring drive of their own. There within the first minutes of the first quarter the crowd went wild and it looked to be a great game in the making. That was short lived and the Iron Fans of South Carolina were silenced early as Mike Shula and his squad dominated the field in all aspects of play.

Prior to this week's match-up we said that Carolina was going to have to establish their running game. Statistics show that Bama out-rushed us 338 yards to 71 and handed Shula his highest ever total offensive gains with 489 yards.

We also said that Bama would attempt to control the clock and it would be critical for the Gamecocks to thwart that effort. Regrettably, Bama controlled the ball in excess of 37 minutes while the home team had less than 23 minutes of offensive potential. Oppressive heat or not, that statistic will never see a victory in the SEC.

To paraphrase Coach Spurrier, you can't move the ball on offense if you don't have it. He is keenly aware that in order to develop offensively, we have to stop the opposition on third down situations. Something the Gamecocks were unable to do on Saturday. Alabama was able to convert 53% of their third down situations, while USC managed a paltry 33%.

Defensively, the Gamecocks had a few moments of brilliance. Overall however, their tackling attempts were dismal and that is something Spurrier vows to concentrate on in this week's practices.

The Special Teams unit at USC was perhaps it's brightest star during Saturday's game as Josh Brown managed to outdo Bama 42.3 yards to 37 yards in the punting game. The Crimson Tide never got an opportunity to return one for the big yards as Succoup planted everyone beyond the end-zone. Both teams managed 100% success with their point after attempts though Bama did have an opportunity at three field goals that Carolina never got a like opportunity to try.

Coming into this game we knew Alabama had the skill and the physical ability to dominate if we allowed them the opportunity. In fairness to Coach Shula and his squad, they brought a great game into our house. Congratulations are in order. Coach Spurrier has acknowledged their abilities and firmly believes that Alabama is now one of the top programs in the SEC and looks for them to continue a very successful campaign in 2005.

Spurrier stated that he knows what we need to do and will continue working on troublesome areas in a best effort to continue growing, improving and recruiting. Spurrier acknowledged the difficulties that lay ahead as the Gamecocks face tough SEC competition from teams that routinely play fourth and fifth year players. We are getting good effort from some very young men and Coach Spurrier has his eye on certain ones that he expects to really begin contributing in the future. Mainly, he seems to be looking forward to more responsibility and success from players like Mike Davis, Bobby Wallace and Sidney Rice.

Coach Steve Spurrier will begin working his squad in preparation for next week's game against Troy. He has thanked the fans for their support and apologized for such a poor showing against Alabama. One thing the fans of South Carolina are going to have to face, having Steve Spurrier as your head coach comes with a price. Many of our opponents have had their heads handed to them and have been embarrassed beyond measure at this coach's hands in the past. They're looking to get even. It is no longer about whipping the Gamecocks; it's all about getting Spurrier and kicking him when he's on the re-build. And that's fine. Steve Spurrier can handle it. We have no doubt that Steve Spurrier is taking names and the retaliation will be dolled out in years to come.

Coach Spurrier suffered his worse at-home loss in fifteen years of coaching. Still, he is confident that this squad will accomplish a 6-5 season as initially predicted. If Coach Spurrier refuses to become discouraged, it is imperative that the Iron Fans of South Carolina remain committed to this team and to the man that can make it happen.

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