South Carolina/Auburn Game Day Notes
The Tigers are a two touchdown favorite coming into Columbia, SC this evening, but despite being a heavy underdog, there is a growing sense of optimism around the Gamecock program heading into tonight's contest. Senior cornerback Fred Bennett commented on the young Gamecock team's mindset entering this game by saying, "I think in their hearts and their minds, they want to be ready. I think they're ready for the big challenge."
Auburn leads the all-time series between the two schools 5-1, and the last time the two programs met in Columbia, SC was in 1997. The Gamecocks endured an embarrassing 48-7 loss at the hands of the Tigers last season, but then regrouped to win their next five SEC contests. Coach Steve Spurrier stated Monday that he believes this year's Gamecock squad, though young, is more confident entering this year's match up with Auburn. "I think we have a little more confidence going into this game (than last year). Syvelle (Newton) has played two in a row, we are fairly healthy at wide receiver, Kenny and Sidney are healthy, and hopefully some of those other receivers can come around and help us. If our line holds up pretty well, hopefully we can hang in there tough with them. Our defense I think will play better this year. It is all wait and see."
The Gamecocks concluded a short but productive week of practice on Wednesday afternoon, and with all things considered, they are relatively healthy. Safety Chris Hampton, who injured his ankle against Florida Atlantic, is likely to play this evening against the Tigers, and linebacker Cody Wells has returned after sitting out last week with an ankle injury. Running back Cory Boyd has been suffering from a high ankle sprain for the past two weeks, and his status is considered a game time decision. Boyd stated earlier in the week, "I'm going to play, no matter if they had to sew a leg on if this one didn't work. I've been looking forward to this game since last year."
Several storylines have highlighted tonight's match up, including Kenny Irons return to South Carolina, the Gamecocks opportunity to knock off the highest ranked opponent in their history, and Auburn's chance to impress the poll voters with this contest in the national spotlight. However, as Bennett said earlier this week, all the talk will stop on Thursday night, and all that matters is what happens on the field. "They're coming to play Thursday, and we're coming to play Thursday. May the best team win."
Alabama Connection - The Gamecocks have six Alabama natives on their roster, including quarterback Chris Smelley, offensive tackle Heath Batchelor, kicker Thomas Hooper, defensive end Dustin Lindsey, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, and safety Darian Stewart.
Making History Is Motivation - Coach Steve Spurrier and the South Carolina coaching staff have talked throughout the week about the Gamecocks chance to make history on Thursday night. If the Gamecocks were to upset the #2 ranked Auburn Tigers, that would serve as the highest ranked team the Gamecocks have ever defeated. Freshman defensive end Eric Norwood, who was recruited by Auburn, admitted that a chance at making history certainly serves as motivation for this contest. "It's very exciting. Playing the #2 team in the country, not everybody gets a chance to do that. Right now we've got a chance to make history."
West Is Friends With The Enemy - South Carolina junior wide receiver Mike West will face off against two of his old junior college friends on Thursday night. West talked about his connection with the Auburn players earlier this week. "Two of the cornerbacks are my former teammates. David Irons and Jonathan Wilhite. I played with those guys in Junior College at Butler. I'm best friends, great friends (with them). I know them very well."
Modest Goals For O-line - Coach Spurrier mentioned after Tuesday's practice that the offensive line has made some strides in practice this week, but he has relatively modest goals for them entering into Thursday's game. "Just try to play harder. Just try to play meaner and tougher up front. That's all we can ask them to do."
Irons Wants 200 - Auburn running back Kenny Irons would like nothing more than to run all over his former team on Thursday night, and whispers around the Auburn football program have leaked that Irons has set a goal to rush for over 200 yards against the Gamecocks.
Any Given Thursday - Coach Spurrier stated earlier in the week that he is optimistic about his team's chances against Auburn if they ball can bounce the right way. Spurrier commented, "We are looking forward to the game here on Thursday night… We gotta believe we have a chance. We gotta believe if the ball bounces our way here and there that we can hang on the field with these guys. We will be ready to play and see what happens."
Spurrier Against The Tigers - During his tenure at Florida, Spurrier accumulated a 10-3 record against the Tigers, including a 28-6 victory in the 2000 SEC Championship game. Spurrier claims a 4-2 record when facing Tommy Tuberville.
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