Gamecocks Gear Up For Improved Wildcat Squad

The South Carolina Gamecocks will travel to Lexington, KY on Saturday evening to face the Kentucky Wildcats in an important conference showdown between the two division rivals. Coach Steve Spurrier spoke about this weekend's match up at his weekly press conference on Tuesday afternoon. Read inside for the full story.

The South Carolina football team will look to rebound from a disappointing loss to the Auburn Tigers when they travel to Lexington, KY to take on the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday evening. The Gamecocks have won the past six meetings against the Wildcats, including last season's 44-16 victory, but Coach Steve Spurrier warned on Tuesday afternoon that the Gamecocks can not afford to overlook the Wildcats. "Kentucky and (South Carolina) are very similar right now. Same record, 3-2, their two losses, Louisville and Florida, ours Auburn and Georgia, I think all four of them are in the Top 10. Something is going to give on Saturday night. I'm sure they feel the opportunity to get a victory, and hopefully we feel like we have a chance too. It should be a heck of game," said Spurrier.

The Wildcats feature an improved offense this season that currently ranks third in the SEC in scoring, but their defense has left a lot to be desired through the first five weeks of the season. Spurrier commented on the 2006 Wildcats by saying, "Their offense has really come around, and they are playing extremely well. Their defense has struggled at times, but they play well at times also. They held Florida to about six points with about a minute left in the first half, and Florida didn't really go up and down the field much at all, although Central Michigan did last week. Kentucky is a pretty good team and probably like us, so it should be a heck of a game."

While the Gamecocks are sure to get the Wildcats best shot on Saturday night, Spurrier noted that he is more concerned with his young team entering into this contest. "I wish we were as seasoned as some of these other teams. If we had four offensive linemen that were in their fourth year and fifth year, I would feel pretty good going into the game. We are just not there; we are not a seasoned, veteran offensive line by any means." Spurrier went on to say, "We played pretty well last week and hopefully we can continue to improve with our guys. Nothing is really easy for us. It's going to be a struggle. We anticipate a down to the wire game and hopefully we will execute a little bit better in the closing minutes than we did last week."

Coming off the difficult loss to Auburn, Spurrier emphasized the importance of each remaining game on the schedule, as he said, "These are big games, they all count just as much. This one, the one the week after with Vandy, they are all very important. Like I said before the beginning of the season, we get ready to play every team pretty much the same way. There is no extra emphasis this week. It is big-time emphasis every week, we are trying to improve week to week, and I think we have but we haven't put it all together yet. I don't know if we will by the end of the season, but that's where we are and we are going to try and put it together."

Nearing the midpoint of the 2006 season, Coach Spurrier stated that the Gamecocks are in a very similar position to where they were at this time last year. "I just said (to our team) that this is about where we were last year. We beat who we were supposed to and lost to three big teams (Alabama, Auburn) and Georgia." However, Spurrier concluded by saying that the decision to move Syvelle Newton to quarterback gives this team a slight edge over the 2005 squad. "I think we are a little better. Syvelle has made our offense better. He is able to get away from guys and scramble and make some first downs when protection breaks down. That gives us hope there and he's throwing the ball pretty well. Blake will get his shot when it comes, I think he will be better prepared after watching a little bit. Syvelle has played well and I think improved each game. If he can continue making decisions, getting him a little more comfortable in the offense. I think what surprised everyone is his passing ability. He throws it right where you can catch it," said Spurrier.

The Gamecocks will face off against Kentucky at 7 p.m. (EST) on Saturday evening. The game will be televised by ESPN2.

Other Notes:

Expanding The Playbook - Spurrier stated during his Tuesday press conference that they would install more plays to get Syvelle Newton out of the pocket in passing situations, but other than that, they will look to keep things simple for Newton.

Saturday Is Not Make Or Break - Spurrier commented that win or lose this weekend, his team would play all 12 games the best they can. He commented that this team should win a minimum of six games this season.

Auburn Game Was Unusual - Spurrier talked about the Auburn game being an unusual game in that the Gamecocks only punted once the entire night, but the defense only forced two punts by the Tigers in the game. He also mentioned that each team only had 6-7 possessions on the night.

Red Zone Struggles - Spurrier seemed perplexed by the offense's inability to put points on the board in the red zone, as the offense went only 1-4 in red zone opportunities against Auburn. He mentioned that Sidney Rice did not make some of the plays that he normally does against the Tigers.

Throw It Away - Spurrier mentioned that he needs to work with Syvelle Newton on throwing the ball away, rather than taking sacks when the defense blitzes, especially in red zone situations.

Going On The Road - After a stretch of four consecutive home games, Coach Spurrier stated that he did not mind going on the road for contests at Kentucky and at Vanderbilt. He mentioned that he looks forward to playing all games, whether home or away.

Kerry Bonds Dismissed - Redshirt freshman defensive end Kerry Bonds has been dismissed from the football team after violating team policy.

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