Razorbacks Pose Different Challenge To USC

With the month of October coming to an end, the South Carolina football team is now two-thirds of the way through the 2006 football season, but with a 5-3 record and three games remaining against top 20 foes, the Gamecocks now stand at a crossroad.

Fresh off a frustrating 31-24 defeat at the hands of the Tennessee Volunteers, the Gamecocks have no time to play the "what if" game, as the 12th ranked Arkansas Razorbacks (7-1, 4-0) come to town for a primetime showdown on Saturday night.

The Gamecocks have arguably outplayed two top ten opponents this season in Auburn and Tennessee, yet they have nothing to show for it due to a couple of untimely miscues. In fact, it seems that the fortunate bounces the Gamecocks received on their memorable second half run last season are not going in their favor this year. Coach Steve Spurrier commented on his team's fortunes this season by saying, "The other teams are not fumbling to us and throwing interceptions and not getting touchdowns called back like they did last year. They are not dropping passes and they are playing better then they did last year. Also, we are having errors here and there as you can tell, that maybe we didn't quite have last year. Although, last year we had a lot of bad plays too but we still overcame them."

However, Spurrier insisted that no matter which way the ball bounces, good teams make their own breaks. "That is football. The ball is not always going to bounce your way. You have to make your breaks sometimes and the good teams have the ability to do that. We are capable of beating a ranked team, but until we do it, that is all we are is capable," said Spurrier.

Carolina will have yet another opportunity to knock off a highly ranked opponent this weekend, as Coach Houston Nutt brings his Arkansas Razorbacks to town. The Gamecocks have won the last two match ups against the Razorbacks, but this year's team is a different animal. Led by the backfield tandem of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, who many consider to be the best combo of running backs in the nation, the Razorbacks are averaging an astounding 235 yards rushing per game and are scoring more than 31 points per contest. Coach Spurrier praised the Razorbacks for their play this season, as he said, "The Razorbacks have won all of their close games and are a good team. They are 7-1 and Top 15 in the country. Some of the Arkansas people think they ought to be in the Top 10 and they may have reason to think that since they beat Auburn, which is a Top 10 team. They lead the conference in rushing. McFadden and Jones are two of the best backs in the conference, on the same team, and they run both of them a lot. We need to anchor down and not let them run up and down the field."

Arkansas will certainly pose a formidable challenge to the Gamecocks on Saturday, but Spurrier gave a simple explanation for what his team needs to do in order to compete with the Hogs. "We need to play well and take care of the ball a lot better then we did the last game and make fewer mistakes. That will give us a better chance," said Spurrier. Taking care of the ball has become a priority for the Gamecocks, as they have seven turnovers in the last two games, including three costly interceptions in the loss to Tennessee this past Saturday.

If Carolina had been able to knock off the Volunteers last weekend, they would have stayed alive in the hunt for the SEC-East, but after the loss, Coach Spurrier emphasized that the pressure is off and his team can now go back to just playing football. "We are back to trying to just win a ball game. We realize that we are realistically out of the division in the SEC. Sometimes in the back of your mind, if it were to happen that you started to win some games, you start believing you have a chance. Now we know that is gone, we just want to win some games, play well, have fun and play football," said Spurrier.

While the Gamecocks 5-3 record may be disappointing to some, Spurrier remains optimistic about his team's chances over the final four games of the season. "We are only two-thirds through the season and we still have four big games left. We will see how we finish. We are very healthy and should play well," said Spurrier.

Kickoff between South Carolina and Arkansas is set for 7:45 p.m. (EST), and the game will be televised nationally by ESPN. Saturday will mark the sixth time this season that the Gamecocks have been televised by either ESPN or ESPN 2.


- Spurrier expressed his disappointment in the play of the special teams on Saturday and stated that changes are coming this week. "We will have some changes on punt team and kickoff team. On that last kickoff, we had three guys trying to pick it up and we managed to get it back to the five. It was sad watching that, it looked like a bunch of Pop Warner guys trying to pick up that ball. Hopefully that won't happen again," said Spurrier.

- Quarterback Syvelle Newton sat out Monday's practice with a lingering "headache" from Saturday's game against Tennessee. Spurrier did not go as far as to classify it as a concussion, but he stated, "Syvelle got hit pretty hard in the head at the end of the first half. At half time he had a headache, but he was ok, he knew what the plays were. He is scheduled to practice today. We held him out last night. We think he will be fine."

- Center Chris White did suffer a mild concussion on Saturday night, according to Spurrier, but White is also expected back for Tuesday's practice. "Chris was in the same situation. He was held out last night too, but I think he will be back today. He needs to practice today. He doesn't practice on Wednesday's because that is his day off. He has class on Wednesday's and is excused every week for that," said Spurrier.

- Saturday will mark the 15th meeting between the Gamecocks and Razorbacks. Arkansas holds an 8-6 series advantage, but USC claims a 4-3 record in games played in Columbia, SC.

- Spurrier holds a 4-0 lifetime record against the Razorbacks, including a 34-3 drubbing in the 1995 SEC Championship game.

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