Gamecocks Turn Attention To Florida

The Gamecocks returned to the practice fields on Monday afternoon for the first time since Saturday's disappointing 26-20 loss to the Arkansas Razorbacks. With a record of 5-4 on the year and the hopes of playing in a quality bowl game still alive, the Gamecocks will now turn their attention to this weekend's road contest against the 6th ranked Florida Gators.

Saturday will serve as a homecoming of sorts for Steve Spurrier, who led the Gators to seven SEC titles and one National Championship in his twelve year tenure (1990-2001) as the Florida head coach. However, rather than focusing on his return to Gainesville, Spurrier deflected the media attention and commented only on his team, saying, "The whole team is very healthy. We're very fortunate and we're looking to forward to seeing if we can't play a little better this week."

The sting of Saturday's loss to the Razorbacks clearly still irked Spurrier, but he elected to reflect on his team's performance against the Razorbacks after Monday's practice. Spurrier praised the play of a few offensive players, but acknowedged that it ultimately was not enough to win the game. "(Blake Mitchell) played pretty well except for one play and unfortunately that play took away our chance to win the game, because we couldn't get the ball back the other night. But that one is history. We had some guys really compete well. Sidney (Rice) and Kenny McKinley had spectacular games as they've had a lot," said Spurrier.

The Head Ball Coach also talked about the play of Syvelle Newton, who was benched in favor of Mitchell in the second half of Saturday's game. "Syvelle wasn't all that bad. We just felt Blake deserved a shot to go in there and see if he could throw a little bit more accurately. He did except for the last ball." After Saturday's game, Spurrier declared that Mitchell would be the starting quarterback for this week's match up against the Gators, but when asked on Monday if Newton could still figure into the quarterback rotation this weekend, Spurrier stated that there is a place for both players in this offense. "We're getting both of them ready. We're not saying this is Blake's game all the way. We're getting both guys ready. There will be a place for both guys to play maybe the rest of the season. That's how we're going to approach it."

After a horrendous start to the season, the South Carolina offensive line has steadily progressed as the year has gone along. O-Line Coach John Hunt deserves much of the credit for the improvement up front, but Spurrier also credited the play of three seniors, who have anchored the line in recent weeks. "(The offensive line) has done pretty well. Thomas Coleman and Seth Edwards are seniors who came here as walk-ons and earned scholarships. They're starting right now. With Chris White, we have three seniors in there right now. We had two true freshmen starting a while back, but we're letting them rest awhile and letting those guys play."

While the play of the offense has shown steady progress throughout the season, the defense resorted back to some of its old tendencies in Saturday's loss to Arkansas. The Hogs converted on 50% of their third down opportunities, including multiple third and long situations, and as a result, the Gamecocks were only allowed three offensive possessions in the entire second half. Spurrier expressed his frustration with the defense after practice, as he said, "We only had 55 plays. We only had three possessions in the second half. We only had about three runs the second half. That's just the way the game unfolded. Even with all that, we had the ball with five and a half minutes or so and six points down on their side of the field and first down. We pitched it away and couldn't get it back."

Spurrier closed by addressing the porous special teams play that has haunted the Gamecocks for much of the season and has become a more glaring problem over the past two weeks in losses to Tennessee and Arkansas. While Spurrier acknowledged that changes were being made, he would not go into any further detail, only saying, "Yeah, a lot of changes there. We'll have some changes on the kickoff return."

Steve Spurrier will have his weekly press conference previewing the Florida game on Tuesday afternoon, and the Gamecocks will return to the practice fields later that night.

South Carolina and Florida will kickoff at 3:30 p.m. (EST) on Saturday afternoon, and the game will be televised nationally by CBS.

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