Spurrier Shows SC State Respect
South Carolina will be playing the 1079th football game in school history this weekend, but it will be the first time the Gamecocks will have met SC State on the gridiron. USC Coach Steve Spurrier said in his weekly press conference, "Two years ago we scheduled this game. When I got here, someone said, `Do you want to play South Carolina State?' I said, `Sure, why not? They're an in-state team.' I did not realize it at the time that they haven't played before. I didn't realize it was that big of a deal. If I had been here 10 or 12 years ago, I would have definitely wanted to schedule the game. It's a good game. Instead of bringing in teams like Louisiana-Lafayette, bring in South Carolina State or Wofford. If they beat us, they beat us. Coaches are always worried about somebody beating you. Everyone on the schedule can beat you. It's a good game. (SC State Head Coach) Buddy Pough said it's wonderful for their program. Whatever we can do to help those guys out, I think we should do that."
"They could beat us. Sometimes the way we play, we could lose to these guys. They are very capable. Coach Pough has done a great job down there, and they'll be ready to play. It's a game of emotion, but it's our team against their team."
The Bulldogs are celebrating their 100th year of playing football this season, but had never faced a Division 1 school until this year, when they opened the season against Air Force. Two weeks later they're facing their second one. Their first meeting ended in a loss to the service academy Falcons, 34-3, but playing the state university is sure to have the Bulldogs motivated. Spurrier said of them, "I'm sure they will be excited to play their very best and do everything to beat us. This is their chance to create a memory of a lifetime. We're really looking forward to playing the game too."
He continued, "It should be a heckuva game. They are picked to win their conference this year. They are just getting started. We're just getting started into our year. They have a bunch of good athletes. They have a bunch of guys that can play for us, I know that. We're looking forward to the game too. We haven't played extremely well yet, we've had mental errors and careless things happen. We've gotten away with it the first two weeks, and were fortunate that the balls bounced our way for two weeks. Good fortune is following the Gamecocks. We're going to really try to see if we can play at a higher level and cut out the careless penalties that we had."
The following game on the schedule is down in Louisiana with SEC foe LSU, currently ranked #2 in the nation and banging on the door for first place. This is the game that most Carolina fans have circled as the toughest challenge of the year, but don't think the Head Ball Coach will allow his troops to look ahead.
"We're not good enough to be overconfident. Every win is precious to the South Carolina football team. We don't take any wins for granted because none of them are for granted. We have to scratch, claw, make goal line stands and force field goals and all that kind of stuff so far to win a couple of games. We'll be ready Saturday night."
"We're trying to improve one game to the next." He said. "There is so much room for improvement that we're looking forward to coaching this week. We did some hard coaching yesterday, and until we get our guys playing at a level at which we're capable, then we are always going to do that. We haven't played close to how we should play. It's frustrating, but we've still been winning. Playing the game the right way is the only thing you can coach."
Spurrier talked about the things he liked after reviewing the film of the win over Georgia. "Run defense, we made a lot of improvement there. We played better overall, there's no doubt about that, especially defensively. Offensively we were one for 11 on third downs, but we played a lot tougher defense than the first game. We need to play a lot better than that offensively. Defensively we had some missed assignments, but they didn't cost us."
The third down statistics may have been a little deceiving, as South Carolina gained at least five yards on first down 19 times against Georgia, and converted 10 times on second down. The Gamecocks are perfect in the red zone this season, scoring on all eight drives inside their opponents' 20 yard line, with five touchdowns and three field goals.
For a coach who made his reputation as the architect of "Airball" and the "Fun-n-Gun," the offensive output his team has had through the air the first two games has been less than satisfactory. "We've run the ball fairly well." He said. "Looking back, we should've run on third and five or third and seven. We had trouble pass blocking those guys. Blake did a pretty good job of taking care of the ball. We have to get guys to get open and throw it to them. We weren't open a whole bunch, but we didn't have much time the other night anyway. Whether or not we can pass block South Carolina State, I don't know. We'll find out. We haven't really pass blocked anybody yet. At times we have decent protection, but the Louisiana guys got a lot of pressure on the quarterback also. We're a long way off from being a pretty good team, but I think we have the potential."
When asked about the lack of production from USC's receivers other than Kenny McKinley, Spurrier said, "Yeah, they're not catching much. We haven't been able to throw the ball downfield. We haven't done much of anything. Our passing game is very average at best. We haven't hardly hit the ball downfield all year, hitting one or two here and there."
While South Carolina did an impressive job shutting down the Georgia running game last week, they struggled the first week against Louisiana-Lafayette, allowing 252 yards on the ground. The Bulldogs that USC faces this week pose a similar concern to Spurrier: "They run an option and will give us the same kind of run action that Louisiana-Lafayette did. You have to do your assignments and tackle them all. Tackle the guys that are faking and tackle the quarterback. We missed a lot of guys against Louisiana, but we tackled a lot better last week."
One thing the coach was not happy with was two major penalties against cornerback Carlos Thomas on Georgia's opening drive. Spurrier said one of the 15-yard penalties was for "mouthing off" to an official. Thomas will be benched for the first half of Saturday night's game against S.C. State for his gridiron sins. "Maybe we'll get his attention (that) you can't open your mouth and do the things he did," Spurrier said. "I think he just shoved a kid on the first one and the second one, he said something to the referee to get the penalty."
Spurrier singled out Darian Stewart, Ladi Ajiboye, and Casper Brinkley for praise for their play on the defensive side of the ball this past week.
The game is scheduled to kick off at 7:05 pm at Williams-Brice stadium, and will be available in the state of South Carolina on a pay-per-view basis on television.
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