Spurrier: "It's a good game for both states"

This weekend the 7th ranked Gamecocks will travel north to Chapel Hill for the first time since 1991. The game has been a long time coming, and Steve Spurrier is the big story heading into this matchup. Read inside for a full report on Spurrier's weekly Tuesday press conference, where the Head Ball Coach previewed this weekend's game, explained why he'd like to play UNC more often, and much more.

When USC joined the SEC in 1992, it became more difficult to schedule UNC than it had been during the years as an independent. As a result, neither school gave much thought to scheduling the other. When he was hired, Spurrier made a point of adding the Tar Heels to USC's schedule. He wanted to play UNC in Charlotte, along the lines of Oklahoma-Texas in Dallas or Georgia-Florida in Jacksonville. That plan was not to be, although East Carolina later agreed to play the Gamecocks in Charlotte.

"Charlotte is a little closer to Columbia, even though it's in the state of North Carolina, so I thought it would be a very fair deal," said Spurrier. "I think we found out there is more money to be made at the home stadiums. We were able at least to put that together for this year and 2010. We're trying to play it [again]. I just think it's a good game for both states. I don't know if it will keep being scheduled or not. I believe we ought to play them every year, {but] I guess that's not going to happen."

The primary reason Spurrier sought the games against UNC, as well as future games against N.C. State and East Carolina is for the recruiting inroads that a good showing can give the Gamecocks. USC has 16 players from North Carolina, including a number of key recruits from the last few years. Several players, including Jason Barnes, Weslye Saunders, and Web Brown, specifically picked the Gamecocks over the Tar Heels. Spurrier said Tuesday that recruiting the Tar Heel state has been a point of emphasis for him.

"With [assistant coaches] Fred Chatham and Brad Lawing here, they both have some ties up there," he said. "Hopefully those schools up there won't get it going too well. There's a lot of players in North Carolina, excellent high school ball there, as well as South Carolina. We'll keep going up there."

UNC has gotten its fair share of those players, which is why Spurrier is predicting a tight game on Saturday.

"North Carolina has always done a good job recruiting," said Spurrier. "It's a pretty nice place they have there; a lot of money at the University of North Carolina. Their endowment is right there amongst the best in the country. They should do well there... hopefully not too well Saturday.

"They have a lot of good players," he continued. "Physically they look about like most teams we've been playing. They match up with us as good as anybody we play in the SEC. We know it's going to be a struggle up there, and we look forward to seeing what happens. North Carolina is a good team that lost some close games at 2-4. They could be 4-2 just as easy as that. They played Virginia Tech in a 17-10 game. They beat Miami last week. They could easily beat us, we know that. If we're going to beat them, we have to really play well. We've got to play maybe better than we have been playing, or else hope they overthrow some receivers. Some good fortune has been happening to us. This is just another good team we're playing. We don't think we can beat them. We're hoping we can beat them, but we know it's going to be a dogfight, and we've got to play extremely well and get a few breaks to do it."

Spurrier made these claims despite the fact that USC is ranked #7 in the nation, and UNC has only one win over a Division I-A team. Listening to Spurrier, the Gamecocks might just as well be 1-5, not 5-1.

"If we're going to have a chance to have a big year, we've got to get a lot better in a lot of areas," he said. "Sometimes I just look at the SEC stats to see how we measure up in certain areas, and right now we're number 11 in run offense and in run defense. We're not stopping the run and we're not running very far, but somehow or another we're making plays. Our scoring defense has been excellent. Our pass defense has been excellent. We're getting pressure on the quarterback. Our third down defense has been super. We need to continue, hopefully, doing those things. Offensively we didn't play very well last week."

Although there is a generation of fans on both sides that is unfamiliar with the rivalry, many older fans still despise the other team. Furthermore, Spurrier enters the game with some added history. Those same UNC fans that remember playing USC also remember when Spurrier was the coach at Duke. Spurrier went 3-0 against UNC and in 1989, his final year in Durham, Spurrier capped off an ACC Championship season by routing UNC 41-0. That score still irks many Tar Heels, but Spurrier did not want to talk about it. As diplomatic as he tried to be, he could not help but slip in a few jabs at his old rival.

"I don't need to go into that game 18 years ago," he said. "We had a good team. We had a whole bunch of yards. We didn't score much though. We only scored 41."

Spurrier had his team take a picture in front of the scoreboard at Keenan Stadium, another move that drew the Tar Heels' ire. It was also one of the games that established Spurrier's reputation for running up the score, something that started following a 1987 game at Georgia Tech. A Charlotte sportswriter was so outraged that he protested to the Duke Athletics Director.

"He wrote that we ran up the score and called me some names, slimy or something," Spurrier recalled. "He called the Athletic Director at Duke, and said, ‘What do you think about your football coach that just ran up the score against Georgia Tech last Saturday?' [The AD] said, ‘I've been the Athletic Director here for 22 years, and not once has anybody ever accused my coach of running up the score. And I'll tell you what, I sorta like it.' If anybody accuses Duke of running up the score, they ought to be embarrassed."

Spurrier is not making any plans to run up the score this weekend, despite what most Gamecock fans are hoping for.

"We're not going to dominate many teams," he protested, "just because we can't dominate the line of scrimmage. We can beat them all. We can get more points if we play exceptionally well. That's what we have to do. We have to play smart and play without a lot of errors. That's the fun part of the game really. We know it's going to be a tough, close game so we have to come ready to play, play smart and with a lot of effort. If we do that then we'll have a chance"

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