Cook, Munnerlyn expected to start against UF
For the second consecutive day, Steve Spurrier had some good news to report on the injury front, saying that injured defensive backs Captain Munnerlyn and Emanuel Cook both practiced and are expected to start against the Gators.
"They were out here running around today, so they should be able to play," Spurrier explained. Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix later confirmed their status for Saturday, saying, "If we played today, they would start."
As the pair left the field, they both appeared to be stepping a bit gingerly, but much better than they were on Wednesday.
The knock on the Gamecocks this season has been that they are unable to play a "complete game." It seems that when the offense is playing well, the defense struggles, and vice versa. Adding to the problem, the offense has developed a habit at times of playing well for one half, and doing nothing in the other half. When asked about the inability to put it all together, Spurrier suggested that it has only happened once this season.
"In the second half against Tennessee, the defense played very well [in addition to the offense]," he said. "It is what it is here. We're going to try to have our best game of the year, and hopefully we'll play without a lot of careless things, and get a loose ball occasionally. We'll see what happens."
Early in the game against Arkansas, during one of those periods of struggle, ESPN announcer Bob Davie said that maybe defenses had caught up to Spurrier, and implied that he is no longer the offensive genius he used to be. The comment drew the ire of many Gamecock fans, but Spurrier brushed the comment aside, pointing out that Davie later complemented the offense.
"That's what they said in 1999 when we struggled," said Spurrier. "Any time you struggle, that's going to be said. It comes down to ball players making plays and pass protection and all that stuff. Now if you've got protection and you've got nobody open, then you've got a lousy offense. We've had some ugly plays every game. We've made a bunch of first downs and done some good things, but we just haven't won lately."
Nix optimistic that defense will bounce back
For the first time this season, the concern entering Saturday's game centers more around the defense, rather than the offense. Tyrone Nix's unit had been one of the best in the SEC before getting gashed by the Razorbacks' backfield duo of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. Nix is confident the defense will play better this week, although they could not play much worse.
"We practiced better," he said. "Practice is only part of it; you've got to take it over to the field on Saturday. So far we've been okay. Our biggest challenge is to play as well as we can and play better against the run. Last week we were awful. Hopefully this week we'll play a whole lot better. We'll have to if we're going to have a chance to win."
Arkansas was initially credited with rushing for 541 yards against Carolina, but after the game, the statistics were revised, giving the Razorbacks 542 yards rushing. Nix has made sure the team does not forget those numbers. When he talked to reporters, Nix had no trouble remembering the number.
"It came up pretty easy there, didn't it?" he said. "We talked about 541. I hope it sticks in their insides. Hopefully they never have to experience something like that again. The way you keep that from happening is to go out there and do the little things right, and [have] all eleven guys on the same page. I hope it hurts them and they never want to see it happen again."
When he was told that the official total had been upped another yard, to 542 yards, Nix shook his head and said, "Damn, we wrote down the wrong number. They're still running."
Unfortunately for Carolina, Florida presents some of the same problems on offense that Arkansas did. Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and wide receiver Percy Harvin are both rushing threats, and Harvin lines up all over the field. Nix said he sees little difference in the way the Gators and Razorbacks utilize their star players.
"They give him the ball," Nix said. "They find different ways of getting Harvin the ball. He catches it, runs it, plays quarterback, and lines up in the backfield. Their offense is full of exciting plays, and they move the ball around. I think the guys who are supposed to stop the run have got to go stop the run, and if they're back deep they've got to stay back deep. You've got to be disciplined in everything you do in order to be successful."
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