Q&A: Spurrier previews rivalry game

Coach Steve Spurrier met with the media Tuesday for his weekly press conference, previewing the much anticipated rivalry game against the Clemson Tigers this weekend. Spurrier will be going for his second win over the Tigers during his five year run at the University of South Carolina.


Opening Statement: "Okay, we're looking forward to the biggest game of the year. Everybody's said, we're not in the SEC Championship game so obviously this is the biggest game of the year. I don't know what it is for those guys because they're in the big game next week. So I guess you've got to ask them if it's their biggest game of the year. Hopefully we can play close to mistake free and not have the crucial turnovers that have hampered us recently.

Hopefully we can contain their big play guys, certainly C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford are two of the (best) breakaway threats in college football. They've returned, I think, four kicks already for touchdowns this year. Obviously both of those players are exciting. C.J. Spiller's had a fantastic year, he's had a fantastic four years. Hopefully we can contain him a bit. We need to (in order to) give us a good chance. But other than that, we're looking forward to the ballgame. Our guys came back from break, and we weren't very sharp last night. We looked like we hadn't been practicing for three days. So, hopefully we can be a little sharper this afternoon when we practice and all through the week.

We're pretty healthy. Cliff Matthews I think should be pretty close to full go. Other than that it's just the same injuries we've had earlier in the year with Travian Robertson, Rodney Paulk, the two biggest out. Hopefully we can put together our best game of the year, and we'll try to do our best here Saturday afternoon at high noon, 12 o'clock kickoff."

Question: Coach, Clemson gave up I think 24 points to NC State, 21 to Virginia, two of the worst teams I think in the ACC. What have you seen that will work against their defense?

Spurrier: "They, again, are pretty highly ranked in most all of the defensive categories. They've got a ton of turnovers as we all know, 20 interceptions, I'm not sure how many fumbles, 5 or 6. They've gotten their share of the crucial turnovers to help them win the games. But they're a good defense. I wish we could say we could go up and down the field, but we haven't really gone up and down the field on anybody we've played. We hope to run the ball and stay on the field and mix it up. That's what we hope to do."

Question: Steve, you mentioned C.J. Spiller. He's gotten a lot of mention this year for the Heisman Trophy. If he hasn't already assured himself of getting an invitation to New York, what does he need to do these next couple of games to do that, and is he going to be on your ballot?

Spurrier: "I get in enough trouble talking about who I vote for. Let's hope he has a big game in the ACC championship game. That's what I keep hearing about (Tim) Tebow and (Mark) Ingram and all those guys, that if they have a big one in their championship game. Again, that's something that will play out for all those guys. He could be in contention. I guess there's five or six of them still in contention. A lot of that voting comes down to who has the big last game. The big championship game seems to determine the winner a lot."

Question: Coach, this Clemson team has strung six wins together after the Maryland game. What has been the key?

Spurrier: "They've done a good job. Dabo and his coaches have done a good job of keeping their guys together through sort of a difficult early going there. Those games they were losing were all close ones, you know. It's not like they were getting blown out or anything. They have a good team. They had a good team starting the year. They're finally sort of starting to put it together and they won the close ones against Miami and FSU. So they've lost some close ones early but certainly have made up for it with those two big wins that put them in position for their division championship thus far."

Question: Steve, Virginia had some success I think in the Wildcat against Clemson. Is this the week you might look to do something like that?

Spurrier: "Oh let's hope so. We say that every week. There's a lot of offense that we've practiced most of the year that somehow or another we just haven't gotten to. We don't need to hold anything back, that's for sure. Whether or not we get to it, we'll just have to wait and see."

Question: How important is this game from a standpoint of gaining momentum and breaking the losing streak and possibly getting to a better bowl game?

Spurrier: "Oh every game is very important. Like I said, biggest game of the year for us, no question about it. I don't know how much bigger it can be. I know it's the biggest one for our fans. We know the history. But really what we need to talk about is how we can play our best, how we can go out and execute our assignments the entire game. That's what we need to concern ourselves with as we approach this game. The team that has the best preparation during the week and then plays the best on Saturday will probably be the winner."

Question: Steve, you said you know the history of the series, what's your explanation for why Clemson has been so dominant in the series?

Spurrier: "I don't have the answer for that, I just feel like talking about the past absolutely does us no good. We worry about the game this week. I really believe the game this Saturday will stand on its own merit like all games do. So again, hopefully we can put together our best effort of the year. Hopefully we can play without some crucial errors that have hampered us like I said. I don't have the answer for that. The only answer that I can say is maybe they've had better teams than South Carolina over the years. People always ask me, how'd we start beating Georgia all of a sudden? I said because we've had better teams (at Florida) in the ‘90s. Maybe that's an answer, I don't know."

Question: Coach, how discouraging was last year at Clemson and did you address that with your team this season, especially with the attitude and the way it was last year?

Spurrier: "Some of the other games were more discouraging than that one because we had chances in all the other ones. They just flat beat us last year. We were sort of in disarray, and had a lot of guys going different directions I guess, maybe coaches too. You look back on some games and you say we just got beat and you move on. Our team is together. All of us, we're going to be here another month practicing for some bowl game. I think we all like each other and I certainly plan that every one of our coaches are going to be back next year. So we're a together team. We've lost some games in a row to some good teams. All of them have winning records. One of them was No. 1 in the country, and we fought pretty even there for three quarters until we had a crucial bad play. But our team's together, we're looking forward to the game. We're going to try to have fun this week, and you usually play your best when you're having fun and that's what we're going to try to do."

Question: With all the young players you have, looking at the future, how much would a win Saturday mean for your program?

Spurrier: "Well, we don't need to talk about that. We need to talk about what we need to do to put ourselves in position to be successful. So that's what we need to concern ourselves with, and sometimes I think all of our players need to do a better job of that, just keep competing throughout the game rather than worrying about the win or loss. The good teams just keep playing and try to make the plays that are necessary to be successful. And when it's all over with then you hopefully made enough good plays and your team's played well enough, coached well enough that you're on top. So we don't really sit around and talk about what if. We need to talk about what we need to do to beat these guys. To give ourselves the best chance to beat them, that's what we're trying to talk about."

Question: Coach, you often hear coaches say that the younger players wanted to win the last home game for the seniors. Do you see signs of that among the younger players considering guys like Eric Norwood, Nathan Pepper, some of those guys are playing their last one? What has Eric Norwood meant?

Spurrier: "Yeah Eric's had an outstanding career here as we all know. He's the leading sack man in our school history and also leading tackler behind the line player. So Eric's had a wonderful year, so has Nathan. Nate I think is going to be the first player to go to four bowl games. I think we're going to a bowl game this year. I thought we were a couple years ago and we weren't. You can't always say you're definitely going to do something with six wins. But anyway, Nate's had a excellent career here. Garrett Anderson and Lemuel (Jeanpierre) and Moe Brown on offense have played quite a bit in their time here. Gerrod Sinclair, he plays a bit on special teams. We don't have a whole lot of seniors right now, that's just the way it worked out, but certainly they'd all like to win their last (home) game. It doesn't happen everywhere, but we'll try our best this Saturday."

Question: Do you still feel the same way you did when you said last week this game would define whether you had a good or an average season?

Spurrier: "Yeah, oh yeah, we know that."

Question: Do you think, you talked about pressure with this, that you don't feel pressure?

Spurrier: "Well we shouldn't feel pressure on our guys. You always try to play the best you can and what we need to focus on is individual plays, one play at a time. Don't just sit around and hope to win the game."

Question: Coach, back to the seniors. What has Moe Brown meant to this program and talk about his production level on the field, not just his leadership?

Spurrier: "Yeah, Moe is a wonderful young man that has been an outstanding ambassador for our school and our football team. He's had a nice career here. Certainly Moe will always be welcomed back and so forth. And this year he's had his best year, certainly. So he's a good one and he's a fine young man."

Question: Steve, will the play calling be on you for this game?

Spurrier: "Yeah, we'll finish the year with pretty much the play calling we've been doing throughout the year. I'll be calling almost all of them. I get hung up every now and then, and I say ‘Give me something up there' or ‘G.A. (Mangus) give me something.' How does Clemson do their play calling since that seems to be a big thing around here? Napier, he's the one that calls them? Now see, Dabo signals in a bunch of stuff, is he the signal man, is that how they do it? I haven't seen a lot written about how they call their plays. Oh you know what, I forgot, they're winning. That's why they don't dissect it."

Question: As a follow up, Kevin Steele and what he likes to do with his various blitz packages, how do you plan to address that?

Spurrier: "Yeah, Kevin and his defensive coaches, they've all done a good job, they're a very aggressive bunch up there. Their safeties are up around the line of scrimmage. Not both of them at the same time a lot, but one of them is (usually) up there helping out with the tackle. I mean they rank very high in all of the defensive categories. They've had an excellent year defensively, especially getting those turnovers. Twenty picks and five or six fumble recoveries, something like that. Of course the big play in the Miami game, their safety picked off a little crossing route and ran it in for a score and put it into overtime, and then they won in overtime. So that was a huge play for them."

Question: As for Lemuel, what did you see three years ago that convinced you that playing offensive line would be his best position?

Spurrier: "He's done pretty well, yeah he's done pretty well. He started pretty much all the way the last couple of years. We just needed offensive linemen and they had a few extra on defense, so we moved him over. He's done well, he's played well here, he's another outstanding representative of our football program. I think he's already graduated, well I know he has, so he's a graduate student right now."

Question: Steve, how would you assess Stephen Garcia?

Spurrier: "Stephen has improved tremendously, with much room still for improvement. He really needs to play well for us in the most tough games, (and) to give us a chance here Saturday. But he's done well, there's a lot of areas hopefully he's going to get better in and go from there."

Question: Now that Scotty (Spurrier) is playing his last game, his last home game, what has it been like to coach him and having him here?

Spurrier: "Scotty understands his position, which is wonderful. Like I told our team, I appreciate the players that know they're not going to play much at all and do a good job in practice for us and help out any way they can. So Scotty's been the backup holder and got into two or three games at wide receiver. Hopefully in the future we can have some games where you can get all your down the line players in and let them play a little bit. We just don't seem to have a lot of those. We need to score more, that would help out some of those games to be able to get more of our players in."

Question: With the new coaches and Stephen's progression, is this a better offense today than it was a year ago?

Spurrier: "I think so, I think we're a little bit better in what we're trying to do. We're still playing two or three running backs and we're still not exactly dead set on our offensive line. When you really have a good offense usually you've got five or six guys that play most all the way, or seven guys anyway, and you have your top tailback that you know he's your guy and just keep giving it to him every chance you get, just about. We're not where we hope to be someday real soon."

Question: Coach, what do rivalry games mean to you personally?

Spurrier: "What do rivalry games mean to me personally, well, obviously in high school we had a big rival, Kingsport, who we wanted to beat more than anybody I guess. And the fans, it's very important to the fans. As coaches you try to approach all of them pretty much the same. It's the biggest game of your life that week, and then when it's over with, the next game becomes the biggest. But the rivalry game is the one fans mostly talk about. I think in the past it used to be bigger because there wasn't a bowl game. But now with a bowl game after your rivalry game, it becomes very important too. As we know now, we're all as good as our last game. So if you win your bowl game, sometimes that can erase a lot of the bad things except maybe the rivalry game. The rivalry game pretty much stands year round of course. But your bowl game can help either put you in the doghouse or make a little more pleasant offseason. I remember one year we were 12-0 down there at Florida, and we got clobbered by Nebraska in the championship game and that was the only game anybody talked about. They forgot all about that, first time in school history, this that and the other. So in sports we're all pretty much about as good as your last game."

Question: Steve, there's a perception out there, at least from some of the fans, that you guys downplay the Clemson game? Is that true or false.

Spurrier: "I think that's false. I think we build it up without trying to put too much pressure on our guys. I know when I first got here there were signs all around this place saying beat Clemson. I said, well wait a minute now, we want to beat everybody we play. I don't think that's helpful. I really don't. It's my opinion. I've seen other teams get all fired up to beat somebody. The way you beat them is to outplay them. You try to get either better players or get your players to play better than the other team, that is the way I think you go about beating them. Sometimes I think fans think we don't dislike them enough or we don't hate them enough, but it's how you play the game that determines the winner. So hopefully we're going to get our best effort this week. Alright, see you guys Saturday."

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