Going for the jugular

With Florida facing a fourth-and-11 at Tennessee's 35-yard line on Sept. 21, 1996, Gator coach Steve Spurrier disdained a pooch punt or a long field goal try. He was going for it … not the first down but the jugular.

Danny Wuerffel hit Reidel Anthony with a 35-yard touchdown pass that put Florida up 7-0, put the home-standing Vols on their heels and ignited the Gators to a 35-0 first-half lead.

Spurrier doesn't have the same talent level this year at South Carolina that he had in 1996 at Florida but he still has the same philosophy: Go for the jugular. Land the knockout punch in the first round, if possible.

That's why a Tennessee team that's limping along at 3-3 overall and 2-3 in SEC play can expect to get the Gamecocks' best shot in the opening quarter of Saturday night's game at Neyland Stadium. Spurrier knows the Vols are wounded, and he'll do everything in his power to put them out of their misery in a hurry.

"In a way, that's what you should do," Vol linebacker Jason Mitchell said. "Once you mess with a team's pride and they can't come back, they won't play anymore. You end the game early. It's over in the second or third quarter, instead of having to play four quarters."

Spurrier's offensive philosophy can be summed up in two words: no mercy. He doesn't stop trying to score until the game clock stops ticking. He hung 62 points on Tennessee in 1995, humiliating a first-year Vol defensive coordinator named John Chavis. Chavis still has the job … and the memory.

"We had a bunch of turnovers in the second half, came unraveled a little bit," the Vol aide recalled. "He can certainly make you pay, and he made us pay in a big way."

Spurrier will make Tennessee pay again this Saturday night if he can. It's nothing personal. It's his nature.

"He likes to throw the football," Chavis said. "He likes to let the kids make plays and have fun. That's just his style. He's proven his style can win, and he's done a good job with it."

Carolina quarterback Blake Mitchell is no Danny Wuerffel but he's no slouch, either. Mitchell has completed 109 of 170 passes for 1,414 yards and 11 touchdowns with just five interceptions.

As a mere sophomore Mitchell ranks first among SEC quarterbacks in completion percentage (64.1), second in passing yards per game (235.7), second in passing efficiency (149.46) and second in passing touchdowns (11). With four games still to play, he already ranks in Carolina's all-time top 10 for single-season TD passes. He has an outside shot at breaking the single-season school record for completion percentage (67.1) set by Steve Taneyhill in 1995.

"He's throwing the ball really well," Chavis said of Mitchell. "I think he's ranked second in the conference in pass efficiency and real high in just about every category. He's got as good a numbers as anybody, and better than most in the league."

Mitchell also has a head coach who knows how to exploit a defense and go for the jugular. That should make for an interesting first quarter Saturday night.

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