Spurrier, 21st-ranked Gamecocks looking to regroup
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Steve Spurrier quickly corrected himself after saying No. 21 South Carolina needs to play a little better when it faces East Carolina on Saturday night.
“Play a LOT better,” Spurrier emphasized Tuesday, referring to his team’s performance in last week’s season-opening 52-28 loss to Texas A&M.
Spurrier hasn’t been accustomed to such beat downs — or the regrouping that typically follows — over the past three 11-2 seasons. But when they have, the Gamecocks (0-1) were up to the challenge.
South Carolina’s largest margin of defeat the last three years was a 44-11 loss at Florida in 2012. Following the loss, the Gamecocks ended the season with a five-game win streak.
Spurrier hopes his team can replicate that this time.
“Hopefully, we can come out there and run around and show some fire and act like we really love playing the game,” Spurrier said. “I hope we can do that. That remains to be seen because we didn’t do it very well, obviously, the other time.”
The Gamecocks had hoped to kick off the season by continuing the run they’d been on the past few seasons. They entered with an 18-game home win streak and put an 85-foot poster of Spurrier outside the stadium for fans, opponents and the SEC Network to see.
But inside the stadium was a South Carolina horror show. The Gamecocks gave up 680 yards of offense, the most ever, and turned first-time A&M quarterback starter Kenny Hill into that program’s next star as he passed for 511 yards and three touchdowns.
South Carolina’s defense didn’t generate much of a pass rush and its secondary had trouble deny receivers the ball or tackling them once they made the catch.
Spurrier acknowledged there were too many times when a Texas A&M player would be tracking in one direction while Gamecock defenders went the opposite way. Both corners were first-time starters at that position, along with three of its four down linemen.
“We had some players get confused at times and the other team executed pretty well,” Spurrier said.
He has made changes in the practice routine, speeding up the pace and having his defensive line starters go up against those starters on the offensive line. That’s something he would usually only do individually at this point of the season.
“We’ve just tried to keep our guys moving better, a sense of urgency,” Spurrier said. “It seems like we’ve been a bit lackadaisical.”
Spurrier hinted there also could be some personnel changes, something he said he’d detail later in the week.
East Carolina, a 10-game winner last year, enters with a similar offensive style as No. 8 Texas A&M. Quarterback Shane Carden set a school record with 4,139 yards passing last season and threw for 283 yards and three touchdowns in a 52-7 win over North Carolina Central last week.
Pirates coach Ruffin McNeill says his team won’t count on the Gamecocks playing this poorly again.
“I know (Spurrier) will have his team ready to go. Of course we’ll watch the film, but it goes back to controlling what we can and that’s our preparation and how we plan,” McNeill said.
Defensive tackle J.T. Surratt, the lone returning starter on the line, said he was frustrated with the defense’s problems, but believes the players have the mindset to improve.
“Anything we can do to push ourselves to do more while we’re out there on the field, I believe we have that drive this week,” he said. “Everybody does have that chip on the shoulder.”
That’s something Spurrier would love to see Saturday night. He says while losing’s always painful, it’s a long season with all of South Carolina’s goals still intact as long as things perk up.
“We were ready to play, they just completely outplayed us, outcoached us and everything else,” the coach said. “So we have no excuses and I’m hoping and believing that we can play a whole bunch better.”