Gamecocks' Spurrier wants offensive improvement vs. Kentucky
Sep. 08, 2015
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Other than the victory, Steve Spurrier was not too happy with South Carolina's opening game performance.
Spurrier said the Gamecocks have lots of work ahead to be the team they want to be this season, even after a 17-13 victory over North Carolina to start the year.
"We didn't do a lot of things very well," he said Tuesday.
Spurrier includes himself in that list, bothered by his choice of two runs —both which were stuffed — after South Carolina drove into the red zone with the chance to put the game out of reach.
The issues, though, started before the game. The Gamecocks were called for a delay penalty before ever running a play.
"I don't know if that's ever happened before, but we managed to do that," Spurrier said.
Things didn't improve much when the ball was in play.
Quarterback Connor Mitch struggled in his first college start. South Carolina receivers had difficulty breaking free in the North Carolina secondary. Playmaker Pharoh Cooper spent as much time behind center taking wildcat snaps as he did finding open spaces in the defense.
It was not until South Carolina decided to stick mostly to the ground in the second half and rely on its defense that Spurrier could count on the victory.
Now, Spurrier said his job this week is to clean things up in a hurry before opening the Southeastern Conference season against Kentucky (1-0), which has not won in Columbia since 1999.
"Probably what we need to worry about is see if we can line up and get the ball snapped, eliminate some careless penalties and try to look like a pretty good team when we go out here Saturday night," Spurrier said.
If the Gamecocks do, it's most likely because of an effective running game and an improving defense.
South Carolina rushers went for 259 yards against the Tar Heels, nearly 100 more than the Gamecocks 161-yard-a-game average on the ground last year. Senior Shon Carson led the way with 75 yards, including a go-ahead, 48-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
The Gamecocks defense made that stand up when the offense could not punch the ball in late, linebacker Skai Moore getting his second end-zone interception of the contest to choke off North Carolina's last threat.
South Carolina did what it could not at times last year — blowing fourth-quarter leads to Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee — and made a pair of first downs in the final three minutes by running the ball to put the game away.
Carson is a third-teamer whose fresh legs late were the difference. Carson said he, starter Brandon Wilds and backup David Williams are a reliable trio who can make a difference this season.
"I think they're going to give us the ball more because they trust us more," Carson said.
North Carolina's high-tempo offense posted 440 yards on South Carolina, yet the Gamecocks offense got three interceptions — their 11 last season were tied for third worst in the SEC — all that came when the Tar Heels with at or inside the Gamecocks 21 yard line.
Moore added 10 tackles with his two interceptions and was named the SEC defensive player of the week.
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops knows his team will face a motivated group, particularly after the Wildcats rallied from 38-24 down in the fourth quarter for a 45-38 victory in last year's contest.
"It'll be a very difficult environment and against a team that'll be very hungry to get after us," he said.
Kansas graduate transfer Isaiah Johnson, South Carolina's starting safety, has heard the talk in the locker room about last season.
"We want to get better every day so we can beat these guys Saturday and I guess get revenge," he said.