Spurrier’s squad similar to his classic UF teams
By GLENN GUILBEAU
Tiger Rag Featured Columnist
Coach Superior is coming to Death Valley fresh off another lopsided victory to play a struggling LSU team.
Is this an episode of VHI’s “I Love the ‘90s?”
Steve Spurrier is coaching South Carolina now, and he finally has the type of players he routinely gathered like touchdowns when he dominated the Southeastern Conference East as Florida’s head coach from 1990 through 2001. And they’re destroying opponents.
The No. 6 Gamecocks (6-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) walloped former No. 5 Georgia 35-7 on Saturday and soared to No. 3 on Sunday. They are nearing their highest ranking in history, which was No. 2 in 1984 after a 9-0 start. The victory was South Carolina’s 10th straight, breaking the school record of nine also set in ‘84.
“Coldcocked,” said the headline in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Sunday morning. The Gamecocks terrorized Georgia’s junkie yard poodles defense - formerly junk yard dogs - for 402 yards, including 230 on the ground. They were up 21-0 in the first quarter on two touchdown passes by quarterback Connor Shaw and a 70-yard punt return by Ace Sanders.
This is may be Spurrier’s best team in Columbia, S.C. The Gamecocks are No. 2 in the SEC in scoring defense and rush, No. 3 in total defense and quarterback Connor Shaw is No. 1 in the league in passing efficiency.
Life has begun again at 67 for the former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. He survived a mid-life crisis as an NFL coach and got introduced to mediocrity for most of his run at South Carolina. When he has won, as is the case this year, it has been with a more senior approach with defense and less video game offense in direct contrast to his glory years in the Sunshine State.
Now, he finally has a quarterback who avoids mistakes and suspensions while also throwing touchdowns to some quality receivers. Shaw does not have the numbers of some of Spurrier’s Florida quarterbacks, but he is winning games. Spurrier realized players do not grow on trees in South Carolina as they do in Florida. But he did find two players in his backyard who may be the two best at their positions in the country - defensive end Jadeveon Clowney of Rock Hill, S.C. and tailback Marcus Lattimore of Duncan S.C.
Clowney is second in the SEC with 6.5 sacks, and Lattimore appears fully recovered from his knee injury of a year ago as he gained 109 yards in the Georgia win.
“This was a special one,” Spurrier said. “It really was. If we play like this, maybe we have a chance for a real big year.”
Spurrier loves to beat Georgia - the school’s natural border rival - from his days as a player in the 1960s. The Gamecocks have done it three straight times now under Spurrier - most in the history of the series that began 118 years ago. Spurrier is a personal 15-5 against Georgia, including an 11-1 mark while at Florida.
He also loves to beat LSU, which could have hired him after the 1986 season to be its head coach but really was not interested. Spurrier was also 11-1 against the Tigers with such run-it-up victories as 58-3 in 1993, 56-13 in 1996, 41-9 in 2000 and 44-15 in 2001.
Spurrier is 0-2 against LSU as South Carolina’s coach, but in a 28-16 loss in 2007 in Tiger Stadium he did expose some flaws in defensive coordinator Bo Pelini’s unit that Kentucky and Arkansas later exploited for victories.
This will be Spurrier’s best chance for a win over LSU in a decade. It is hard to imagine LSU’s battered offensive line being able to protect quarterback Zach Mettenberger against the likes of Clowney.
If LSU is ever going to flip that switch and become a good team again, this is the week. If not, it will lose two straight SEC games for the first time since 2009 when it fell at Alabama and at Ole Miss.
It will be a difficult task as the Tigers play in back-to-back top 10 pairings in a regular season for the first time in history. Spurrier will be ready. He smells blood in the water.
GUILBEAU SEC POLL: 1. Alabama (5-0, 2-0). 2. South Carolina (6-0, 4-0) 3. Florida (5-0, 4-0). 4. LSU (5-1, 1-1 SEC). 5. Georgia (5-1, 3-1). 6. Mississippi State (5-0, 2-0). 7. Tennessee (3-2, 0-2). 8. Texas A&M (4-1, 2-1). 9. Vanderbilt (1-3, 0-1) 10. Missouri (3-3, 0-3). 11. Arkansas (2-4, 1-2). 12. Auburn (1-4, 0-3). 13. Ole Miss (3-3, 0-2). 14. Kentucky (1-5, 0-3).
GUILBEAU’S TOP 25 BALLOT:
3. West Virginia
4. South Carolina
5. Ohio State
6. Kansas State
9. Oregon State
10. Florida State
15. Notre Dame
19. Michigan State
21. Mississippi State
24. Boise State