Spurrier wants more from Gamecocks offense
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP)
Steve Spurrier complains when others criticize South Carolina's offense. That doesn't mean he can't.
The 15th-ranked Gamecocks put up season highs with 639 yards and five touchdown passes in a 54-3 victory over Kentucky last Saturday. Spurrier thought his attack could've done even more if it were sharper.
''After watching the tape, it certainly wasn't anywhere close to where we hope to play offensively,'' Spurrier said Sunday.
Still, it was a much better showing than any South Carolina (5-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) had put up this season. Sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw played with control and steadiness in his first game replacing struggling fifth-year senior Stephen Garcia.
Star wideout Alshon Jeffery doubled his season's total with two touchdown grabs against the Wildcats (2-4, 0-3). And tailback Marcus Lattimore, the SEC's leading rusher, ran for over 100 yards for the fifth time this season.
All that seemed the perfect salve to a crisis week as Spurrier benched Garcia and heard plenty of shots about whether the ''Ol' Ball Coach'' was just plain old. It was the defiant Spurrier who told the media after the game that they couldn't question his offense this week.
Leave that to Spurrier.
He was critical of South Carolina's offensive line and its protection schemes. Shaw played OK for a youngster, Spurrier said, but took three sacks and didn't always get the Gamecocks into the right positions. ''Mostly decision making,'' Spurrier said.
Shaw, the younger brother of former Georgia Tech quarterback Jaybo Shaw, felt confident during the week and put in extra practice time with Jeffery and other receivers when drills were over. He spoke with Garcia often leading up to the start.
''I learned a lot from Stephen and from watching Coach Spurrier critique me, Stephen and all the quarterbacks,'' Shaw said. ''They just harped on being patient and when your opportunity is called on to make the most of it.''
So far, so good.
Only an injury in practice will keep Shaw out of the lineup when the Gamecocks go to Mississippi State (3-3, 0-3) on Saturday for their first road game in more than a month. Spurrier doesn't think his team, or Shaw, will react much differently on the road than they have the past few weeks at Williams-Brice Stadium.
''It'll be the first airplane ride for us,'' Spurrier said. ''So that will be a little different.''
Spurrier acknowledged that if South Carolina's defense continues to play as it has in recent weeks, it would cover up a lot of offensive mistakes. The Gamecocks forced nine punts and got four interceptions and two fumbles.
The Wildcats were held to 17 yards passing as starting quarterback Morgan Newton was just 4 of 21 with an interception. Kentucky has lost its past three games - to Florida, LSU and South Carolina - by a combined score of 137-20.
Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said he and his coaches have to give the players a better plan since what they're doing hasn't worked. ''As an athlete, no one can take your psyche. You have got to bounce back from a performance even like this,'' he said.
Spurrier tried a little bit of everything on offense. He ran some wildcat with Lattimore and receiver Bruce Ellington. Almost anything he called worked, even with the third stringers.
The Gamecocks scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, two of them by backup quarterbacks, including fourth-string Dylan Thompson's 8-yard scramble with 9 seconds left that put a Spurrier team over the 50-point mark against an SEC opponent for the first time at South Carolina and improved him to 18-1 all-time against Kentucky.
Spurrier's teams at Florida scored 50 points or more over SEC foes 14 times, with five of them coming against the Wildcats.
If Spurrier wants more of that with the Gamecocks, he says that Shaw and the offense must continue to progress. The next stretch will be critical for South Carolina's chances returning to Atlanta for the SEC title game. The Gamecocks play at Tennessee and Arkansas before returning home to face Florida.
''We're headed in the right direction,'' he said. ''But it wasn't a real smooth performance by any means.''