Gamecocks focused on LSU, not Georgia win

Coach Steve Spurrier says No. 3 South Carolina has high goals

for this season and several are much bigger than starting 6-0 or

dominating Georgia.

The Gamecocks (6-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) moved to their

highest ranking in 28 years – and into discussions about SEC and

national titles – after their 35-7 victory over the Bulldogs this

past Saturday.

South Carolina had one of the more complete performances of

Spurrier’s eight seasons. None of it, Spurrier reminded people

Tuesday, will matter if the Gamecocks don’t stay focused on their

next challenge, playing at No. 9 LSU on Saturday night.

”We are getting some national attention,” the coach said.

”That’s what we all like, but it can turn south on you if you

don’t watch it.”

Spurrier knows that too well. South Carolina pulled off a

stunning upset of then No. 1 Alabama, 35-21, in October of 2010. A

game later, the Gamecocks blew an 18-point halftime lead to lose at

Kentucky, 31-28.

Spurrier blames himself and his staff for not coaching very well

after halftime.

”Our guys were ready to play, ready to play,” he said. ”We

had them up 28-10 and pooped around the second half.”

It’s easy to lose focus when so many people are praising the

Gamecocks, which is happening all around South Carolina’s

campus.

Safety D.J. Swearinger said a teacher asked him to the front of

the room so his nearly 200 classmates could applaud him for South

Carolina’s Georgia win.

That’s heady stuff for a team not used to big-time success. But

Swearinger said neither his head, nor those of his teammates, will

be turned by the attention.

Swearinger told the defensive players at Monday’s practice they

could not afford to dwell on last week’s victory, not with an angry

bunch of LSU Tigers ahead.

”We’ve got a bigger task at hand than Kentucky” two years ago,

Swearinger said.

LSU, the defending SEC champions, hope to rebound from its first

loss of the season, 14-6, at No. 4 Florida last Saturday. Tigers

coach Les Miles said the players want to quickly put the defeat

behind and get back to winning.

”For the first time in a year and a half we are talking about

regular-season loss,” Miles said. ”And it is miserable for

us.”

South Carolina has struggled, like many SEC teams, against LSU.

The Gamecocks are 1-4-1 against the Tigers since joining the league

in 1992, their only victory at Death Valley coming 18 years

ago.

Chalk up another challenge, said South Carolina defensive tackle

Kelcy Quarles. ”I feel like we’ve got something to prove on the

road,” he said.

Quarles and Swearinger are among South Carolina’s upperclassmen

who have kept a steady hand on the team through its rise this

season, Spurrier said. The pair are also close friends and former

Greenwood High teammates of start LSU defensive lineman Sam

Montgomery.

Quarles said the two have talked this week, wishing each other

good luck and looking forward to seeing each other in person.

”We’ve got a brotherly bond,” Quarles said. ”It’s going to be

fun.”

Spurrier’s sure having a good time, despite his calm, focused

talk.

This week, he recalled going 3-0 against LSU while playing

quarterback for Florida in the 1960s, joked how fortunate the

Gamecocks will be to have star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney for

three years before he’s NFL eligible – ”At Kentucky (basketball),

they get them only one year and they’re happy,” Spurrier said –

and even got in a dig at state rival Clemson, which also has

nicknamed its football stadium, Death Valley.

”Most of our guys have never been to Death Valley. That is the

Death Valley, isn’t it? Or is there another one?” Spurrier

cracked. ”There’s two of them? That’s right, there’s two Death

Valleys.”

Spurrier said his team’s fast offensive start against Georgia –

the Gamecocks led 21-0 with less than nine minutes gone in the game

– put the Bulldogs on their heels and gave South Carolina’s defense

the chance to make plays. The Gamecocks’ D kept Georgia off the

scoreboard until a meaningless touchdown in the game’s final two

minutes.

”When one team gets hot, scores on the first two or three

possessions, you got an excellent defense, it can happen,” he

said. ”But you don’t ever plan for it. You plan for a down to the

wire game being won in the fourth quarter.”

That’s what Spurrier’s expecting against LSU. He’s working this

week to make sure his team’s prepared for that, too.

”We’re just trying to guard against going south and that we’re

totally ready to play this week,” Spurrier said.