Missouri-South Carolina Preview
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Steve Spurrier wasn't quite as angry Tuesday as he had been about South Carolina's performance in a win over Vanderbilt.
He is, though, still very frustrated.
Spurrier ranted about his team's ''embarrassing'' performance following the 48-34 victory, appointing himself kickoff coverage coach when the Commodores returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.
The coach called it one of the worst wins of his career.
A few days later, Spurrier's fury had eased up a bit.
The coach called special teams leader Joe Robinson ''an excellent coach,'' and sounded more eager to prepare the No. 13 Gamecocks (3-1, 2-1 SEC) for defending Eastern Division winner Missouri (3-1, 0-0) on Saturday night than to rip into his players any further.
''We still believe we have a chance to have a good team this year. We're 3-1 and have won some close ones,'' Spurrier said. ''We've played some pretty good teams. We didn't think Vandy was going to be that good, but they played their hearts out. Probably out-played us. Probably out-hustled us in a lot of areas.''
Spurrier acknowledged there were some bright spots in South Carolina's third straight win.
Quarterback Dylan Thompson and the offense played strongly, Spurrier said, in leading the Gamecocks out of a 14-0 hole and into the lead by halftime. Thompson, who completed 22 of 34 passes for 237 yards and three TDs, stands fourth in SEC passing average at 285.0 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions.
''Week one didn't go as we wanted,'' Thompson said, referring to the 52-28 home loss to then-No. 21 Texas A&M. ''But we've got three wins since then. That's what we want to do, we want to win games.''
Perhaps in a more Spurrier-pleasing way.
The Gamecocks entered the season as the clear pick to win the East, a notion that lasted until the Aggies came in and gained 680 yards - the most ever allowed by South Carolina.
The team found its footing in a win over East Carolina and regained control of the division by defeating then-No. 6 Georgia 38-35. No one, including Spurrier, thought the Gamecocks would have much trouble at Vanderbilt until the opening kickoff was brought back for a score.
''We didn't think Vandy was that good of an offensive team, but they made a bunch of yards on us,'' he said. ''So it was a little frustrating.''
South Carolina has frustrated Missouri since it joined the SEC two years ago. The Tigers were picked apart in a 31-10 loss in 2012 and the Gamecocks rallied from 17 points down to win 27-24 in double overtime last year.
''We're aware of that. I know that we're going to come out and we're going to give them our best game,'' Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk said. ''We can't take them lightly. Obviously, they're a very good football team that can do a lot of things.''
Unless you spend too much time listening to Spurrier.
Safety Sharrod Golightly, a senior, has heard such displeasure before from his coach and knows what parts of the rant to discard and what to pay attention to.
''With coach Spurrier, we look past the anger and the tone and just try and look into the message,'' he said.
Spurrier hopes his players understand they've got to improve to reach the goals they freely discussed during the preseason of winning their division and maybe the SEC title.
A win over Missouri would make South Carolina 3-0 against East teams and give the Gamecocks a strong start toward reaching Atlanta for the championship game.
''We do believe our players can play better on defense and on special teams and even offensively,'' Spurrier said. ''So we believe it and if we can get it out of them, we'll have a chance for a big year. If we can't get it out of them, we're going to be very, very average.''
Missouri's below-average play at home last Saturday knocked it out of the Top 25 this week. The then-No. 18 Tigers yielded a six-play, 75-yard TD drive to Indiana in the final minutes of a 31-27 loss.
"When was the last time we faced adversity?" Mauk asked. "Obviously, you don't want that, but we're going to bounce back and I have no doubt everybody's going to get healthy and we're going to come out ready to play Saturday."
Missouri, though, will be unveiling a new-look offense.
Brad McNulty is listed atop the depth chart at left guard after fifth-year senior Anthony Gatti tore his right ACL last weekend. Connor McGovern will move back to right guard after starting at the position in all 14 games last season.
Taylor Chappell is expected to earn his first career start at right tackle in place of McGovern.
At receiver, Wesley Leftwich and J'Mon Moore will see increased playing time after Darius White strained his groin against the Hoosiers.
Coach Gary Pinkel said White, second on the team with 230 receiving yards and three touchdowns, is expected back in a few weeks.