South Carolina-Vanderbilt Preview
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Steve Spurrier figures he's got an equally difficult task getting No. 14 South Carolina ready for Vanderbilt as he did last week for Georgia.
Spurrier said while the Gamecocks (2-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) may have picked up a big victory over then-top-10 ranked Georgia, they are not close to being a dominant team that can take wins for granted. So they are not overlooking the struggling Commodores (1-2, 0-1) on Saturday night.
''We are trying to get better. I hope we are. If we think we are a pretty good team just because we beat Georgia with a lot of good breaks, we are fooling ourselves,'' Spurrier said Tuesday.
South Carolina got several fortunate bounces to preserve last week's 38-35 victory, Spurrier said. Georgia's all-SEC kicker Marshall Morgan missed two field goals, and a Bulldogs' intentional grounding penalty from the Gamecocks' 4 late in the fourth quarter proved very costly.
The victory may have saved South Carolina from its first 0-2 SEC start since 2008, but it's not how the Gamecocks have gone 11-2 the previous three seasons.
Spurrier said the Vanderbilt he's watched on tape is a scrappy, fired-up team filled with pride - and one that could sting the Gamecocks if they're not prepared. The season's stats bear that out.
While the Commodores are last in SEC scoring offense, the Gamecocks are at the bottom in points allowed a quarter of the way through the season. Where South Carolina has a clear advantage is in the passing game where it's averaging 301 yards through the air. Vanderbilt has managed less than half of that under first-year coach Derek Mason.
Spurrier won't let such stats blind him to Vanderbilt's strengths.
''Vandy plays tough, we have been watching them on tape,'' Spurrier said. ''Their players play smart, play tough. Hopefully, we can go to Nashville and play like a good team. Hopefully, we can play better as we continue going through the season.''
It was a season that some South Carolina fans thought would trend downward in a hurry after No. 6 Texas A&M's surprising 52-28 win three games ago. The Gamecocks defense gave up a school-worst 680 yards of offense while their attack couldn't match the Aggies' precision passing game.
South Carolina found its footing a week later with a 33-23 win over East Carolina - the same Pirates who took down ranked Virginia Tech last weekend - before holding its own against powerful Georgia.
Vanderbilt's Mason expects the same, gritty effort from South Carolina he saw it bring to the Georgia game.
''Coach Spurrier's one of the most seasoned coordinators in the country, one of the best head coaches in the country, with a football team that's 2-1 right now,'' Mason said. ''They understand where they're at. They're playing with a sense of urgency,''
Gamecocks tight end Cody Gibson said beating Georgia showed how the hard work the players put in would pay off. ''Beating Georgia gave us life again,'' he said.
Gibson said he and his teammates won't slack simply because they're three-touchdown favorites this weekend.
''If we can continue to keep winning, the sky is the limit this year,'' he said. ''We are going into Vanderbilt thinking the same thing, that'll put us 2-0 in the SEC East. Our ultimate goal is to go to Atlanta and play for the SEC Championship so we are going into Vanderbilt and taking them as seriously as possible.''
That's what Spurrier wants to hammer home this week when the stakes aren't as large as a week ago. He's built a 20-2 lifetime coaching mark over Vanderbilt by never looking past the Commodores - and will not start now.
''We've got a lot of room for improvement if we're going to have a chance to have a big year,'' the coach said. ''So hopefully our guys know that.''