Spurrier gets just enough out of Gamecocks

BY foxsports • October 25, 2009

Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier has searched all season for reliable playmakers and a dependable point-scoring attack to take the team toward the top of the Southeastern Conference. Looks like South Carolina's head ball coach will have to settle for a timely, mistake-free offense that may not rout opponents his old Florida "Fun-'n-Gun," but gets off the field with the win.

The latest example came Saturday night when the Gamecocks (6-2, 3-2 SEC) put together a 99-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown drive - and little else - to outlast Vanderbilt 14-10.

"Somebody told me today we never got inside the 20" yard line, Spurrier said Sunday.

They didn't need to in this one, continuing the season-long script where South Carolina's defense keeps it close and makes the efforts of a so-so offense - ranked 67th in the Football Bowl Subdivision - stand up.

Against Mississippi and Kentucky, the Gamecocks two other league wins, the defense stuffed fourth-quarter chances to catch South Carolina.

Vanderbilt had its opportunity, too. Down 14-10, it drove to the Gamecocks 23 with two minutes left before South Carolina's pressure forced quarterback Larry Smith into an intentional grounding penalty as he was about to get sacked, effectively ending the game.

Spurrier said his offense didn't play smart against a Vanderbilt defense eager to break what's become a six-game SEC losing streak.

Perhaps the most intelligent thing that happened on offense was getting the ball to South Carolina's young receivers.

Freshman D.L. Moore earned a gameball for his juggling, sideline-stradling, 35-yard grab in the end zone for the Gamecocks first touchdown. The catch, Moore's first career TD, survived an official review and put South Carolina ahead 7-0.

But it was two even bigger catches by freshmen Tori Gurley and Alshon Jeffery that rescued Spurrier's offense.

After getting pinned at the 1 on Brett Upson's punt, South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia threw a perfect ball that Gurley brought in for a 43-yard gain. Garcia followed that with 23-yard pass to Jeffery into Vanderbilt territory. A holding penalty and a sack pushed the Gamecocks into third-and-20 when Jeffery struck for perhaps his biggest play of the season, catching the ball in stride and taking it in for the 43-yard go-ahead touchdown.

Garcia called Jeffery one of the best receivers in the country. Garcia may not be far off.

Jeffery has caught five touchdown passes in South Carolina's past four games and emerged as the team's best threat since record-setting wideout Sidney Rice, now catching passes from Brett Favre in the NFL, left after the 2006 season.

Spurrier acknowledged he didn't hold out much hope of landing Jeffery after the pledge to the Trojans. Spurrier's glad his assistants Shane Beamer and Steve Spurrier Jr. kept chasing.

"I didn't know he could do things he's doing right now," Spurrier said of Jeffery. "He's a special player out there."

The Gamecocks have dramatically cut down on mistakes, with just four interceptions and five lost fumbles. They didn't have a turnover against Vanderbilt, which Spurrier says was a big factor on the outcome.

South Carolina also got the benefit of two big reviews. Besides confirming Moore's touchdown catch, replay officials overturned a ruling on a first-quarter fumble that allowed the Gamecocks to keep possession instead of giving the ball up deep in their territory.

"It was all of us, at times, who were not very good" on offense, Spurrier said including himself and his coaches. "Fortunately, we hit two big plays that were good enough to beat Vanderbilt."

This season, that's more than enough for the Gamecocks.

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