Spurrier might too have booed lackluster team efforts
By: By PETE IACOBELLI, AP Sports Writer
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — After watching tape of last week’s loss to Vanderbilt, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier wondered if he might have booed the Gamecocks, too.
Some fans at Williams-Brice Stadium booed No. 15 South Carolina last Saturday during its 17-6 loss to the Commodores, which dropped the team out of the top 10.
Spurrier said he doesn’t blame the fans, “because it just appeared our guys didn’t give a damn, to tell you the truth.”
South Carolina’s offense has struggled to find consistency all season.
The Vanderbilt game, though, was perhaps its worst.
Erratic quarterback play, a mistake-prone line that yielded seven sacks and four turnovers had Spurrier grousing as much as supporters.
“Jumping offside, dropping the ball here and there. We couldn’t hit guys that were open,” he said. “It was embarrassing for our offense, and I coach the offense.
“So shoot, I’ve apologized every year for a bad play and probably ought to again,” said the frustrated ball coach.
Where should Spurrier start?
Perhaps with South Carolina’s quarterbacks. Spurrier used both freshman Chris Smelley and fifth-year senior Blake Mitchell against Vanderbilt, but neither could make the Gamecocks go.
Smelley threw two interceptions, including his second in the third quarter in the end zone that finished South Carolina’s deepest drive of the game.
Mitchell added a pick of his own, completing just 9-of-18 passes for 102 yards in his first action since being benched during a 28-16 loss at LSU last month.
Spurrier is not sure who’ll start when the Gamecocks play at Tennessee (4-3, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) on Saturday night.
He’s certain of one thing — he’ll throw third-stringer Tommy Beecher into the mix, too, because the sophomore is more mobile than the Gamecocks other two passers.
More troublesome could be what to do with the offensive line. Four linemen totaled five false start penalties, which all changed playcalling for Spurrier and the Gamecocks.
While center William Brown, and guards Jamon Meredith and Justin Sorensen have started every game, South Carolina’s used three players at each of the guard spots.
“Yeah, maybe we ought to play more offensive linemen,” Spurrier said. “But most all of them have had their chance.”
Spurrier’s pride and joy, the “Cock-n-Fire” offense, can’t do either because there’s a lack of deep threats among the receivers.
Kenny McKinley leads the team with 41 catches. The rest of South Carolina’s wideouts have combined for 29 receptions, 15 fewer than running backs Cory Boyd (23) and Mike Davis (21) combined.
“Kenny right now is about the only big-play threat that’s done much,” Spurrier said. “So we’re using the tight ends more and the backs catch a lot more. We just haven’t had a big play all year.”
South Carolina has beaten ranked teams in Georgia and Kentucky this year and looked to cement its lead in the Southeastern Conference against Vanderbilt, who Spurrier had beaten 14 straight times before Saturday.
Coupled with the second half of South Carolina’s 21-15 victory at North Carolina a week earlier, Spurrier’s offense has been held to two field goals its past six quarters.
The Gamecocks’ offense dropped to 93rd out of 119 major college teams.
“I think it’s a little bit surprising that we had to come up with a loss like last week,” tight end Jared Cook said. “But I think we’re still maintaining. We still set our goals. We can still accomplish things we’ve never done before. We have big goals.”
It might take a year or two more to reach them, though.
Spurrier came into the season asking for his players to compete like they were in the SEC title chase.
The Gamecocks did much more than that the first half of the season, rising to No. 6, their highest ranking in 23 years.
South Carolina faces its most critical stretch with games at Tennessee and Arkansas, and a home game with national champ Florida.
The Gamecocks beat all three of those teams during Spurrier’s surprising debut season at South Carolina in 2005. They lost to all three last year.
“Winning the SEC is not our only goal, I hope everybody knows that,” Spurrier said. “And this is not the best team we’re ever going to have here. Hopefully, our fans know that, too.”