USC wary of upset
History will be made when South Carolina and South Carolina State meet Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium.
USC’s focus is making sure it’s not on the wrong side of history when the game is over.
The Gamecocks have been playing football since 1892; the Bulldogs since 1907. The schools are separated by about 40 miles.
The football teams, though, have never played each other.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said he hasn’t dwelled much on the historical significance of Saturday’s game. But the thought has not escaped him entirely - especially if the Division I-AA Bulldogs happen to shock the No. 17 Gamecocks.
“This is the chance (for State) to create a memory of a lifetime,” Spurrier said. “They come in here and beat us, and they could beat us. Sometimes the way we play, yeah, we could lose to these guys. Yeah, we know that.”
That’s why Spurrier spent some of Monday’s practice yelling at a few players to make sure the Bulldogs have USC’s undivided attention. If South Carolina gets beat, the Gamecocks don’t want it to be because they were too relaxed or overconfident after upsetting No. 11 Georgia 16-12 on Saturday in Athens.
And besides, the events of Sept. 1 in Ann Arbor, Mich., when defending I-AA champ Appalachian State stunned No. 5 Michigan, are still fresh in players’ minds.
“Take Michigan and the other team (Appalachian), what happened at that game,” freshman defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye said. “So you give everybody respect.”
Despite South Carolina’s win at Georgia, USC’s first against those Bulldogs since 2001, Spurrier said his team still has plenty to improve on. Spurrier said he’s frustrated by unnecessary penalties and some poor play on special teams.
His offense, which many expected to resemble some of those high-powered units he coached at Florida by this time in his USC tenure, has sputtered at times and has not displayed the vertical passing game prowess Spurrier loves so much.
On the positive side, the Gamecocks have been able to run the ball so far, something they had not done well early in Spurrier’s first two seasons.
USC has 335 rushing yards in two games. Combined, USC’s rushing total from its first two games in 2005 and ’06 — that’s four games — was just 191. And, Spurrier reminded, the Gamecocks haven’t lost since a 17-16 setback at eventual national champion Florida last November.
A win over State would give USC its first six-game winning streak since 2001, when the Gamecocks beat Ohio State in the ‘01 Outback Bowl and won their first five regular season games later that year.
“We haven’t near played close to how we should play,” Spurrier said. “So it’s frustrating. But we’ve still been winning.”
By most accounts, that should continue Saturday, but Spurrier doesn’t want to leave anything to chance. He’s well aware of the historical significance of the game for each school’s fans, but wants guard against USC’s players getting caught up in any of the hoopla.
“They (State) are very capable,” Spurrier said. “Coach (Buddy) Pough and his guys do a super job down there, and no question, they’ll be ready to play.
“Again, it’s us against them. Our team against their team and that’s really about the way we’re looking at it.”
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