Spurrier's Being Honest

South Carolina coach not pulling any punches when it comes to Gamecocks' chances vs. LSU

Sept. 21, 2007

College Football Preview: Week 4

> The Red Zone  |  Tape It Up  |  Strike The Pose  |  Breaking The Code
> Amsinger: Picks  |  Sorenson: 10 Questions  |  Braff: Tebow Up, McCoy Down
> Hart: Behind Closed Doors  |  Curtis: Crystal Ball Blitz  |  Alberts: Blackshirt Blues  |  Worst BCS Conf.
> Williams: Michigan Barely Has A Chance  |  B.J.: An Open Letter To Karl Dorrell
> Caparell: Honest Steve Spurrier  |  Blackburn: Alridge About The Bling  |  Crystal Ball: Predictions

By Adam Caparell



Adam is CSTV.com's football editor and national football writer.
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Steve Spurrier is just trying to be honest.


As a 16-point underdog entering his team's biggest game of the young season, the South Carolina coach is being realistic, if not pessimistic, about his team's chances.


After all, Spurrier is taking his Gamecocks down to Baton Rogue where they get to face arguably the best-looking team in the nation -- No. 2 LSU -- with the distinct feeling that the deck is stacked against them.




"We're pretty huge underdogs going down there. We understand that," Spurrier said. "I'm sort of a realistic coach. I don't tell our guys we're going to go somewhere and kick somebody's tail when we're huge underdogs."


Few, if any, have the Gamecocks pegged as an upset winner and certainly none are projecting South Carolina to go into Tiger Stadium, in front of 92,000, and deliver a beat down Saturday afternoon.


With the way the Tigers have played this season -- at times breathtakingly dominant -- and with the Gamecocks sporting a relatively one-dimensional offense and out-classed when it comes to talent and depth, the gloomy talk isn't some "woe is me" motivational ploy. Lou Holtz was known to do just that during his days in Columbia, but The Ol' Ball Coach is a different breed. He speaks his mind, tells it like he thinks it is and rarely pulls any punches.


"I haven't been quite this big an underdog going somewhere," Spurrier said. "I don't want our guys to go down there with false belief that we have a great chance to win this game. In other words, sometimes you have to be realistic. If we've got a chance to win the game, I'm going to be honest with them. If something happens that it doesn't work out, we've got a whole bunch of teams coming up that we match up pretty evenly with."


For the first time in his three seasons with South Carolina, Spurrier entered the year with a team he believed had a legitimate shot to compete for an SEC East title. Of course, Spurrier wants to win Saturday's game, but the Tigers are a non-division foe, and with a stretch of games in which the Gamecocks will surely be favored in starting next week, Spurrier wants to make sure that one loss doesn't turn into a season-damning defeat.


"You always coach one game at a time, but in the back of your mind you have to say we're not going to be devastated if it doesn't work out," Spurrier said. "On the other side, we hope the ball bounces our way and hope it comes down to a field goal here or there."


It'll probably take a near perfect game for South Carolina to knock off the Tigers. Winning is going to be predicated on two things -- making some key defensive stops and establishing their running game because the Gamecocks have had trouble in the passing game.


"We run the ball better than we throw it," Spurrier said.


Quarterback Blake Mitchell has been inconsistent in his two games following his one-game suspension in the season opener. Spurrier has been disappointed with the passing attack -- he wants to see his team spread the ball around more -- while the Gamecocks have relied on the legs of Cory Boyd and Mike James to carry them to a 3-0 mark and their No. 12 ranking.


But after an easy win over South Carolina State last week, where their holes and weaknesses were more easily overlooked, playing against a defense like LSU's can be exposing.


"For us to have a chance our quarterback and offensive line have got to play much better than we've played all year," Spurrier said. "If we continue to play the way we've played it's going to be a struggle. Our guys know that."


The Tigers did a number on Virginia Tech in their Week 2 matchup with the Hokies for the entire nation to see, and in their other two games so far this season they've been nothing short of stifling.


LSU leads the nation in three statistical categories -- scoring defense (2.3 points per game), pass efficiency defense (54.30) and total defense (128.3 yards per game) -- and they're the second-best team in the country against the pass, allowing just 98.3 yards per game.


"They play some coverages different than most people. They give everybody a new scheme of things to try and attack, and so far, nobody has attacked it very well," Spurrier said. "Obviously what they do is very good."


So we'll see how Mitchell navigates the LSU front four. He's going to face constant pressure all night long -- the Tigers sack the quarterback an average of four times a game -- and a ball-hawking defense that's faster than a blur.


But it's not like Spurrier and the Gamecocks haven't been in a similar situation before. Just last November, the Gamecocks were big underdogs heading down to Gainesville and nearly knocked off the No. 6 Gators. All that stood between them and the biggest win of the Spurrier era was the hand of Jarvis Moss, who blocked an extra point and the potential game-winning field goal in the Gators' one-point win.


"Hopefully we can get in a close game. Hopefully  it'll be like when we went to The Swamp last year," Spurrier said. "We had some possessions that lasted four or five minutes. [It] wasn't one of those big-play games."  


South Carolina would be lucky to string together a few four or five minute drives. Spurrier knows it and his players know it, but give the coach credit for being honest.


In Spurrier's grand scheme of things, this one isn't all that important. His eyes are on a different prize, one that could actually lead him right back to the Tigers in Atlanta.