Friday, November 15, 2013
Gamecocks, Tigers sing redemption song
By Edward Aschoff
When Steve Spurrier looks at Saturday's opponent, he tries not to see the past.
South Carolina's head coach tries to temporarily escape his playing and coaching days at Florida, both of which brought him national notoriety. It's just his team against "their team."
But what he really doesn't want to think about is the blunder of a game his Gamecocks had last year in the Swamp. Ranked No. 7 and playing what seemed like an overachieving No. 2 Florida team, South Carolina literally fumbled away any chance of beating a Gators team that registered only 14 first downs and 183 yards of offense, but scored 44 points to South Carolina's 11. The Gators managed 29 yards and two first downs in the first half, but led 21-6 after three South Carolina turnovers, including a Connor Shaw fumble on the game's opening play. South Carolina finished the day with four turnovers.
Coach Steve Spurrier and QB Connor Shaw are looking for a better showing this year against UF.
So while Spurrier tries to block out his past triumphs in orange and blue, he and his team will be seeking some redemption against a team that cost them a chance at a second SEC Eastern Division title. This year, a spot in Atlanta is yet again on the line for the Gamecocks, and a loss to Florida would all but end that hope.
"I don't know if we could have won it, but I think we could have been closer than getting beat by 33 points," Spurrier said. "But that's what happened. ... Hopefully it doesn't happen to us this week."
Hours earlier, another form of redemption will be taking place more than 300 miles away on the Plains. It's Auburn-Georgia, but it's also Nick Marshall vs. Georgia. Auburn's talented quarterback was once a Bulldog but was dismissed in February 2012 for a violation of team rules.
For Marshall, it's a chance to face his old team at a new position and push his squad closer to a potential SEC West title. He signed with Georgia as a defense back but will face the Bulldogs as a quarterback who ranks seventh in the SEC with 734 rushing yards and has 1,301 passing yards. He also has 15 total touchdowns and has helped lead the Tigers to the No. 7 spot in the BCS standings and a 9-1 record.
Marshall left the Bulldogs in a very awkward manner, but it sounds as if there aren't many hard feelings from his former teammates. Junior cornerback Damian Swann said earlier this week that he has no ill feelings toward Marshall and has actually wished him well before a couple of games this season.
"You can't really fault other people for something that has already happened," Swann said. "I don't think we have that here. I think with that situation, Nick learned from it and I think it made him a better person and I think it's making him a better player as everyone can see."
And he has a chance to redeem a team that has been outscored 83-7 in the last two games against the Bulldogs. He also has a chance to derail Georgia's chances at sneaking into the East's top spot. It's a lot to ask a youngster, who will no doubt have a plethora of emotions swirling through his body Saturday, but his coach doesn't seem worried about Marshall's composure.
"He is familiar with them, there is no doubt," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "If he holds true to past experience this year, he doesn't get too high or too low. There isn't too much that rattles him. He stays pretty calm no matter what the moment.
"He's an even-keeled guy, he's motivated and I know that he will be ready."
Like Malzahn expects Marshall to be ready, Spurrier expects a struggling Florida team to come out swinging with its back against the wall. In a way, the Gators are looking for some redemption, too. They're in danger of missing out on a bowl game for the first time in 22 years and could have their first losing season since 1979.
Florida has been ravaged by a handful of injuries and a bumbling offense, but the season isn't over. At least not in Spurrier's eyes, and he doesn't expect to be handed a crucial victory.
"We have a lot to play for and they're trying to win a ball game and get bowl eligible, so they've got a lot to play for," he said. "It should be a heck of a game."