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Thursday, September 10, 2009
Spurrier's best offense may be his defense

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com


Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

AP Photo/Gerry Broome
Steve Spurrier's teams aren't usually known for defense and ball control.

A Steve Spurrier team running the ball, playing field position and winning with defense is the equivalent of AC/DC going acoustical at its next concert.

But as much as the Head Ball Coach likes “pitching it and catching it,” he likes winning even more.

The Gamecocks’ best chance to win Saturday at Georgia will be making sure that they don’t hang their defense out to dry.

Even Spurrier, in his own way, is admitting as much coming off a very un-Spurrier-like game plan in the season-opening 7-3 win over North Carolina State.

“We had a lead last week and called a somewhat conservative game,” Spurrier said. “But, again, that’s maybe what we need to do to win the game.”

The reality is that you don’t win 7-3 very often in the SEC. But in the Georgia-South Carolina series, only once this decade has either team scored more than 21 points.

And since Spurrier arrived in Columbia in 2005, nobody has scored more than 18 points.

“We know it’s going to come down to defense this time, too. It always does,” South Carolina senior outside linebacker Eric Norwood said. “We played OK last week, but I know we can play better. I think we’ll have to play better if we’re going to win.”

Spurrier almost sounded apologetic following the Gamecocks’ offensive struggles in the opener. It was almost as if the offense’s goal was not to get in the way of the defense.

The Gamecocks averaged just 2.6 yards per carry in the running game, and quarterback Stephen Garcia threw 22 passes for 148 yards.

Spurrier knows as well as anyone that South Carolina can’t be that conservative against Georgia and expect to win. But the Gamecocks also can’t turn it over.

A pair of fourth-quarter turnovers, both times with South Carolina deep in Georgia territory, were the difference in last season’s game. The Bulldogs escaped 14-7.

It’s obvious when you hear Spurrier talk about Garcia that he’s still not supremely confident in his sophomore quarterback, who played just three plays against the Bulldogs last season.

The sticking point with Spurrier remains Garcia being more settled in the pocket and not freelancing as much.

“We’re trying to encourage him to stay in there and give the pass play a little bit better chance before he takes off running,” said Spurrier, noting that Garcia only turned it over once against N.C. State.

And while Garcia has practiced better, Spurrier wants to see more production when it counts.

“You have to take it to the ballpark, to the real games,” Spurrier said. “Hopefully, that will start happening real soon.”

This Saturday at 7 p.m. would be as good a time as any for the Gamecocks.