HBC ready to run to glory

Originally Published: October 6, 2012
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- If there is a football god -- and you know there is after some of those last-minute finishes Saturday night -- pleeeeeeeease let South Carolina beat LSU in Baton Rouge next week.

Because if that happens, then we get an unbeaten University of Visor versus a likely unbeaten Florida team. We get a matchup of two top fives. We get the Head Ball Coach going back to Gainesville with a national championship in play.

But I digress, much like Georgia did during its 35-7 loss to Steve Spurrier's muscled-up South Carolina team. By, oh, the early part of the fourth quarter of Saturday evening's game, the Bulldogs looked like a team counting the minutes until they could grab a box meal on the way to the charter bus.

"It was a special day for us," said Spurrier, whose Gamecocks are 6-0 for the first time since 1988 and extended their win streak to a school-record 10 games. "I was thinking prior that this might be the best one since I've been here."

[+] EnlargeSteve Spurrier
Jeff Blake/US PresswireSteve Spurrier has led South Carolina to a No. 3 national ranking, the school's highest in 28 seasons.

Spurrier has been in Columbia since 2005. I was here not long after he took the job. I remember him giving me a tour of the place as if he worked for Century 21.

Here's the weight room ... Here's our film room ... Here's our sprint track.

He was in full sell mode.

And then he spotted a trophy case that was light on hardware.

"Outback Bowl, that's about it," said Spurrier that day, as he surveyed the contents. "Yep, Outback Bowl."

That was eight seasons and 61 victories ago. But the trophy case still could use some work. Maybe something with a crystal BCS football?

It could happen. Anything could happen if South Carolina can clone its performance against Georgia.

It could win at LSU. It could win at Florida. It could beat Tennessee, Arkansas and Wofford at home. It could win at Clemson. It could win an SEC championship. It could win a BCS championship.

"We'll see where this leads us," said Spurrier. "One thing we'll have to guard against is everybody telling us how good we are right now. When you win convincingly, that's what happens."

South Carolina won convincingly. "We took a whipping," is how Georgia coach Mark Richt described it.

The Gamecocks won on a night when Williams-Brice Stadium quivered as a record 85,199 fans literally made the building sway. They won because that crowd was so deafening that it often forced UGA quarterback Aaron Murray to tap his center just before the snap.

"I couldn't hear," said South Carolina defensive end/pass rushing beast Jadeveon Clowney. "I know they couldn't hear."

If we can play like this we may have a chance for a real big year.

-- South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier

So Clowney and the rest of the Gamecocks' D-line simply waited for Murray to do the tap -- and then they timed their rush. Murray spent most of his evening picking grass out of his helmet earholes.

Georgia entered the game ranked eighth in the country in scoring offense (48.2 points per game), 11th in rushing (250.4 yards) and 11th in total offense (536.0 yards). It didn't end it that way.

Instead, the Bulldogs scored their lone touchdown with 1:55 left to play and against South Carolina reserves. It rushed for less than half of its average (115) and finished with just 224 total yards.

"If we can play like this we may have a chance for a real big year," said Spurrier.

Playing like this means doing the opposite of what Spurrier made his bones doing for so many years at Florida, where he won a national title, seven SEC championships and 122 games. Those were the days of the Fun 'n Gun: pass until the other guy dropped.

South Carolina attempted 10 passes Saturday night. Ten. Spurrier's Florida teams usually had that many attempts before they got their ankles taped.

"We didn't throw that many passes," said Spurrier of Connor Shaw, who completed six of those attempts for 162 yards. "How many did he throw? Ten? Six for 10. Man, how you score that many points on 10 passes?"

Here's how: In the span of 7 minutes and 10 seconds, South Carolina led 21-0. Shaw threw two TD passes and Ace Sanders returned a punt for 70 yards.

"I think they were shell-shocked," said South Carolina running Marcus Lattimore, who finished with 109 yards and a third-quarter TD run.

He's right. Georgia fell apart and couldn't put itself back together again. The Gamecocks' defense had a lot to do with that. But so did Spurrier.

Lost in the preseason buzz over Urban Meyer and Ohio State, Chip Kelly (visor guy) and Oregon, Lane Kiffin (visor guy) and USC, Jimbo Fisher and Florida State and Nick Saban and Alabama, was Spurrier. His team was going to be good -- everyone could agree on that -- but this good?

Spurrier hasn't forced his past (the pass) on his present (the run). Shaw can throw fine, but he can run like his hip pads are on fire. Lattimore is money between the tackles. And South Carolina's front four can dictate a game, as it did Saturday night.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Lattimore
Gerry Melendez/The State/MCT via Getty ImagesSouth Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore ran for 109 yards and a touchdown versus Georgia.

So Spurrier, a no-brainer coach of the year candidate, has adjusted. And his willingness to adjust is partly why South Carolina is in position to make a legitimate run at that really big year he talks about.

"That's what we do," he said. "We run it and throw it a little bit."

Spurrier didn't sound the least bit upset by the formula. Is he having fun?

"Absolutely," said Shaw of his coach. "When you win, you're having fun, right?"

Right.

This isn't the old Spurrier. This isn't the old Spurrier offense. Better yet, it isn't the same version of South Carolina we've seen in the past: a bit of a football tease.

"We definitely sent a message out to the whole country," said Lattimore. "This is not the old South Carolina. We can play with y'all. We can play with anybody."

Actually, they can beat anybody. And if they can do it next week against the Tigers, the happiest people in America will be the hotel owners in Gainesville.

Wait, that's not exactly true.

"We got a happy bunch of Gamecocks right now," said Spurrier.

Happy. But not satisfied.

Gene Wojciechowski | email

Columnist / College Football reporter

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