COLUMBIA, S.C. — Steve Spurrier and his South Carolina squad received a wake-up call in the first half of Saturday’s road game at Kentucky.
“We’ve got to be scared to death every time we go to the ballpark,” Spurrier said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “We’ve got to make them realize we can get beat by anybody, anybody, if you don’t play the game.”
No. 6 South Carolina erased a 17-7 halftime deficit by outscoring the Wildcats 31-0 in the second half. The victory sets up a showdown of unbeaten teams this week with No. 5 Georgia coming to Williams-Brice Stadium for a game to be televised nationally on ESPN.
“We were too nice to the team last week. Sometimes you watch the week before and they didn’t look like much at all,” Spurrier said. “(Kentucky) came to play. They knocked us on our tails. They out-executed us. The crowd got behind them, and we were in a big fight. Fortunately, we turned it around and won by 21.”
Spurrier seems to have his focus back, too. Last week he hinted that he might retire and “head to the beach” if issues between him and a local columnist weren’t resolved.
“That was a statement in regard to the issues that we had,” Spurrier said. “Those are history. Let’s talk about the ball game now.”
You can bet Spurrier and the Gamecocks will be plenty focused for the Bulldogs, a team the Head Ball Coach tormented when he was coaching at Florida (11-1 against Georgia) and now sees as the Gamecocks’ biggest rival in the Southeastern Conference.
“They’ve got a rich history of football over there,” said Spurrier, who is 3-4 against Georgia with the Gamecocks. “It’s fun competing against them. It’s fun competing against teams that know how to win also. Hopefully we can prove we know how to win.”
Georgia has scored at least 41 points in each game this season. South Carolina has not allowed more than 17 points so far. Something will have to give Saturday, Spurrier said.
“Their defense has been out there a bunch. They’ve stopped people in the fourth quarter,” he said. “It reminds me of Auburn a couple years ago. In the fourth quarter they stopped people and won every game somehow doing that.
“Right now Georgia’s defense has played well in the fourth quarter. But I’m sure they’re trying to correct some stuff here and there.”
With nine consecutive wins dating back to last season, the Gamecocks are vying for what would be a school record 10th win in a row. Spurrier, who took over South Carolina in 2005, compared it to when he arrived at Florida in 1990.
“The Florida people had to learn to accept we had a pretty good team. And to handle it,” Spurrier said. “It’s been pretty similar here, to win 11 for the first time. Florida had never won 10 games prior to ’90. Hopefully we can keep moving. We certainly haven’t been able to reach anywhere near what those teams were able to do. But we are trying to get there.”
If South Carolina wins Saturday, it then faces Louisiana State and Florida in consecutive road games. And Spurrier, who was brought to Columbia to put the Gamecocks in big games, relishes the opportunity.
“This isn’t the end of the year no matter what happens, win, lose or draw,” he said. “It is a crucial game. We’re really just going one at a time. This is a stretch, and this week it’s all about Georgia. When this one’s over we’ll focus in on the next team.”