College Sports

No chance to relax

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier is hoping to avoid another frustrating evening tonight.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier is hoping to avoid another frustrating evening tonight.

COLUMBIA -- They've heard it all week.

Appalachian State. Appalachian State. Appalachian State.

"No, no overlooking," insisted South Carolina defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye. "I give them respect, just like we did Louisiana-Lafayette."

Before the season began, many people pointed to the Gamecocks' third opponent and mentioned it'd be a festive game. S.C. State, 40 miles from Williams-Brice Stadium, would be playing USC for the first time in its 100-year history.

Now it's downright dangerous for USC. S.C. State (1-1) was always going to be playing to win, but with the blow Appalachian State struck for all Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) programs three weeks ago, the Bulldogs see no reason why they can't duplicate the Mountaineers' accomplishment.

The Gamecocks, who've had their frightening moments against smaller schools under coach Steve Spurrier, recognized the potential.

And they didn't like it.

"It sets up the stage for them to come in and upset us," tailback Cory Boyd said. "You can't put anything past anybody. Appalachian State showed that."

USC (2-0) rose to No. 17 in the country after last week's stirring win at Georgia, but two days later, not many of the players were still celebrating. S.C. State's no pushover, selected the preseason champ of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, and most of the Gamecocks were around the last time they played an FCS school.

Tiny Wofford, where the average SAT score is higher than the enrollment, took USC to the brink of destruction last year. The Terriers tore USC's defense apart all night and were driving for the potential go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.

It took a tipped pass and an interception to clinch the game and the Gamecocks survived a 27-20 heart-stopper. That game weighed heavily on Spurrier's mind this week, as he urged his players to forget Georgia and concentrate on the next round of Bulldogs.

"We're not good enough to be overconfident," Spurrier said. "We're not any big powerhouse that thinks we can pick our opponents. We don't take any of them for granted, because none of them are for granted."

It's not all gloom and doom -- the majority of USC's games under Spurrier against smaller non-conference opponents have been blowouts. The Gamecocks whipped Troy 45-20 in 2005 and followed in 2006 with Florida Atlantic (45-6) and Middle Tennessee (52-7).

But the two that stand out are Wofford and Spurrier's first game in Columbia, the 2005 season-opener against UCF. The Gamecocks led 17-3 at halftime and won 24-15, having to survive a defensive breakdown in the second half on national TV.

Today's game isn't televised but everbody remembers what happened when the Mountaineers went to Michigan three weeks ago. S.C. State fans, coming to Columbia en masse, are hoping lightning strikes twice, perhaps catching the Gamecocks overlooking the Bulldogs toward their next opponent -- No. 2 LSU.

"I mean, you learn that any team can beat any other team," Ajiboye said. "Take Michigan and the other team, what happened at that game. So you give everybody respect."

Spurrier, whose Florida teams routinely bludgeoned the smaller schools that came to The Swamp, agreed.

"You don't think I got a team here like those Florida teams, do you?," Spurrier retorted. "If you're thinking we're there, we're not quite there yet."

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