College Sports

Hostile atmosphere at No. 2 LSU awaits No. 12 South Carolina

South Carolina quarterback Blake Mitchell (12) might have to raise his voice tonight.
South Carolina quarterback Blake Mitchell (12) might have to raise his voice tonight.

COLUMBIA -- Leave it to Steve Spurrier to find the perfect way to instruct his players on the immense crowd noise at LSU.

"After the game last week, I said, 'Maybe we're better at the loud ballparks because our quarterbacks can't audible,'" Spurrier cracked. "Maybe that's beneficial to us that we won't audible too much."

A big part of preparing for the No. 2 Tigers has been recognizing the intense atmosphere South Carolina will face. A 92,400-seat stadium packed to the brim with mostly purple and gold-clad supporters, shouting their particular dialect, has become SEC legend.

But as Spurrier pointed out, the Gamecocks have a lot more to worry about than the crowd. A sluggish offensive performance last week and a non-existent passing game all year is a lot more prevalent than noise.

"Same as at Georgia. Same as at Tennessee. Same as at Florida," Spurrier said. "That really hasn't bothered our guys."

USC's heard its share of loud stadiums but has been surprisingly good at handling them. Under Spurrier, USC is a stellar 7-3 on the road, including wins at Tennessee, Arkansas, Clemson and two weeks ago, Georgia.

Granted, the Gamecocks haven't played an opponent quite the caliber of LSU on the road under Spurrier, but it was bound to happen.

The Tigers were the preseason No. 2 team in the country and haven't done anything to slip, winning a couple of easy games sandwiched around a 48-7 blowout of Virginia Tech. That game caused many voters to pick LSU No. 1 in the country over preseason top-ranker Southern Cal, although the Trojans still hold their perch.

"I did vote for LSU," Spurrier said. "Certainly, LSU is deserving as anybody right now of the No. 1 vote."

The Gamecocks took the road mapped by their coach, disregarding the noise factor and saying LSU's team was far more of a challenge than the atmosphere. Tight end Andy Boyd, the only player who was around the last time USC went to LSU (2002), has already told his teammates what to expect.

"It's a good atmosphere, something to look forward to," Boyd said, "But we're concentrating on the game more than anything. Fans are going to be loud everywhere we go."

USC will revert to its standard play-calling when going on the road to an expected hostile environment. Quarterback Blake Mitchell won't worry so much about barking signals and audibles will be on hand signals.

But the main goal is to play well and hopefully pull the upset. The Gamecocks haven't beaten a Top-5 team since 1981 (No. 3 North Carolina) and have never beaten a team ranked No. 2 or higher.

"We just got to hone in on what our goal is -- ultimately, that's to win the game," linebacker Marvin Sapp said. "We've just got to focus down and just play our game. Don't let that faze us."

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