College Sports

Spurrier leaves history at Kenan Stadium in the past

USC coach Steve Spurrier will return to UNC's Kenan Stadium for the first time since he coached at Duke.
USC coach Steve Spurrier will return to UNC's Kenan Stadium for the first time since he coached at Duke.

COLUMBIA -- Steve Spurrier brushed it aside.

"I don't know ... you'll have to ask them," he said. "Do I remember the game? Yeah, I remember about every play of it.

"A lot of people get upset about a little bit of everything."

Maybe, but there were a lot of North Carolina football fans plenty steamed about this particular case.

On Nov. 18, 1989, Spurrier walked his Duke Blue Devils into UNC's Kenan Stadium needing a win for the ACC championship. He strutted out with a 41-0 victory and a tie with Virginia for the title.

That was bad enough for the UNC faithful, getting trounced by an arch-rival at home. What made it worse was Spurrier thumbing his nose afterward, congregating his players under the scoreboard for a picture.

Since then, Spurrier went on to fame and fortune with the Florida Gators, riding out a disastrous NFL coaching tenure before taking over at South Carolina. The Tar Heels used the young foundation of that season to post some great years under Mack Brown, before Brown left and UNC slid back into the cellar.

So Spurrier pointed out Tuesday it's been 18 years since that day and a lot's changed. He said the only thing that's important is what's at stake Saturday when the No. 7 Gamecocks (5-1) resume their series with the Heels (2-4).

"I don't need to go into that game," he said. "It was a game that I think we made about 657 yards and we actually got six interceptions from them. We only scored 41."

The two teams re-start a series Saturday at Chapel Hill and the situation is somewhat similar. There's no conference championship on the line but one team is flying high with a Top 10 national ranking and the other is in rebuilding mode.

The Gamecocks aren't thinking of any of Spurrier's history -- rather, they're thinking about theirs. The last two times USC's been in the Top 10, it's been knocked out soon after.

A No. 9 ranking after a 5-0 start in 2001 was met with a 10-7 loss at Arkansas. The No. 8 Gamecocks fell to Georgia Tech in 1988, a three-week stay in the Top 10 devolving into a 2-4 finish.

With first-year coach Butch Davis and the Heels knocking off Miami last week, USC's treating the matchup warily. It's doubtful Spurrier will preside over the same kind of performance he had the last time he was at Kenan.

"I went up there this past weekend after we played Kentucky, and that's all they're talking about," said tight end Weslye Saunders, a freshman from Durham, N.C. "Everybody getting prepped up for this game. They beat Miami, so they're feeling pretty good about themselves."

Spurrier also pointed out his team's No. 7 ranking wasn't indicative of its play. He said the Gamecocks are 11th in the SEC in rushing offense and rushing defense, certainly not the benchmark of the country's seventh-best team.

"They're 2-4 but they could be 4-2 just as easily," Spurrier said, mentioning three of UNC's four losses have come by a combined 12 points. "If we're going to beat them, we have to really play well, we have to play better maybe than the way we've been playing."

• NOTES: USC's home game with Vanderbilt next week is set to kick off at 12:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on pay-per-view. ... Defensive end Eric Norwood, a day after being named SEC Defensive Player of the Week, received National Defensive Player of the Week honors from the Masters Football Coaches and the Football Writers' Association. ... Spurrier was named this year's Davey O'Brien Legends Award winner and will be honored Feb. 18 in Fort Worth, Texas.