College Sports

Spurrier, Gamecocks wishing for another 2005 stretch

South Carolina's Josh Brown (87) watches his game-winning kick two years ago during the Gamecocks' 16-15 win at Tennessee.
South Carolina's Josh Brown (87) watches his game-winning kick two years ago during the Gamecocks' 16-15 win at Tennessee.

COLUMBIA -- South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier is hoping lightning strikes twice, beginning Saturday.

"Two years ago, we beat these three teams," Spurrier said. "We beat Tennessee and Arkansas and Florida. Somehow."

The No. 15 Gamecocks (6-2, 3-2 SEC), coming off a stunning 17-6 home loss to Vanderbilt, spent the day after the loss watching just how bad they were on tape. Then Spurrier told them to shelve it immediately, because the season-ending next four games are expected to be dogfights.

And the first three will determine if USC can remain in first place in the SEC East, thus clinching the program's first spot in the SEC championship.

"We've still got big things ahead of us," tight end Jared Cook said. "We're focusing on the road ahead."

Spurrier stressed USC's epic performance against the next three opponents during his first year on the job. In 2005, the Gamecocks lost their first three SEC games, including the last two by 23 and 41 points. After regrouping over Kentucky and Vanderbilt, USC walked into Tennessee the next week and emerged with a 16-15 win, courtesy of Josh Brown's crossbar-scraping 49-yard field goal.

The Gamecocks became bowl-eligible the next week with a 14-10 win at Arkansas and followed with a 30-22 win over Florida, USC's first win over the Gators since 1939. They finished the year with two straight losses, although they qualified for the Independence Bowl.

With six wins already and a chance to win the SEC, Spurrier reminded his older players of the 2005 run and told his younger guys anything could happen. The first step is Saturday at Tennessee, where Spurrier got his first big USC win.

"We believe we have a chance," he said. "But we've got to one-game-at-a-time it, and get some breaks, and not beat ourselves."

• GOOD TO SEE YOU: Rock Hill native Jonathan Hefney gets another shot to beat the Gamecocks when he lines up as Tennessee's starting free safety Saturday.

Hefney, who originally committed to USC before the Gamecocks asked him to greyshirt, has 10 career interceptions and hit the big play in last year's 31-24 win at USC. Hefney returned a punt that helped break open a close game.

• RADIO HOGS AND CHICKENS: USC Athletics Media Relations Director Steve Fink announced the Gamecocks' game against Arkansas Nov. 3 will not be televised. It will be the first and probably only game of the season where USC fans can not watch their favorite team.

"We tried everything within our power to make the game available for Gamecock fans, including reaching out to the Arkansas athletic department to possibly change the game time," Fink said. "Unfortunately, that was not an option."

The game will kick off at 2 p.m. and be available on the radio and the Internet.

SEC regulations have every conference game available for TV networks, and state each school may use one pay-per-view option per season if their game is not selected for regional or national coverage. The Gamecocks used their pay-per-view option for last week's loss to Vanderbilt.

USC has been on national TV five times this year and on Lincoln Financial's regional package once. The Gamecocks' games against Louisiana-Lafayette, S.C. State and Vanderbilt were on pay-per-view.

Officials are expecting USC's last two games (Florida and Clemson) to be picked up for TV but times and channels have not been finalized.

• FUMBLE-ITIS: Tailbacks Cory Boyd and Mike Davis cruised through USC's first six games without losing the handle. Combined with last season, they had gone 15 games (320 touches) without fumbling.

In the two games since, each has lost the ball.

Davis was the first, losing a fumble for the first time in his career against North Carolina. Boyd followed last week, dropping the ball against Vanderbilt and watching it turn into a Commodores touchdown soon after.

• OVERTIME: Spurrier, among other complaints about the Gamecocks' struggling offense, pointed out the extra work kicker Ryan Succop's been forced to produce. Succop has already punted 42 times this year, compared to 30 all of last year.

"We've brought the punt back into play this year, that's for sure," Spurrier said.

• TOUGH JOB AHEAD: USC's offensive line is obviously going through a rough patch, shouldering the lion's share of the blame for the Gamecocks' miserable offense. All it has to do is look on the other side of the field for the definition of a pass-blocking line.

Tennessee's Eric Young, Anthony Parker, Josh McNeil, Chris Scott and Ramon Foster have started every game this year and have allowed just one sack of quarterback Erik Ainge. Ainge, a dropback passer like USC counterparts Chris Smelley and Blake Mitchell, has had all the time he's needed to throw for 1,797 yards (second in the SEC) and hasn't had to scramble (minus-10 rushing yards all season).

USC has given up 26 sacks, including seven last week.

• A RARE LINDSEY SIGHTING: Linebacker Dustin Lindsey (knee) returned to practice this week after spraining his knee and running into some academic issues. It's been an up-and-down season for the senior, who missed the start of preseason camp trying to resolve his academic standing, re-joined the team, saw his twin brother Jordin Lindsey flunk out, got hurt and re-entered the academic doghouse when he missed too much study hall.

Lindsey could play against Tennessee, along with linebacker Gerrod Sinclair (knee).

Offensive lineman Kevin Young (ankle) could play this week and tailback Bobby Wallace (collarbone) was also practicing. Wallace hasn't played all year after breaking his collarbone in preseason camp, but with USC's offense switching gears to a run-based game, he may get some touches.

Free safety Stoney Woodson (hamstring) was practicing this week but is questionable for Tennessee.