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September 5, 2007COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier talked all preseason about how his Gamecocks were ready to compete for the Southeastern Conference title.
It's still early in the season, but maybe the head ball coach spoke too soon.
``Maybe I've overstated our team by throwing out some goals that appeared after that game the other night, 'That guy's crazy. What's he talking about?''' Spurrier said Tuesday, referring to the Gamecocks lackluster 28-14 win over Louisiana-Lafayette.
South Carolina (1-0) missed too many tackles, ave up 252 yards rushing and had too many other mistakes in the win. If the Gamecocks hope to compete against No. 11 Georgia (1-0) on Saturday, they will have to play much better.
The Gamecocks have lost five straight to Georgia, and even though Spurrier is 11-3 against the Bulldogs, the ball coach hasn't beaten them in his two years at South Carolina.
``All SEC games count and obviously your division games count a little bit more,'' Spurrier said. ``It's just as important for them as it is us.''
But victories over the Bulldogs in 2000 and 2001 set the tone for those seasons, when the Gamecocks eventually won back-to-back Outback Bowls.
And while Spurrier said he was ready to put the Louisiana-Lafayette game behind him, he was still smarting over the mistakes, like having only 10 players initially line up for a field goal attempt and young quarterback, Tommy Beecher, hitting the Ragin' Cajuns' ``safety in the facemask two in a row.''
Spurrier did find some pride in watching his team stop Louisiana-Lafayette twice inside the Gamecocks' 5. However, the coach admitted that he thought South Carolina would be better against teams the Gamecocks were expected to blow out.
A year ago, the Gamecocks struggled against former Division I-AA Wofford, 27-20.
``I was hoping we were past those kinds of games,'' Spurrier said. ``But we're not past that. We're not past the way we've been playing around here. It's frustrating. But it is what it is. We've got to keep coaching. We've got to keep making changes.''
And there are plenty of changes this week. Fifth-year senior Blake Mitchell was expected to be back under center after a one-game suspension for missing too many classes, even though the coach said he would wait until Thursday to officially name the starting QB.
Among the other changes, sophomore Freddie Brown was tapped to play wide receiver and redshirt freshman Kevin Young would take over at right guard. Linebacker Dustin Lindsey may get the start, too, Spurrier said.
``We've got to keep making changes, the way I look at it,'' the coach said. ``If players can't get it done, you try the next guy. Then you may come back to that guy. But you keep changing until you find some guys that really want to play well and can play well.''
Spurrier shuffled the offense up a year ago when the Gamecocks struggled to move the ball, but that was only after an 18-0 loss to Georgia. This year, it's the defense that still has the lingering question marks.
Spurrier mentioned improving tackling at least a half dozen times during his news conference, and noted the sound defensive play during Clemson's 24-18 win over Florida State on Monday night.
``Those were two teams flying around, going crazy on defense,'' Spurrier said. ``If we can get to that level defensively, shoot yeah, we can talk about an SEC (title) seriously instead of maybe just dreaming about it. We've got to get to that competitive level that we haven't shown yet.''
The Gamecocks will get their chance Saturday at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga.
``As a unit, we're going to have to improve on everything because Georgia's a big game for us,'' said Lemuel Jeanpierre, who was being replaced as a starter by Young on the offensive line.