|College Football: Vanderbilt at South Carolina Commodores v. Gamecocks|
|Written by Anthony Rome|
|Thursday, 18 October 2007 14:45|
Gamecocks looking to roll
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier is known for his high-scoring offenses, but he's still tinkering with the Gamecocks' attack.
Spurrier will be looking to continue his domination of Vanderbilt when his sixth-ranked Gamecocks host the Commodores in an SEC matchup on Saturday.
Spurrier rode a prolific offense to six SEC titles and the 1996 national championship as coach at Florida from 1990-2001. Now, he's in his third season at South Carolina (6-1, 3-1) after a stint coaching in the NFL, and he has led the Gamecocks to their highest ranking since they started 9-0 in 1984 and climbed to No. 2.
Spurrier is 14-0 all-time against Vanderbilt (3-3, 1-3), including two wins as coach at Duke, 10 while at Florida and two at South Carolina. His undefeated record against Vanderbilt is one win shy of his personal-best 15-0 mark against Kentucky.
As coach of the Gators, Spurrier oversaw a 52-0 win over the Commodores in 1993 and a 71-13 victory in 2001. However, his Gamecocks likely won't be able to approach those scores, as they rank just eighth in the SEC with 27.9 points per game and ninth with 348.9 total yards per contest.
"It's not as easy as it used to be for me calling plays," Spurrier said.
Freshman Chris Smelley threw for a career-high three touchdowns in the first half last Saturday at North Carolina, but the Gamecocks struggled to hold on for a 21-15 win. The offense sputtered in the second half, gaining only 62 yards while using a more run-oriented offense, and Spurrier took the blame for calling what he termed "conservative crap."
"It was a sad second half for South Carolina, and I'm responsible for that putrid offense," Spurrier said. "We tried to run it on third-and-short, but we couldn't do it. Maybe we should have thrown it a little bit more."
Spurrier did say quarterback Blake Mitchell might see some playing time against the Commodores. The fifth-year senior has not played since losing his starting job following the Gamecocks' 28-16 defeat at LSU on Sept. 22.
Smelley is 4-0 as the Gamecocks' starter, but is still learning Spurrier's system.
"Maybe because he practiced so well we as a coaching staff said, 'Hey, he needs to play some,'" Spurrier said of Mitchell.
While the offense hasn't been overpowering, the Gamecocks have been able to rely on a defense that ranks third in the SEC with 16.6 points allowed per game. South Carolina owns the third-best passing defense in the country, yielding 149.1 yards per game, but allowed North Carolina's T.J. Yates to throw for 285 yards.
The Gamecocks are 14-2 all-time against Vanderbilt and have won each of the last seven meetings.
Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made South Carolina -13.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Thursday's game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 82% of bets for this game have been placed on South Carolina -13.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
The Commodores have dropped their last two games after a 3-1 start, and still have games left against ranked teams Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee. That leaves Vanderbilt a tough road if it plans on finishing the season bowl eligible for the first time since 1982.
"We've been playing some good ball," safety Reshard Langford said. "Things just haven't been going our way. We have to look at it like it's a 0-0 season and win the next six games."
Vanderbilt lost 20-17 to then-No. 24 Georgia last Saturday on a field goal as time expired. The Commodores, who blew a 10-point halftime lead, failed to score in the second half.
"Everybody is real mad," Vandy cornerback D.J. Moore said. "We really could have won this game."
Coach Bobby Johnson swapped quarterbacks early before sticking with backup Mackenzi Adams. Adams had 125 yards passing and a touchdown, and also ran for 46 yards. Chris Nickson, meanwhile, made his 18th consecutive start, but was 2-of-5 for six yards.
"I think we've got two good quarterbacks and we'll continue to use them," Johnson said. "We'll look at it game-plan wise. We won't hesitate to use either one."
Star receiver Earl Bennett, who needs four catches to surpass Craig Yeast's SEC career record of 208, was limited to three catches for 31 yards. In Vanderbilt's three wins, Bennett has 33 receptions for 416 yards and four touchdowns, compared to 11 catches for 114 yards and no TDs in three defeats.
Vandy has been held to 34 points in those losses, and scored 102 in three wins.
"You better be focused or you'll be at a big, big disadvantage if you have that close-loss hangover," Johnson said. "You try to learn what you can improve on and start working on that. That previous game just sort of fades away."
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