Gamecocks try to recover

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has been worried about his offense all season, and his fears were realized last weekend.

This Saturday, Spurrier's 15th-ranked Gamecocks will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing loss when they visit a Tennessee team also reeling from a defeat.

Oddsmakers from Bodog.com have made Tennessee -3 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday's game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 60% of bets for this game have been placed on South Carolina +3 (View College Football bet percentages).

South Carolina's offense managed only 195 yards in Saturday's 17-6 upset loss to Vanderbilt - Spurrier's first career defeat in 15 games against the Commodores. The loss knocked the Gamecocks (6-2, 3-2 Southeastern Conference), who have beaten ranked teams in Georgia and Kentucky this year, down nine spots from No. 6 in the top 25.

"This should not be a shock to our team," Spurrier said. "This should not be a shock. Hopefully, it will straighten them out."

Including a the second half of a 21-15 victory at North Carolina two weeks ago, South Carolina's offense has been held to two field goals its past six quarters. It is ranked just 93rd out of 119 Football Bowl Subdivision teams with 340.5 total yards per game - quite an embarrassment for a coach who has forged a reputation as an offensive mastermind.

"Jumping offside, dropping the ball here and there. We couldn't hit guys that were open," Spurrier said. "It was embarrassing for our offense, and I coach the offense.

"So shoot, I've apologized every year for a bad play and probably ought to again."

Starting quarterback Chris Smelley threw two interceptions, and fifth-year senior Blake Mitchell, who Spurrier benched in favor of Smelley earlier in the season, was picked once. The offensive line, meanwhile, was flagged for five false start penalties.

Spurrier still hasn't decided who will start at quarterback against the Volunteers (4-3, 2-2), but said all three of his QBs - including third-stringer Tommy Beecher, a more mobile option - would compete for the job.

"All the quarterbacks practiced tonight - Tommy Beecher, Chris Smelley and Blake Mitchell," Spurrier told his team's official Web site on Monday. "We'll find one to start somewhere in that group, hopefully by Saturday."

Spurrier is hoping he can make some big adjustments in time for a tough stretch of games. After visiting Tennessee, the Gamecocks travel to Arkansas, where they are 2-5 all-time, and then host Spurrier's former school Florida, which has only lost once in the series' past 16 games

Tennessee, meanwhile, is 20-3-2 all-time against South Carolina, though Spurrier has a 10-6 record against the Vols. He is the only coach to win in Knoxville with three different teams - Duke, Florida and South Carolina - and led the Gamecocks to their first ever road win in the series, a 16-15 victory in 2005.

Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer is just 4-8 against Spurrier, but 13-1 against South Carolina. Spurrier has won 143 games in the SEC, two ahead of Fulmer for the most among active coaches.

"Both of us are in the mix for the Eastern Division championship, so you have a game that is crucial, both schools coming off tough losses," Fulmer told the Vols' official Web site. "We want to get back on the right track."

The Vols are coming off a humiliating 41-17 loss to rival Alabama that knocked them out of the top 25. Alabama outgained Tennessee 510-362 and held the ball for nearly 38 minutes as the Volunteers committed a season-high 11 penalties for 81 yards.

The defeat prompted Fulmer to call a rare Sunday practice, hoping his team could begin moving on sooner rather than later.

"The simple fact for us is that we just got to play better," Fulmer said. "We're going to watch the tape, practice, and get Alabama behind us as we get ready for South Carolina."

Tennessee quarterback Eric Ainge, who ranks second in the conference with 256.7 passing yards per game, was 22-for-35 for 243 yards, a touchdown and an interception. However, Lucas Taylor, who entered the game as the SEC's leading receiver, was held to two catches for 15 yards.

Taylor has been bothered by a sore toe, but Fulmer said he should be able to play against the Gamecocks. Fellow receiver Josh Briscoe left Saturday's game with a concussion in the first half and will be evaluated throughout the week.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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