No. 13 LSU looks to bounce back against Gamecocks Print
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Friday, 17 October 2008 12:07
NCAAF Headline News

 COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -A frustrated Les Miles snapped on the tape of LSU's worst loss in six years the day after it happened, poised to find problems galore with his national champs. But by the time he finished, the Tigers coach had uncovered more hope than worry.
Miles painstakingly replayed each down, no matter how painful to watch his team's 51-21 defeat at Florida last Saturday night, and marked down the number of each player he saw give superlative effort. By the end, ``my sheet was full,'' Miles said. ``Guys that fight like that, they have confidence.''
ranked Tigers' stunning defeat, to carry his team into Saturday night's game at surprising South Carolina.
LSU's try for a second-straight crown took a serious hit against the Gators. A similar effort at Williams-Brice Stadium against the Gamecocks (5-2, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) could leave LSU (4-1, 1-1) too far behind in the SEC title race as well.
Miles sees a group that's counting on a rebound.
``I think everybody has a spirit of what can I do,'' he said. ``One thing about it is we don't intend to lose in that room very often, but when that room comes together and understands that there was something that they could have done to play better and allow our team to have success last Saturday, it really gives a spirit of 'Let's get it fixed. Let's practice. Let's prepare.'''
After falling behind 20-0, the Tigers got within a touchdown of the lead early in the third quarter. But it was too many mistakes (a fumble and two interceptions) and too much of Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow (two TD passes and another score running).
LSU quarterback Andrew Hatch thinks the Tigers have learned from their errors.
``That's part of football. You can't let it set you back,'' he said. ``You can only let a loss motivate you. I think that's how we've done it.''
South Carolina certainly has let its early offensive struggles set it back.
Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier was throwing his notes in frustration after many plays, often for more yards than his offense had gained.
South Carolina's offense had sunk near the bottom of the SEC, losing to Vanderbilt and Georgia in September. Spurrier shuffled quarterbacks, receivers, offensive linemen and tailbacks, all with little success the first month.
Something clicked the past few weeks, though. The Gamecocks rallied twice, at Ole Miss (31-24) and Kentucky (24-17), to fashion a four-game stretch that suddenly has them - with a break or two - sneaking back in the SEC Eastern Division chase.
Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn says beating LSU would be huge, but Spurrier had the players focused simply on improving their own play rather than worried about a high-profile opponent.
``Coach Spurrier, he did something new for the first time here,'' Munnerlyn said. ``He saying stuff like we're worrying about ourselves right now. I like that in coach.''
Spurrier probably likes Munnerlyn right now, too. The junior was named the SEC's special team player of the week for his efforts against Kentucky, including an 81-yard TD return of a blocked field goal.
Munnerlyn remembers watching some of Florida's blowout last week and telling roommate, linebacker Jasper Brinkley, that LSU was going to be ``maaaad. They're going to come in here and make it a physical battle. So you know what we've got to do, make it a physical battle first.''
Spurrier says the Gamecocks can't count on LSU being as error-prone this week. ``We certainly aren't big-headed around here. We know we have to scrap and claw, special teams make a play or two,'' he said.
A big part of the Wildcat win was freshman quarterback Stephen Garcia, who came on in the second half to throw for 169 yards and the winning touchdown to tight end Weslye Saunders midway through the fourth quarter.
The performance brought Garcia the league's freshman of the week award, praise from Spurrier and his first starting assignment this weekend.
Garcia is better known by Gamecock fans as the high-school phenom suspended from the past two spring practices because of run ins with authorities. Garcia says he's ready to make his mark on the field instead of off it.
``When I first got here I didn't deal with it too well, obviously. But that's behind me,'' Garcia says. ``I'm definitely learning how to deal with it a lot more maturely after what happened.''
Miles wants his LSU club to show its own maturity this week. Last year's two-loss titlists understand a single defeat won't ruin championship hopes.
this week and winning this week,'' he said. ``That's what I want. That's the focus I want.''
 

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