COLUMBIA — Steve Spurrier might have done one of his finest coaching jobs this season.
He’s led a South Carolina squad turned upside down by injuries and suspensions to six Southeastern Conference wins for the first time in school history.
Spurrier, whose team plays host to No. 18 Clemson on Saturday night, expected the No. 14 Gamecocks’ offense to be a stable strength. But senior quarterback Stephen Garcia was kicked off the team and sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore suffered a season-ending injury. They accounted for more than 81 percent of the offense of the 2010 team that made the SEC title game.
Spurrier shrugs off any credit, saying this season is more a product of a little good luck – South Carolina has won four of five games decided by less than a touchdown – and a stifling defense.
“We realize we’re fortunate enough to be in the situation we’re in right now. We’ve won almost all of our close games this year; all but one,” Spurrier said. “We’ve had very good fortune this year. We’re not a great team by any stretch of the imagination, but we are 9-2.”
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney also admires the job Spurrier has done.
Swinney said he has a ton of respect for the 67-year-old Spurrier and he hopes he can accomplish all the things Spurrier has in 22 seasons as a college coach.
“They’ve done a great job of playing to their strengths. They’ve done a great job overcoming adversity,” Swinney said.
The injuries the Gamecocks have dealt with haven’t been limited to the offense. Eight defensive players came out of last Saturday’s win against The Citadel complaining of various ailments, although five of them were able to practice Tuesday. No position has been hit harder than running back. Along with Lattimore, junior Eric Baker and freshman Shon Carson have also had knee injuries.
“I can’t remember this many sort of key injuries to running backs. Three knees in the running back category. I never remember that many really even on the entire team, Spurrier said.