Spurrier says team needs to keep focus

COLUMBIA --- Steve Spurrier's not yet sure how important South Carolina's first victory over a No. 1 opponent will be. He hopes everyone finds out in the next few weeks.


"If we can go on from here and become a real solid team, maybe we can look back and say this is a big one," Spurrier said Sunday.

Spurrier and the Gamecocks were still celebrating South Carolina's landmark win, 35-21, over Alabama on Saturday. Coaches and players have gotten texts and calls of congratulations from practically everyone they know, Spurrier said.

But if the Gamecocks (4-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) don't continue to show the same focus they did against previously top-ranked Alabama (5-1, 2-1), the achievement won't mean as much.

"We know one big win doesn't make a season," he said.

But it's sure a great way to kickstart a championship run.

Spurrier remembered how in 1989, his lightly regarded Duke squad beat Atlantic Coast Conference favorite and seventh-ranked Clemson, 21-17, early in the season. The Blue Devils went on to tie for the conference title, the last football championship in school history.

"That was a big win in '89 because we won all the conference games after that," Spurrier said.

That's something that's rarely easy in the SEC, where South Carolina hasn't reached the title game in its 19 seasons as a member. The Gamecocks' challenge starts next week at Kentucky, which has never beat Spurrier in 17 tries.

South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia understands what must happen to continue the success.

"We just have to play this well every week," said Garcia, who tied his career best with three touchdown passes Saturday.

And keep getting the ball to playmakers in tailback Marcus Lattimore and receiver Alshon Jeffery. Lattimore, a freshman, rushed for 93 yards and two backbreaking, second-half TDs to thwart an Alabama comeback.

Jeffery, the SEC's leading receiver coming in, caught seven passes for 127 yards, including touchdowns of 26 and 15 yards.

"That gives you a chance when you've got a big time running back and wide receiver," Spurrier said.

Spurrier sure would know. Duke wideout Clarkston Hines was the 1989 ACC Player of the Year and tailback Randy Cuthbert became the Blue Devils' first 1,000-yard rusher in 20 years, Spurrier recalled with pride.

Of course, Spurrier attracted some of the game's best skill combos during 12 seasons at Florida, which led to six SEC titles and the 1996 national championship.

Lattimore and Jeffery have yet to win any college titles, but showed they can match up with the game's best.

South Carolina scored touchdowns all four times inside Alabama's 20 after the defending national champions had allowed only two such TDs its first five games.

"You don't win football games when you don't stop them once in the red zone," said Alabama coach Nick Saban.

The Crimson Tide had come in on a 19-game win streak and with an aura of invincibility that was pointing them toward a second national title.

Now, the SEC's cracked wide open with Spurrier thinking the Gamecocks have as good a chance as anyone at getting to Atlanta for the championship game.

Spurrier has watched this season as SEC West teams have so far held the edge on their Eastern counterparts. And that could mean the opportunity for a fully focused South Carolina that Spurrier envisioned when he took the job.

"If there's a year for us to win the East, it's when the East is down a little bit," he said.



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