Originally created 09/07/02

Gamecocks' Holtz prefers to keep teams guessing



South Carolina coach Lou Holtz wasn't happy after his team's season-opening win over New Mexico State, but he wasn't shattered either.

Expected to make quick work of the Aggies, the Gamecocks struggled before pulling away in the fourth quarter to win 34-24. The season opener left plenty of people questioning South Carolina - which is exactly how Holtz would like it.

"I was disappointed," Holtz said earlier this week. "But at the same time, I relish this."

Holtz has made quite a living in the underdog role, most recently by lifting the Gamecocks from the ashes and into Southeastern Conference contention. One can assume he'll use the adversity faced in the past week to motivate his team and himself.

"You don't like to coach with a pat hand," said Holtz, whose No. 22 Gamecocks play at Virginia tonight (7:45, ESPN). "We sure have enough to do. Time doesn't drag, I promise you that."

Worries over last week's game became minor in comparison Thursday, when news broke that the NCAA was investigating the football program for potential rules violations.

Holtz said he was "violently upset" at the reports, and said they were a "slap" at the state of South Carolina, the university and the football program.

"They don't think we can win without cheating," Holtz said Thursday. "They don't think we can recruit without cheating. This is nonsense."

Langston Moore, a senior nose tackle at South Carolina, said before Thursday's revelations that Holtz thrives on adversity created by a poor performance.

"He probably loves to be in this situation right now, so he can really coach," Moore said. "He told us Saturday he was going to be with (the defense) more than the offense."

Holtz doesn't usually coach the defense, and he hasn't had to since he took over before the 1999 season. The Gamecocks have consistently ranked among the SEC's best defenses the past three years, but last week's showing provided evidence things could be different this year.

South Carolina appeared helpless at times against the Aggies' option offense, giving up 212 rushing yards.

"All of us are sort of in a state of shock over what happened last Saturday," said Holtz, whose team plays host to No. 10 Georgia next week.

So Holtz moved to defense, mainly coaching the cornerbacks, and he shifted starting receiver Andrea Gause to cornerback.

On a positive note, the Gamecocks seem to be OK on offense. They scored six of the nine times they had the ball, and quarterback Corey Jenkins threw for 166 yards and ran for 113.

"I don't think anything is as bad as it seems or as good as it seems," Holtz said. "Somewhere in between the reality falls. I don't think we're as good on offense as we looked last Saturday, and I certainly don't think we're as bad on defense as we looked last Saturday."

Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645.