COLUMBIA, S.C. -- With less than 48 hours before kickoff at Tennessee, South Carolina's place-kicker battle is still too close to call.
"Don't ask me who's going to kick," Gamecocks coach Lou Holtz said Thursday evening.
The questions started this week when Holtz said he'd look for alternatives to kicker Daniel Weaver, who made only 1-of-5 on field goals this year. Weaver and punter Josh Brown got most of the work in practice - and there was no clear-cut winner after practice.
Weaver and Brown each made all three of their attempts Thursday. "I think we'll take them both" to Knoxville and jam-packed Neyland Stadium to face the eighth-ranked Vols.
C'mon, coach, who gets to start?
"It depends which one brings me cookies, or brownies, or an apple or something like that," Holtz said. "The one who treats me the nicest, like any other teacher would answer."
The down-to-the-wire battle is much different that last week's quarterback derby, where Holtz brought in two freshmen to fight for starter Dondrial Pinkins' job. By the close of practice last Thursday, Pinkins had risen above the others.
And Pinkins had a solid outing last Saturday in the 42-10 win over Alabama-Birmingham, completing 13-of-19 passes for 202 yards.
The kicking game has befuddled Holtz all season. Weaver, a senior from North Myrtle Beach, has always kicked well in practice with the solid end-over-end ball flight Holtz covets. But Weaver has slumped during games.
Since making South Carolina's game-winning 42-yard field goal to beat Ohio State at the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day 2002, Weaver is only 11-of-21.
Weaver's problems continued against Alabama-Birmingham. He missed a 40-yard try in the first quarter, then - after freshman Charlie Carpenter blew an extra point - Weaver failed on a 28-yarder when the Gamecocks went back to him in the third quarter.
During this week's practices, though, Holtz said "we made a few changes. We'll just have to see. We've really kicked well this week."
Holtz and the Gamecocks hope that finally shows where it counts - on the field.
The kicking questions didn't dampen a strong week of practice that left Holtz practically giddy. Two weeks ago before the Georgia game, Holtz halted workouts because things went so poorly. Holtz knew then the Gamecocks wouldn't play well at Georgia. And they did not, falling 31-7.
"It was the whole week, I'd go home, I'd pray, I'd think, I'd never had anything like that," Holtz said. "But I'm anxious to see this team play" at Tennessee.
After more than three decades as a head coach, Holtz has learned to key into his team's attitude and how they'll play. These Gamecocks, he thinks, have a chance. "And I'm not wrong very often," Holtz said.
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