Originally created 09/30/03

Holtz: Gamecocks belonged on field with Tennessee



COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina coach Lou Holtz gave his players until Monday morning to feel down about their overtime loss at Tennessee.

Holtz didn't need that long. He had watched the game film.

"It wasn't like we were lucky to be in the ball game," Holtz said Monday after practice. "I give Tennessee credit, they're an excellent team. But I think our players proved something to themselves."

Holtz saw this building last week. He was proven right when South Carolina didn't wilt in the face of Tennessee's talent and the deafening sound of its Orange-clad crowd.

"It was a great game because the momentum went back and forth so much," Holtz said. "And neither team would fold. Each team responded. And it was great to be part of that environment."

Despite the 23-20 overtime loss, Holtz expects his team to gain from it later on.

"We're still a young football team," he said. "What's important is we get better."

And that looks like what they're doing.

Freshman Demetris Summers rushed for 158 yards, nearly as much as the Volunteers - who moved up a spot to No. 7 after the win - had permitted in their first three games combined. South Carolina's defense, adjusting to a 4-3 alignment put in this season, contained the Vols on for much of the contest. Quarterback Dondrial Pinkins, a junior whose job was in jeopardy less than two weeks earlier, "came of age," Holtz said.

But would the players heed Holtz's 8 a.m. edict to forget the game and look to the future? Apparently so. Holtz says he saw a spirited, confident club at Monday's workout.

"I like the attitude they had today," the coach said. "I like their demeanor."

He certainly liked some of the things he saw in the game. The Gamecocks (3-2) rushed for 217 yards, 100 more than the Vols; Pinkins kept the ball out of danger and continually found the right receivers for big plays; and embattled kicker Daniel Weaver made two very crucial field goals - with no misses - that forced overtime.

"We just knew if we went out and executed the game plan, we had a shot at being successful," Pinkins said. "It got down to the end and we couldn't put it away."

The Gamecocks will spend much of their off week - they return to action Thursday, Oct. 9 at home against Kentucky - working on the game's most basic techniques, Holtz said.