Dogs prepare for battle

ATHENS, Ga. --- Georgia fans have viewed Steve Spurrier through the years as enemy No. 1 and the devil incarnate in a visor.

 

The South Carolina coach could be taking on the role of a sympathetic figure this week, but that probably won't keep the Bulldog Nation from wanting to kick him while he's down.

Spurrier's Gamecocks (1-1, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) are coming off their second consecutive loss to Vanderbilt and their sixth in seven games. Spurrier apologized to fans on his TV show after the 24-17 defeat.

Spurrier is 22-17 in his fourth season in Columbia heading into Saturday's game against No. 2 Georgia (2-0, 0-0). After going 122-27-1 with six SEC titles and a national championship in 12 seasons at Florida, some observers of the game are wondering if it has passed him by.

"With the way we play offense, you can say that," Spurrier said Sunday. "Two years ago, our offense was pretty good but it ain't been very good lately, that's for sure. That's part of the game. If your team doesn't play well, you're not a very good coach and I'm not a very good coach right now. That's just the way life is. When I had a bunch of guys running around scoring a bunch of points, I was a real good coach."

The Gamecocks have thrown more interceptions than any Bowl Subdivision team (six) and are tied for the most sacks given up (nine). They'll try to rebound from giving up 21 second-half points to Vanderbilt after going six quarters without giving up a touchdown.

"It seems like coach Spurrier's always had a real consistent triggerman, and I think they're just still looking for that right now," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "I can promise you we're concerned about coach Spurrier's offense. We always have been. We have the ultimate respect for him."

Tommy Beecher started South Carolina's first game and Chris Smelley the second. They've combined for six interceptions in 66 pass attempts and just two plays of more than 24 yards this year.

"We've got two quarterbacks that have not really distinguished themselves from each other," said Spurrier, who will decide on his starter after the week of practice.

South Carolina leads the SEC in total defense (181.5 yards per game), but it's the offense that has struggled. Spurrier said All-SEC receiver Kenny McKinley could play Saturday despite a strained hamstring. Offensive lineman Jamon Meredith will return after being forced to sit out the first two games because of an NCAA eligibility ruling.

South Carolina dealt Georgia one of its two losses last season, 16-12 in Athens. Richt is 5-2 against South Carolina, but five of the games have been decided by six points or less.

"Shoot, when we play those guys, it's been a battle royale, and they've been relatively low-scoring games," Richt said. "I'm not going to be preparing our team for anything different than that."

Reach Marc Weiszer at marc.weiszer@morris.com.

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