Offense remains coach's concern

COLUMBIA --- Steve Spurrier sounds like he found a dusty game plan left behind by his South Carolina predecessor, Lou Holtz:

Banking on defense. Reining in the quarterback. Talking up an FCS team like it's Notre Dame.

The Gamecocks (3-1) are coming off their best performance -- and one of the school's biggest wins ever -- in a 16-10 win over fourth-ranked Mississippi. Spurrier, though, sounded downright fearful about tonight's matchup with South Carolina State (3-0), a Football Championship Subdivision squad.

Spurrier said he is truly concerned about the game "because South Carolina State's got a pretty good team."

He is accustomed to having a good offense he can brag about and count on bury the opponent. However, it's the Gamecocks' inconsistent offense that's given him fits this season, if not for most of his five years at South Carolina.

"We're not a bad team, we're just not an explosive team yet," Spurrier said. "We still have hopes we can be someday. But we haven't gotten there yet. Maybe it'll happen soon, who knows."

There aren't many problems on the defensive side of the ball. South Carolina is fourth in the Southeastern Conference and 13th in the country, allowing fewer than 250 yards a game.

South Carolina State coach Buddy Pough is well aware of linebacker Eric Norwood, and not just because younger brother Erin Norwood plays on special teams for the Bulldogs.

"That Eric Norwood kid may be as good a defensive player as there is in the country," said Pough, a former Holtz assistant with the Gamecocks who took on his alma mater's coaching job in 2002.

Spurrier has been perfect in his career, 37-0, against opponents that are not in the six major conferences that have bids to the Bowl Championship Series. Many of those wins came with a quick-strike, high energy offense guaranteed to demoralize overmatched teams. Spurrier hasn't seen that this season.

Spurrier said quarterback Stephen Garcia, who played despite bruised ribs against Ole Miss, is healthier and ready to go. The coach said he is hopeful the offensive work they've put in the past couple of weeks will pay off.

"We were playing pretty sorry on offense last week so we're trying to play better," Spurrier said. "That's what our focus is. It doesn't matter who we are playing."


WHO: South Carolina State (3-0, 1-0 MEAC) at South Carolina 3-1, 1-1 SEC)

TIME: 7 p.m. (ESPN Classic)

WHERE: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia


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