Though he has been in Columbia since 2005, deep family roots still tie Steve Spurrier to Florida. He won the Heisman Trophy there in 1966 and the life-size statue of him outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium was dedicated last year.
In this very conflicted week, Steve Spurrier knows that in order for his South Carolina team accomplish its goals, he must beat the team he loves more than any other on Saturday: Florida.
The No. 7 Gamecocks (6-1, 4-1) trail the No. 2 Gators (6-0, 5-0) in the SEC’s Eastern division. A victory in The Swamp, a nickname coined by Spurrier while he resurrected the Florida program in the 1990s, will put South Carolina back on track to win its second division title in the past three years.
Though he has been in Columbia since 2005, deep family roots still tie Spurrier to Florida. He won the Heisman Trophy there in 1966 and the life-size statue of him outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium was dedicated last year.
“Florida’s always going to be my school,” he said. “We are Gators but we are Gamecocks now. When my coaching days are over, I’ll be more of a Gator then. … Hopefully the Gators finish second in the East this year, with the Gamecocks finishing first.”
There’s a third team that Spurrier left out of his SEC wish list. The Georgia Bulldogs, perhaps like Spurrier’s family, will be watching this weekend with divided interest. Because UGA lost to the Gamecocks 35-7 earlier this season, they need the Gators to win this weekend. Then UGA must beat Florida in their meeting in next weekend in Jacksonville to maintain any hopes of returning to the SEC Championship game for the second consecutive year.
If the Gamecocks win this weekend, they will have the head-to-head tiebreaker over both Georgia and Florida.
In the weekly SEC coaches teleconference Tuesday, Spurrier acknowledged his team must play better than it did in last week’s 23-21 loss at LSU if it hopes to defeat the Gators.
He rattled off a list of errors his team made in Death Valley, including poor play by quarterback Connor Shaw, poor blocking along the offensive line, poor tackling and what he perceived to be an overall lack of focus.
Despite all that, he also pointed out the team only lost by two points and its ambitions are still intact as long as the Gamcocks beat his old school.
“If we are going to win the division, we have to beat Florida,” he said. “All of our goals are still out there.”
Spurrier described Florida as “smart” and playing a “winning” type of football built on dependable offense, defense and special teams. It’s hardly the same type of Gators team that Spurrier led to six SEC titles and a national championship on the strength of a “Fun and Gun” passing offense.
This year’s Florida team could be called “Ground and Pound.” The Gators focus on a rushing offense that’s second in the SEC (233.3 yards per game). Its passing attack ranks last in the conference, something unthinkable when Spurrier was there.
He doesn’t seem to care.
“As we know, there’s all kinds of way to win,” he said. “One of the ways is outstanding defense, specials teams and running the ball.”
And then he offered this nugget, which may have made his former quarterbacks Danny Wuerffel and Shane Matthews pass out if they were nearby: “You don’t have to throw the ball to win championships.”
It was at turns clunky and hard to watch, but it was entirely sweet.Georgia Tech played perhaps its most memorable game in the young history of McCamish Pavilion, rallying from 12 points down with less than seven minutes to go and four down with just over a minute left to claim a 67-64 win over Illinois on Tuesday night.