Spurrier can’t will South Carolina past Auburn

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ATLANTA (AP) - Steve Spurrier was disappointed to report that his pitch to South Carolina recruits will not change this year.

“We can still tell recruits you can be on that first Southeastern Conference championship team,” Spurrier said after Auburn’s lopsided 56-17 win over his Gamecocks on Saturday. “I can still say that. Going into my seventh year, I can still say that. We’ll make it happen one day.”

Saturday surely wasn’t the day.

Spurrier led South Carolina to its first SEC championship game appearance, but acknowledged this will only be remembered as a good season and not the “super year we had all hoped for.”

Spurrier had said he was happy the NCAA had cleared Auburn’s Cam Newton to play in the game, saying he felt the quarterback deserved to play.

Well, Newton played _ and with a little help from his teammates _ frustrated Spurrier all game.

No matter how deep he reached into his bag of tricks, the coach couldn’t will South Carolina past the Heisman favorite and his Tigers.

It wasn’t for a lack of intensity. The 65-year-old Spurrier _ returning to his first SEC championship game in 10 years _ was animated as ever on the sideline.

His visor felt the brunt of his anguish. He tugged on it throughout the game, pulling it down over his face in disgust after one of three Auburn first-quarter touchdowns. He threw the visor to the ground after Newton’s crushing Hail Mary touchdown pass at the end of the first half.

“He was fired up just like we were fired up,” said South Carolina linebacker Antonio Allen. “We thought we were going to win.”

Spurrier said his excitement only grew before the game as the Georgia Dome was packed long before kickoff.

“I apologize to Carolina fans that came,” he said. “That was the loudest pregame I’ve ever been to in my life. And I thank the Gamecock fans. I wish we could have given you something to cheer about during the game, but we couldn’t do it. Auburn was too good for us.”

Spurrier knows what it’s like to be on the other side.

He won six SEC championships at Florida, where the Gators were often the favorite in the title game. Spurrier’s 18th-ranked Gamecocks couldn’t overcome their underdog role against No. 2 Auburn.

He kept South Carolina close, and the Gamecocks looked to be in good shape after pulling to within 21-14 with just 16 seconds left in the half _ and set to the ball to start the third quarter.

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