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Coach Steve Spurrier back in SEC title game
This year looked like it might be another tease when the Gamecocks again followed a big win against Alabama with a disappointing loss to Kentucky. Spurrier was shaken, but not down.
At 65, the South Carolina head ball coach is back in the Southeastern Conference title game.
His No. 18 Gamecocks take on second-ranked Auburn Saturday.
“The important thing is that our players really set some lofty goals this year,” he said. “They set some goals that a lot of people maybe would’ve laughed at at the beginning of the season.”
No one, not even Spurrier, critics said, could move South Carolina ahead of the East’s divisional power trio of Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.
“I was a little surprised because I thought there were better options where he could be more immediately successful,” said Chris Doering, a receiver on three SEC champions from 1993-95 for Spurrier at Florida.
But after several false starts, Spurrier’s got the Gamecocks (9-3) set to ruin the league’s chance at a fifth straight national title.
“Oh, we don’t worry about that,” Spurrier said Tuesday. “We worry about South Carolina, our school, our state, our team. And we’re trying to win our first conference championship.”
Not that Eastern Division success came easily.
The Gamecocks were the talk of the nation in October when they toppled then-No. 1 Alabama, 35-21. Then South Carolina’s old ways kicked in with a second-half collapse, turning a 28-10 lead against Kentucky into a 31-28 loss. A lopsided 41-20 defeat at home against Arkansas three weeks later looked like it would doom their chances as South Carolina headed for showdown at The Swamp for the title.
Behind freshman runner Marcus Lattimore and a defense that rattled the Gators, South Carolina broke its 0 for 12 mark in Gainesville with a 36-14 victory and the Gamecocks were off to Atlanta.
“Steve Spurrier is the same coach that he’s been the last four, five, six years,” said Lou Holtz, an ESPN analyst and Spurrier’s Gamecocks predecessor. “He has some wonderful assistants and finally got the players he needed to compete.”
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