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Carolina must slow Georgia rushers

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier and his team are counting down the hours until kickoff against fifth-ranked Georgia. The Gamecocks (5-0, 3-0) host the Bulldogs (5-0, 3-0) on Saturday night at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

Spurrier spoke to the media on Wednesday on the SEC teleconference.

Opening comments

OK, we’re entering our sixth game and Georgia is also. We’re both pretty much full speed, all the players healthy, and ready to go. As far as our team is concerned, anyway, our players are very healthy. Just about all the guys who have been playing are ready to go. It’s a big game for both of us, although, I’m sure they’re hoping and we’re hoping we have bigger games down the road. The winner, obviously, is in good position. The winner doesn’t always win the East, as we found out last year. You have to play all eight of your games. It’s a crucial game for both teams at this time of the year. Should be a heck of a game here on Saturday night.

Do the spread offenses lead to more points being scored?

I think it’s a combination of a lot of teams actually no-huddling. We actually try to no huddle but we don’t try to run 90 plays. Sometimes you forget if you try to run 85 plays, the other team might get 85, too. It’s just a matter of the approach you want to go at it. I think teams are trying more big plays. In the old days, you’d run up the middle, maybe second down you’d throw something, third down, you have to pass. We’re past those days. Teams are still, they come out and fire for big three plays in a row and the clock doesn’t go anywhere if you miss. Then the other team gets it, they go for three big plays in a row, and you hit it and the clock doesn’t go anywhere. That’s how you get a whole bunch of plays.

They changed the rules a while back. When you run out of bounds, they stop the clock, as soon as they spot the ball, they start the clock again. Running out of bounds is no big deal as far as stopping the clock except the last minute of the half. An incomplete pass is what stops it. Teams that throw 50 passes a game, they’re going to have 85 plays, or something like that. You stop them and the other team can consume clock. At times, we’ve been pretty good at running the clock in the fourth quarter with Marcus Lattimore. We approach it a little more that way. If our offense can stay on the field, it gives us the best chance to win the game.

Can you talk about the match-up between your secondary and Georgia’s wide receivers. Any concern with how well they’ve played over at Georgia?

Oh, I don’t know that we’ve played all that way over Georgia against the receivers. Last year, we got a special teams score and two defensive scores. That’s how we got 45. Marcus Lattimore ran for 170 yards, or so. We have not thrown the ball up and down the field the last two years that we’ve won. Hopefully we can catch some passes here and there. We’re probably a team that runs a little bit better than we throw.

I mean, your secondary versus Georgia’s wide receivers.

We’ll find out. We’ll find out. We’ll find out. We’ll find out if we can pass rush ‘em. It all goes together. They certainly have some excellent receivers. Aaron Murray is an excellent quarterback who can hit them. We have to cover and rush the passer; it’s as simple as that.

Do you like to play Georgia earlier in the season than playing them now?

It doesn’t matter. Obviously, a little bit bigger game that we’re both 5-0 coming in. I sort of liked playing Florida near the end, now we’ve got them sort of in the middle. We’ve shaken the schedule around and I think they’re going to move it around again next year. Whenever they tell us to play them. If they want us to play at 12-noon, we’ll play then. Or seven or eight o’clock at night. You have to be flexible and play them when they tell you to.

Does this game start to feel like what you have with Clemson?

I have said before I think Georgia is our biggest conference rival but we’re certainly not their biggest conference rival. They have Florida and Auburn. In-state, they have Georgia Tech just like we’ve got Clemson. South Carolina, we still have not beaten enough teams enough to consider us a big rival. Clemson may consider us one since we’re in-state and so forth. Hopefully the teams we need to beat are Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, and Vandy. Sometimes you can beat all of them and not win the division as we found out last year. We need to try to beat the teams that are close to us. I don’t think Georgia sees us as a big rival.

Could you comment on why tackling in college football is so down this year and how much time you spend on the art of tackling in practice.

I don’t have the answer. We try to tackle pretty well. I think athletes are, obviously, very good on offense and maybe some of the defensive backs are not very good tacklers. Our tacklers have been pretty good so far this year. Blocking and tackling are the two most important fundamentals of football, as we all know, and we probably spend less time on blocking and tackling than we do on Xs and Os when we try to out-scheme everybody when we should be trying to out-block and tackle people.

Could you give your thoughts on Georgia’s two freshmen running backs.

They’re very good players, have a good offensive line and have a good scheme of things. They can throw the ball, also, so they’re not one-dimensional. When you can do both, you give the defenses problems. Freshmen running backs have proven they can come in and do well. Obviously, Marcus Lattimore two years ago was sensational. Their two guys are sensational, also. They can go the distance. They have two good ones and can use both of them. We have to stop them or slow them down if we’re going to have a chance here on Saturday night.

Do you agree with the statement that the SEC West has had the run of things and do you think the gap has closed?

Who knows until we play them all out. Whoever wins the game in Atlanta, their division will be the best this year. That’s the way I’ve sort of always looked at it. We have to wait and see what happens as we go through the season.

What in Lorenzo Ward made you feel was the right fit and what has been his imprint on your defense?

Lorenzo Ward, obviously I talk a lot of football with our coaches, and we think similarly about things - maybe a little more than Ellis and I did. So we changed a little bit. We really try not to maybe have defenses where our guys can screw up. We have not had mental errors, quite as many, as we’ve had in the past. But Ellis was a heck of a defensive coach, don’t get me wrong. We were third in the conference and fourth or fifth in the nation last year. We just had some mental errors back there at times. We just try to be fundamentally sound and let our guys play. Lorenzo, when I talk defense with him, we’re right there together. It was obvious the players really love the guy and play for him. He’s got a bright future as a D-coordinator and maybe a head coach some day.

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