No. 21 South Carolina looks to move forward
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Steve Spurrier sounds less certain about No. 21 South Carolina's potential for big things than he did a few weeks ago.
Then again, a performance like the Gamecocks' 52-28 embarrassing loss at home against Texas A&M might shake even the staunchest believer's faith. South Carolina, 0-1 for the first time since 1999, tries to get back on track Saturday night against East Carolina.
It wasn't the showing expected for a team picked in the summer as favorites to win the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division and vie for the league championship.
''Obviously, preseason talk is all it is,'' Spurrier said. ''No one knows how a team has really come around to be. Obviously expectations every year. Some teams, maybe, aren't as good as advertised. Some are better than advertised. Still wait and see for us. It's a wait and see.''
That starts against the Pirates (1-0), who bring some of the same challenges and offensive style as Texas A&M did last week in putting up 680 yards of offense - the most ever allowed by the Gamecocks in school history.
While the Gamecocks defeated the Pirates handily, 48-10, the last time these teams met two years ago, Spurrier's not counting on anything after what he witnessed last week.
Spurrier increased the pace of practice, wanting his guys flying around like they had in the past. He also had more first-team offensive line against first-team defensive line matchups to perk up the team's poor blocking and failure to get much of a pass rush on Texas A&M's Kenny Hill, the first time quarterback starter who threw for 511 yards and three touchdowns.
''We have no excuses and I'm hoping and believing that we can play a whole bunch better,'' Spurrier said.
Things to look for when No. 21 South Carolina takes on East Carolina:
WHERE'S THE RUN?: Spurrier has said often that for South Carolina to succeed like it has in the past, it needs a strong, consistent rushing attack to control the game. That didn't happen against Texas A&M as the Gamecocks managed just 67 yards on 22 carriers. Mike Davis, the team's 1,000-yard rusher, bruised ribs in the game and sat out the second half with just 15 yards. Davis should see action this week as the Gamecocks emphasize the ground game.
REVAMPED OFFENSIVE LINE: Expect a couple of new starters this week on South Carolina's offensive line with Alan Knott and Will Sport likely to see time in place of Cody Waldrop and Clayton Stadnik. Offensive line coach Shawn Elliott says Sport is likely to start at right guard for Waldrop while Knott has worked as first-team center over Stadnick. Elliott says Knott and Sport have worked hard and deserve an opportunity.
CARDEN TO HARDY: Quarterback Shane Carden to receiver Justin Hardy could be a very productive duo for East Carolina on Saturday if the Gamecocks' defense falters as it did a week ago. Carden took over as the Pirates' passer two years ago late against South Carolina and has been in control ever since. Hardy's been his favorite target and after what they saw the Aggies' do, have to be anxious to get to work. ''It's good to have some guys who have been through it and a staff that has been through some big-venue games,'' Pirates coach Ruffin McNeill said.
SPURRIER'S 200th: South Carolina's head ball coach is seeking his 200th win as an SEC coach after 122 in 12 seasons at Florida and 77 so far in 10 seasons with the Gamecocks. Only Paul ''Bear'' Bryant with 292 and Vince Dooley with 201 have more wins coaching SEC teams than Spurrier. Spurrier has 219 wins all time including his three years at Duke, a total that's second only to Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer (267) among active coaches.
PIRATES STRETCH: East Carolina begins a season-making stretch at South Carolina, the first of three matchups with teams from the ''Power Five'' conferences. After this, the Pirates play at Virginia Tech before facing North Carolina at home.