Gamecocks looser after 1st SEC win, look to build on it
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) The laughs around South Carolina's locker room are louder, the coach's instructions easier to follow. Nothing perks up a program heading to a bye week like a win - especially after the turbulent times the Gamecocks had before beating Vanderbilt.
South Carolina was still feeling good three days after its first Southeastern Conference victory, 19-10 over the Commodores. It also was the Gamecocks' initial win after the stunning resignation of their longtime coach and college football's prime personality, Steve Spurrier.
''It was very good for us to get that win,'' linebacker T.J. Holloman said. ''We had a crazy week. A lot of turmoil.''
Now, Holloman thinks it's time for a break. The Gamecocks (3-4, 1-4 SEC) get a free Saturday to heal the bumps and bruises on their bodies and minds after dealing with Spurrier's midseason decision to leave immediately.
Not that Spurrier has disappeared. He was around Sunday helping his former assistants break down film before the team takes on No. 15 Texas A&M on Oct. 31.
Spurrier has told his ex-players he'll be around, hitting the weight room and popping into meetings when the mood strikes him.
At the moment, all is good for the Gamecocks.
Interim coach Shawn Elliott said he just put his head down and moved full speed ahead once he learned the job was his last week.
''When I'm kind of working and I don't have to think about a whole lot, that's when I'm in my element,'' Elliott said.
Elliott and his staff have a much-needed victory to build on.
The Gamecocks conditioned Monday and returned to the practice field. They worked out to several loud selections ranging from Ozzy Osbourne to NWA on Tuesday.
After Thursday's morning practice, the team will get a weekend free before reconvening to prepare for the Aggies.
Not so for Elliott and his staff.
The former offensive line coach said they are evaluating all positions on the team, how they call plays on both sides of the ball and the best way to keep recruiting without the Head Ball Coach around to close the deal.
''We've got a stretch run here we've got to do the best that we can,'' Elliott said. ''Leave no stone unturned.''
Elliott called the week an ''open tryout'' and said there could be some major lineup changes when the Gamecocks face Texas A&M.
Holloman said the players are ready for anything and look to build on the good feelings of last weekend.
The junior said the Gamecocks have been happy and upbeat at their facilities the past few days. ''It's alive,'' Holloman said. Coach Elliott ''just wants us to be up tempo all the time.''
Not that everything went smoothly last Saturday. Vanderbilt took a 7-6 lead into halftime and some at Williams-Brice Stadium wondered if the emotionally spent Gamecocks would have enough to hold up in the second half.
But South Carolina finished with five turnovers to gain a satisfying victory. Elliott was drenched with Gatorade and celebrated with his players.
''So many things were going through my mind,'' Elliott said of the win. ''So many things had happened to the players since that Monday night.''
To see the players succeed cut through all Elliott's emotions and will stick with him for the rest of his life.
''There were so many smiles. You felt like everyone in that room was pulling for one another,'' Elliott said. ''It was such a great feeling.''
Defensive line coach Deke Adams saw the difference with the players after a wild week.
''It was a tough week for all of us,'' he said. ''They rallied around each other and played hard. It was a good weekend.''