It’s only Wofford.
Several achievements are in play for heavily-favored South Carolina this weekend, including the program’s first unbeaten home season in 25 years. More importantly, a a Gamecock victory ties coach Steve Spurrier with Rex Enright for the school’s all-time wins (64) mark. He could fittingly become the program’s winningest coach the following week at Clemson. The Head Ball Coach won 122 games at Florida and would join the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant for most wins at two different SEC schools.
Despite the hoopla surrounding the breather before the Palmetto Bowl with the Tigers, Spurrier warned his players and the local media this week not to take the Terriers (8-2) lightly on Saturday, a veteran-laded group that’s a co-Southern Conference champ intent on making the Gamecocks sweat it out in the fourth quarter. Wofford took Dabo Swinney and Clemson to the brink last season in Death Valley, utilizing a clock-eating ground attack to keep the ball away from the Tigers’ playmakers.
According to Wofford coach Mike Ayers, the Terriers’ triple option is the great equalizer against the Gamecocks’ physical and fast defensive front seven. Backed by a defense allowing 17.1 points per game, a respectable 10th overall at the FCS level, Wofford’s formula for winning has been simple this season.
Last season, South Carolina struggled mightily against Navy’s run-based attack and shook off a lackluster two quarters to cruise past the Citadel later in the season. All option-based schemes have different wrinkles and personnel, but teams that prefer the ‘four yards and a cloud of dust’ mentality normally keep things close in Columbia. Wofford last played South Carolina in 2008, a 23-13 loss. Assignment football is the key against the option, closing up your responsibility and not leaving the ballcarrier for the pitch man. Linebacker play and tackling is vital to the defense’s success.
Obviously, Spurrier’s downplaying what is sure to be an emotional day for him in lieu of his players’ success on Senior Day. Big names playing their final game at Williams-Brice Stadium include D.J. Swearinger, Devin Taylor, DeVonte Holloman, Justice Cunningham and Kenny Miles. Miles hasn’t had a 100-yard game since his freshman season. It would be nice to see that happen before South Carolina hits the road to Clemson, a BCS at-large possibility, on Nov. 24.
Both Connor Shaw and Jadeveon Clowney have been limited in practice this week but both are expected to start according to Spurrier. Shaw has a nagging foot injury he reaggravated against Arkansas. If Shaw is limited, expect the majority of snaps under center to go to Dylan Thompson. South Carolina is currently ranked 12th in the Associated Press Top 25 and ninth in the BCS. It’s unlikely the Gamecocks receive an BCS at-large berth since five teams are ahead of South Carolina in this week’s Nos. 4 through 8. A win over a highly-ranked Clemson in the season finale coupled with a few losses from others could help the Gamecocks’ chances.