With Wofford in the rear-view mirror after South Carolina’s 24-7 win Saturday, the Gamecocks can now turn their focus to Clemson, as they will head to Death Valley trying to win four straight in the series for the second time ever and first time since 1951-54.
The Wofford game produced mixed results for the Gamecocks, though these option teams can be tricky.
“These Wofford kids are tough,” said USC coach Steve Spurrier. “We knew it. We watched it on tape. We feel pretty fortunate coming out winning. I thought it was going to be a difficult game. I was relieved, because they beat us in 1917. Was that the last time?”
Yes, it was.
“You don’t think it went through my mind that they could beat us and I’ve got to come in here and say (it was) the first time they beat us in over 100 years?” Spurrier said. “Or almost 100 years. Ninety-five. It’s a difficult game. I think I would like to trade with Alabama and play the team they played this week, Western Carolina. They’re struggling a little bit and Wofford’s the conference champion.
“Our passing game was not very good, but we hit a few comebacks late in the game there. I think our o-line blocked the inside zone run play pretty good. This was Kenny’s day.”
That’s Kenny Miles, of course, who had 27 carries for 127 yards – both career highs – as USC got nine wins for the third straight season and fifth time ever (10-2 in 1984, 9-3 in 2001, 9-5 in 2010, 11-2 in 2011 and 9-2 so far in 2012). Miles almost didn’t return for his fifth-year senior season. He considered transferring, and even went through Senior Day last year.
“Before the game, when the seniors came through, I said, ‘Kenny, we did this last year, but this is the last time we can do it for you,’” Spurrier said.
Said Miles, of his game: “The whole time, I just told myself, ‘You don’t have a lot of yards, so you’ve got to keep running.’ That was the main thing. It was a bit emotional being out there with my folks (before the game, during the Senior Day ceremony). It was definitely emotional, but I had to keep my composure and get ready to play ball.”
Spurrier still wants to see more in the passing game from Connor Shaw, who was 16 of 20 for 122 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
“It was like LSU almost,” Spurrier said, referring to how he was frustrating with Shaw’s passing decisions, or lack of decisiveness, in that game. “Finally, he turned a few loose (against Wofford). Of course, most of them were pretty short ones. That one play, we actually had Damiere (Byrd) running deep and (Shaw) dropped the snap and picked it up and instead of throwing it, he took off running with that one. It was a struggle.”
As for Shaw’s sprained left foot, which he has dealt with since the Oct. 27 win over Tennessee, Spurrier said, “It’s OK, but it hurts him a little bit. But he sucks it up and can go play.”
Said Miles, of Shaw: “If something is bothering him, he’s going to play through it. I feel like Connor is playing the best he can right now, so I’m sure he’ll pick it up.”
Spurrier brushed aside the history he made Saturday, when, in his eighth season, he tied Rex Enright with 64 wins at USC. It took Enright 15 seasons to get 64 wins.
“I hadn’t thought about this one too much,” Spurrier said. “The next one I think will be a little bigger. I’m just tied right now. Ties are whatever. But the next one will be maybe a little bit more special.”
Yes, the Clemson game will absolutely be a big one – likely the second ever top 15 versus top 15 showdown in the series, and the first since No. 12 USC beat No. 8 Clemson in 1987 in Columbia.
“They don’t like us that much and we don’t care for them that much,” Miles said. “It’s going to be a lot of blows throughout that game.”
Will it perhaps be intensified by the verbal jabs that Spurrier and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney have exchanged over the past year?
“I feel like the rivalry’s always been strong,” Miles said. “Regardless of what their coach says or our coach says, it’s going to be a heated game. So I feel like that (talk between the coaches) is good for the fans and the fans love that, but when it comes down to it, it’s what happens between the white lines.”
Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward knows Clemson’s fast-paced offense will be a challenge, but he isn’t too concerned about transitioning from Wofford option prep to Clemson prep.
“We played a lot of football this season and we’ve seen from option to spread offenses to teams that want to run the football, like LSU,” he said. “Hopefully, the grind that we’ve had this season is going to prepare us. Clemson is scoring a lot of points and putting a lot of yards up on people and we’ve got a big task ahead of us, but I think the guys will bounce back.”
A couple of Ward’s seniors had big days against Wofford.
Cornerback Akeem Auguste returned a fumble 31 yards for a touchdown – his first career score, a week after his first career pick. Injuries have nagged him all year, but he’s OK now. So what does he have in store for next week at Clemson?
“Wait and see,” he said. “I didn’t play a lot this year, but I’m making the best of my time now.”
D.J. Swearinger led USC with 12 tackles, 11 solo, and had a forced fumble and fumble recovery.
“I went out with a bang for my last home game,” he said.
He dismissed the impact of a Twitter spat he had before the season with Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins.
“That’s in the past,” he said. “I always say (that) all the talking, it’ll come to an end come Saturday. Both of us will be ready for that game.”
It’s just a week away.
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