COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — No. 13 South Carolina is facing a back-to-the-wall situation and Steve Spurrier hopes his Gamecocks respond in against Vanderbilt on Saturday night.
The Gamecocks (1-1, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) must defeat the Commodores (1-1, 0-1) or risk falling into a 0-2 hole in the East Division of the Southeastern Conference, something nearly impossible to climb out of in the rugged league. Georgia appeared on the ropes last week after its opening-game defeat at Clemson, yet the ninth-ranked Bulldogs rallied to put up 536 yards on the Gamecocks in a 41-30 victory.
“We all know you have to have the ability to forget what happened last week, whether it’s good or bad. Move on and try to improve as the season goes,” Spurrier said. “This team should improve with all the youngsters we have playing, especially on defense. They should improve. If we can coach worth a flip, we’ll get better and better as we go.”
Spurrier called it a “bad coaching day” at Georgia all around. Defensive assistants Kirk Botkin and Deke Adams got into a sidelines’ shouting match in the second half as Georgia played away from All-American Jadeveon Clowney. While Clowney had his first sack of the season, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray was able to scramble away at key moments and keep the Bulldogs on the move.
It was a humbling experience for the South Carolina’s defense, which had rightfully earned a reputation as one of the SEC’s best over the past few seasons.
Vanderbilt coach James Franklin expects a strong effort from Clowney and the Gamecocks defense.
The Commodores have struggled to put up significant yards against South Carolina the past two years. They were held to 77 yards total — and just 4 yards on the ground — in a 21-3 loss at Williams-Brice Stadium in 2011. Vanderbilt gained 62 yards rushing at home in falling to the Gamecocks last year.
“The biggest thing is to be aware of him,” Franklin said of Clowney. “He is going to have an impact in the game, but what you can’t afford him to do is have a huge impact on the game.”
Here are five things to watch when Vanderbilt plays No. 13 South Carolina on Saturday:
SOUTH CAROLINA DEFENSE: The Gamecocks were as out of kilter on defense against Georgia as they’ve been in the past three seasons. Clowney got inside of Georgia’s offensive line several times, but there were few teammates in places to make plays when Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray scrambled away. Clowney said he couldn’t do things alone and coach Steve Spurrier said he’d have suggestions for Gamecocks defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward. Everyone will be watching to see the impact of those suggestions.
BIG-PLAY OFFENSE: So far, it’s been South Carolina’s offense making the big plays and quick strikes. Quarterback Connor Shaw threw two TD passes to Nick Jones in the second quarter to wipe out Georgia’s early 14-point lead. Mike Davis had his second 75-yard run on the season — the first went for a TD in the opening week against North Carolina — and had a career high 149 yards rushing against the Bulldogs.
VANDERBILT’S ROAD SUCCESS: The Commodores closed last season with three straight SEC road victories at Missouri, Kentucky and Mississippi. Extending that streak will be the toughest challenge yet since Vanderbilt has not beaten a ranked opponent since 2008 or won at Williams-Brice Stadium. But Commodores coach James Franklin has worked hard to change the program’s culture the past two years and thinks bigger things are ahead.
COMMODORES QB: Austyn Carta-Samuels has looked strong in his first two starts at Vanderbilt. He was the Mountain West Conference freshman of the year in 2009 at Wyoming. He transferred to Vanderbilt after the 2010 season and has made an immediate impact as a starter. Carta-Samuels became just the second quarterback in Vanderbilt history to throw for 300 yards in a season opener. He followed that up with a 261-yard performance in last week’s 38-3 win over Austin Peay.
SPURRIER RARELY LOSES TO “VANDY”: South Carolina’s head ball coach has a stellar, 18-2 record against the team he always refers to fondly as “Vandy.” The two losses came in back-to-back seasons, 2007 and 2008, and both were major shockers. The loss six years ago came with South Carolina 6-1 and ranked No. 6 nationally. Spurrier was 14-0 over Vanderbilt before that defeat.
By PETE IACOBELLI
AP Sports Writer Teresa Walker from Nashville, Tenn., contributed to this report.