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Sports Illustrated-Florida
The Rivalry
The Record

It's no Fun 'n' Gun, but Spurrier is reconquering SEC.

By: Stewart Mandel

A day after leading his new school, South Carolina, to its first win over his old school, Florida, since 1939, Steve Spurrier couldn't help from uttering a couple of his patented jabs.

Asked about watching Saturday night's Auburn-Georgia game -- the Tigers' upset kept alive the Gamecocks' slim hopes of winning the SEC East (and not Florida's) -- Spurrier said, "Since the Gators didn't have to worry about that game last night, we decided we'd root for Auburn instead."

Later, a question about next week's game against Clemson prompted a discussion about old nemesis Florida State, which lost 35-14 to Spurrier's new rival on Saturday. "They've got three losses and they're still in the [ACC title] game?" Spurrier asked. "Guess they picked the right division to be in this year."

New job, same Spurrier. He's still saying whatever comes to mind. More importantly, he's still confounding SEC opponents.

South Carolina's decision to lure the 'Ol Ball Coach out of semi-retirement is paying dividends faster than anyone would have ever imagined. Most figured he'd need a couple of years to attract the type of athletes necessary to run his preferred, pass-oriented offense; what we didn't realize was Spurrier doesn't necessarily need the Fun 'n' Gun to beat people.

In Saturday's 30-22 victory -- the Gamecocks' fifth straight following a 2-3 start -- South Carolina attempted just 17 passes. There were games at Florida where Danny Wuerffel or Rex Grossman threw that many times in the first quarter. Once Spurrier realized counterpart Urban Meyer was determined to play a zone defense to counteract stud Gamecocks receiver Sidney Rice (who still finished with five catches for 112 yards), Spurrier started pounding the ball with freshman tailback Mike Davis (22 carries, 88 yards, two touchdowns). The Gators outgained South Carolina 359 yards to 246, yet never led.

"That's the kind of team we have," said Spurrier. "We don't have a whole bunch of plays, and our defense holds other teams to low numbers scoring-wise."

The history-starved Gamecocks posted three winning seasons and two New Year's bowl berths under Spurrier's predecessor, Lou Holtz, but they never won five conference games in a row, like this year's team. They never beat Florida or Tennessee. Spurrier has conquered both in his first season.

The NFL might not have worked out for Spurrier, but clearly the guy still knows how to win in the SEC. Imagine what he'll do with his own recruits.
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