Has Spurrier hit on the right formula? Will he stick to it?

We know how Steve Spurrier would LIKE to win. He likes to lay half a hundred on an opponent with every ball play in the book. He likes to Fun N’ Gun his way down the field.

He just hasn’t been able to do that with any consistency  in five previous seasons at South Carolina because of average quarterback play (at best) and a pretty poor offensive line.

 But he may have discovered the winning formula in last Saturday’s 17-6 win over Georgia.

In that game Spurrier saw the real-world  practicality of running freshman  Marcus Lattimore a lot (37 carries) and limiting the number of times he asked quarterback Stephen Garcia to throw the ball (17). Here was the net result:

**–Lattimore, a true freshman, had 182 yards. In all, South Carolina ran the bal 52 times and threw it 17 times. By contrast, in last year’s close loss at Georgia, South Carolina threw it 53 times.

**–Garcia completed 12 of 17 passes for 165 yards with no touchdowns but only one turnover (a fumble at Georgia’s 24-yard line).

**–And here is the key stat: Because Spurrier was patient and controlled the ball for 69 plays, Ellis Johnson’s defense was only on the field for 47 plays. South Carolina’s defense was fresher in the fourth quarter and it showed. It was classic Vince Dooley football.

“Looks like we’re just going to have to play old-timey football,” said Spurrier when I talked to him Monday afternoon. “That’s okay. Georgia used to win a bunch of football games doing that.”

Did he say “used to?” I believe he did.

It all starts with Lattimore, one of the nation’s most-highly recruited players. Spurrier and his staff did not recruit another running back last year. Now we know why.

“He’s special. There’s no doubt about that,” said Spurrier. “He reminds me of Emmitt Smith the way he gets behind his pads and just runs down hill. I asked Jay Graham, our running backs coach, how many tackles he broke against Georgia. We had him down for 42 broken tackles. That’s pretty good. Normally Georgia tackles better than that.”

The key against Georgia was Spurrier’s patience with the running game. With a 14-6 lead and about eight minutes remaining, Spurrier was perfectly content to run the ball and work the clock instead of trying to build on the lead.

“After Stephen fumbled down there in Georgia territory I just thought it didn’t make a lot of sense for me to be calling pass plays,” said Spurrier. “I just told our guys we were going to give it Marcus. If we get beat doing that we just get beat.”

So Spurrier has a great running back. He has another good defense. He is 2-0 with Furman coming up this week. Then the Gamecocks go to Auburn next week. A win there and South Carolina will be 4-0 with a week off before hosting No. 1 Alabama on Oct. 9.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that we’ve seen this from South Carolina before. The Gamecocks have become know for fast starts and stumbling finishes as the schedule gets tougher and depth becomes a problem. We’ve seen Spurrier get impatient when he falls behind and start throwing the ball.  And it could certainly happen again, said Spurrier.

“Yep, we’ve had a hard time living with success around here,” said Spurrier. “That’s why we’ve pretty much been a 7-5 football team. Hopefully we’ll be smarter and we can stay healthy.”

As long as young Lattimore and that defense stay healthy, South Carolina will have a chance in every single game it plays. With the SEC East appearing to be wide open, having the HBC in contention could be entertaining.

Spurrier, for the record, won his 106th SEC regular season game last week. He is tied for second place all-time with John Vaught at Ole Miss. One more win and he’ll only trail Bear Bryant who had 159 SEC victories at Kentucky and Alabama.

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218 comments Add your comment

Dooley the Vol

September 14th, 2010
7:19 am

if Spurrier puts his offensive ego aside he may make it to Atlanta in a down year in the east.

JW

September 14th, 2010
7:21 am

If there are any sick Auburn fans in SC, go find Lattimore, give him a big ‘ole kiss, and spread your germs to him. I don’t want any part of that kid coming to Jordan-Hare in a couple weeks. With our lack of LB depth, he’ll be killing them in the second half.

War Damn Eagle

82Dawg

September 14th, 2010
7:27 am

If Lattimore stays healthy, S.C. will win the east. I am really looking forward to the Bama game for them that will be interesting.

Gator Mike

September 14th, 2010
7:32 am

It is early in the season for all of the teams in the SEC. Let’s see where SoCar sits in early November. There are a lot of very intelligent defensive coaches in the SEC, and I am sure that someone will likely break the code in how to slow down Lattimore. I am taking nothing away from the young man because he is very good. The fact remains is that he caught the UGA Defense by surprise. I seriously doubt that he would have had the great success he had last Saturday aginst UGA if the DAWGS were playing Carolina later in the season. He will not catch Saban and others by surprise.
We shall see!
Go Gators.

[...] If Steve Spurrier has hit the right formula, will he stick to it? asks Tony Barnhart of the AJC. [...]

So much for Tech's...

September 14th, 2010
7:42 am

…prediction that they would be 7-0 heading into the Clemson, VT and UM run late in the season…

Palladin

September 14th, 2010
7:43 am

The “Lattimore Code” isn’t that hard to figure out — just tackle.

The winning formula in the SEC is an ancient code. Run the ball and stop the run.

It really is just that simple.

I agree with GatorMike...

September 14th, 2010
7:45 am

USCEast always starts out fast and then bogs down late in the season – it is just too early to say they are the ‘beast of the East’.

And, JW, don’t worry about Lattimore based on the UGA game – remember they made Crompton at UT look ‘all-world’ last year, too, and we know that the UGA defense is as suspect this year, as proven last Saturday, as they were last year, despite the new coaching and new scheme…

JB

September 14th, 2010
7:45 am

Strong running game and a good defense………………( hello vince dooley……………..hello nick saban)…………………Only one coach I know who will abandon the running the game when it’s working and start passing………….And he lives in Athens………………..Georgia, not Greece.

Steve

September 14th, 2010
7:46 am

If he keeps giving Lattimore the ball 30+ times a game, Lattimore may not make it to the end of the season.

Eventually, Garcia is going to have to make a play to win a game. And, that’s when South Carolina loses.

JB

September 14th, 2010
7:49 am

And by the way……………Bama beats SC by 2-3 TD’s……………..I’m afraid Dawgs aren’t a good measuring stick for them………If fact, Ealey doesn’t fumble on the 3, that ball game it tighter than it appeared, although SC was the dominate team that day.

JB

September 14th, 2010
7:52 am

Bama will hold Lattimore to about 100 yards……………. He won’t be dragging them down the field.

destin dawg

September 14th, 2010
7:53 am

Season is early…. parity in college football.. . and injuries.. every body will lose 1 or 2 in SEC… including Ala.. and probably all conferences…. Go Dawgs… play to WIN !!!!

WAR EAGLE!

September 14th, 2010
8:00 am

Sure, Lattimore is good, but he’s human and he’s a kid. Wrap him up and he’ll go down. It’s not that complicated. See you on the Plainsj.

Douglas

September 14th, 2010
8:03 am

I’m a UGA alumni and I hate to say it but no coach is better than Saban. He plays ball-control offense — wears the other team down running the football while mixing in the pass — and plays great defense. One of these days maybe Mark Richt will learn that. Bobo doesn’t have a clue.

Urban M.

September 14th, 2010
8:05 am

Wait till the Gators game….then we will see…as uga is no challenge…

JB

September 14th, 2010
8:06 am

destin dawg……………….. I really don’t see Bama losing a regular season game I hate to say.

5IML

September 14th, 2010
8:09 am

At the current pace, Lattimore is carrying the ball too much. By the end of the year, he’ll be mentally and physically worn out. Another back needs to step up.

It was Willie Willie bad

September 14th, 2010
8:09 am

dawgs are just bad. dawgs players looked like a mickey mouse team.

JB

September 14th, 2010
8:09 am

WAR EAGLE…….. you really think YA’LLS defense can stop this kid ? He’s a beast.

REALIST

September 14th, 2010
8:13 am

SC is no better. UGA is worse.

sportzfan

September 14th, 2010
8:15 am

JB…..if SC doesn’t fumble at the 24 yd line UGA doesn’t have the ball for Ealey to fumble at the 3 yd line….so if is a very big word. I haven’t read anything about SC fans or players predicting a victory over Alabama. They know Furman and Auburn is still on schedule. I’m not sure if the SEC allstars could beat Alabama….but time will tell.

sportzfan

September 14th, 2010
8:20 am

REALIST….your name doesn’t match your smarts. Not only is SC the most improved team in the SEC, the dawgs may not lose another game. That being said, Alabama is still the best team in America until someone proves different….the game is played on the field, not in the media.

PapaDawg

September 14th, 2010
8:20 am

Alright TB enough is enough, no more Spurrier. I’m trying to forget Sat.

ga gator

September 14th, 2010
8:20 am

Douglas. that’s what Richt and Bobo are trying to do; they just don’t have the O line to do it.

richham

September 14th, 2010
8:20 am

I agree 100% that lattimore is the real deal, but getting almost 40 carries a game will wear down even the best of them, especially when you add in nagging injuries over the course of a season. I don’t question his toughness at all, but pounding the rock between the tackles in the SEC is going to wear on him especially as a freshman. Steve Spurrier better hope Garcia or one of the other quarterbacks step up at some point because they will need it to win the east.

I was impressed that Spurrier put his ego aside for a change because lattimore was offense. Let’s see how long he can sit straight playing that way. 42 broken tackles! I hope that makes it onto the Georgia bulletin board. 42! That’s pathetic.

Buddy

September 14th, 2010
8:22 am

Lot of THINGS Spurrier’s selectively forgetting, like his win loss record at Duke, Washington & South Carolina. Spurrier’s also forgetting that South Carolina always manages to lose 5 or 6 game under his leadership, only a coach like Lou Holtz could get them to a 3 or 4 loss season. Spurrier’s also forgetting the SC record against Richt, 305 win, 70% loss, 3-7, and Spurrier’s 5 finishes in the SEC are 5th, 4th, 3rd, 4th, and 4th. Hardly anything to brag about. O Top 10 finishes at SC, Richt’s had 6 at Georgia.

Georgia will finish ahead of SC this year and every year. Spurrier’s done as a coach, Richt’s only warming up.

ga gator

September 14th, 2010
8:23 am

Buddy are you Patrick?

Cardinal Sin

September 14th, 2010
8:23 am

Spurrier is by far the best coach in college football as there is not a school out there that would not take him as their head coach, even GA, yep I said it, even GA.

Good luck SC it is finally your turn!

Bo

September 14th, 2010
8:24 am

I counted from the video, SC had 166 missed tackles against Alabama last time they played them. 166!!!

Houston

September 14th, 2010
8:25 am

ga gator = patrick, whoever brings him up is him

Buddy

September 14th, 2010
8:26 am

Patrick? Don’t know anyone named Patrick, certainly not me, why?

ga gator

September 14th, 2010
8:27 am

No doubt Bo that Bama is in a class all by their selves this year. Saban could have named the score against Penn St, but uncharictly respected Jo Pa.

Mutt Nonsense

September 14th, 2010
8:27 am

Buddy,

Laughable. Funny that you’re bringing up “selective memory” with Steve Spurrier. Hopefully the irony there as a UGA fan isn’t lost on you, but I’m afraid it is. I’ll leave it at that.

RxDawg

September 14th, 2010
8:28 am

““That’s okay. Georgia used to win a bunch of football games doing that.”
Did he say “used to?” I believe he did.”

Um, if your trying to find an insult in that I think your reaching. It’s true, Georgia used to win a lot of football games that way. So did Bama. So did Auburn. So did UT. So did a lot of football teams.

I sure hope UGA can turn it around. I really think some players are coasting. I think the coaches need to look at the film, find the players that are out there watching others do the work, and let them watch from the bench. It’s past time to get these kids attention.

Rural Education

September 14th, 2010
8:28 am

Sure are a few upset Georgia fans on here this morning. In case you missed it, Lattimore is not the only weapon, stack the box and they can throw it to Alshon and the other “Tree Top” receivers. South Carolina no has as much talent as the upper echelon teams and apparently that doesn’t sit too well with them.

ga gator

September 14th, 2010
8:28 am

Sorry Buddy, he used to post stats like that. That being said, he should brag about his record at Duke, anyone who won the ACC at Duke is a good coach.

Houston

September 14th, 2010
8:28 am

ga gator/sportzfan/jb all the same guy using a bunch of fake names. Likes to blog to himself.

Dawg

September 14th, 2010
8:29 am

It’s about time he figured out that ball control and defense wins when you don’t have the recruiting pool to pull from as he had in Fla. It only took him what, 5 years? Be that as it may, SCAR has a very tough schedule, and it remains to be seen if Lattimore can take the pounding the SEC gives when a back carries it 30 plus times a game.

ga gator

September 14th, 2010
8:29 am

That aint me houston and Im sorry for bringing him up.

Blue

September 14th, 2010
8:29 am

Douglas; you’re an ‘alumni’ of UGA? What…do you have multiple personalities or something? There’s that UGA education at work!

RxDawg

September 14th, 2010
8:29 am

“Spurrier, for the record, won his 106th SEC regular season game last week. He is tied for second place all-time with John Vaught at Ole Miss. One more win and he’ll only trail Bear Bryant who had 159 SEC victories at Kentucky and Alabama.”

Now that’s impressive. I bet Richt isn’t too far from that. Hopefully he’ll turn this thing around, and earn enough time to place among that list.

I’m suprised Fulmer isn’t up there.

Gen Neyland

September 14th, 2010
8:30 am

A test of Lattimore’s freshman abilities will be consistency out of the backfield as the season progresses. I liked his leg drive and the way he took on tacklers against UGA but I’m not ready to call him ‘great’. Geez, it’s only one SEC game played. Granted, he’ll be worth watching to see if he can continue to impress.

Miles

September 14th, 2010
8:30 am

It’s early…we’ll see what happens…Garcia will need to throw a few TD passes…Lattimore will need to remain consistent…many things need to occur for Spurrier’s team to be successful…unfortunately, SC tradition is to disappoint their very loyal fans…hopefully, this year they they can win the SEC east, but they’ll ave their hands full vs. FL…good luck!

JB

September 14th, 2010
8:31 am

Cardinal…………….Ga. would never hire Spurrier, I can assure you…………….Do you really think Spurrier turned down all the major programs before landing in the “hot bed” of football heaven in Columbia………no doubt the guy can coach, but if he could have ANY job, he wouldn’t be in Columbia.

Buddy

September 14th, 2010
8:31 am

Spurrier forgot to mention his last 3 year’s at SC have finished 7-6, 7-5, 7-6. Hey, Spurrier tells the world it’s the best 5 years anyone’s had at SC. Well, it’s not the best 2 years. Holtz blew him away with an 9-3 & 8-4 season, back to back. Holtz can coach anywhere, Spurrier can only win at Florida where he’s loaded with talent.

wxwax

September 14th, 2010
8:32 am

After 100 SEC wins, Spurrier suddenly discovers that running the ball works?

Funny!

Fire Bobo Now!

September 14th, 2010
8:33 am

My handle explains it all.

JB

September 14th, 2010
8:33 am

Houston…………oh no……JB is JB……………………not that mess thank you…..

Houston

September 14th, 2010
8:33 am

Buddy,

Great post!! Best post I’ve read in decades on the blog. Thanks for spending some time with us today. Always terrific stuff. You should be a sports writer. You never hear this quality of stuff form those guys.