COLUMBIA — Steve Spurrier introduced his players to a bit of the new school Monday as they stretched before practice, even if they were blissfully unaware.
Over the speakers, the typical whistle shrieks accompanying football practice were drowned out by a familiar tune. Preparing to play Georgia, the South Carolina coach had “Georgia on My Mind” playing on a nonstop loop. It wasn’t Ray Charles’ smashing hit from 1960, which was adopted as a state anthem and plastered on signs welcoming travelers beyond their borders.
No, Spurrier went a little unconventional.
“We had Willie Nelson’s “Georgia on My Mind” blaring (Monday). Our players thought it was Ray Charles,” Spurrier said. “We always do that every week we play Georgia. We always play that music out there during stretch. That’s all we’re trying to do, trying to get Georgia on our mind and come up with some plays, we think, will give us a chance to beat them.”
Spurrier, the former Florida coach, needs no particular reason to have beating Georgia on his mind. His run-ins with the Bulldogs are legendary.
There was the “Timeout” game in 1993, when Georgia’s late, tying touchdown was called back because officials ruled a Florida cornerback called timeout before the snap. Florida’s win at Sanford Stadium two years later was a less-controversial outcome, but still causes a stir 18 years later. The Gators poured on a 52-17 win that season, their final touchdown pass coming with less than two minutes left.
The game would forever be known as “Half a Hundred” — an endearing term for Florida fans, bitter for Georgia.
“That was a long time ago,” Spurrier said Tuesday. “Don’t hear much about that. Even the Tar Heels last week didn’t bring up the 41-0 game when we beat them at Duke one time. That one is about dead, too, I think. Sometimes you have to remind them.”
No. 6 USC gets its chance to “remind” No. 11 Georgia at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in Athens. It’s a chance for Spurrier to add another chapter to his memorable history with Georgia, but the head ball coach did everything he could Tuesday to downplay the Border Bash.
Spurrier said there hasn’t been much talk this week about the chance to make USC’s senior class the first to go undefeated in their career against the Bulldogs. Heck, Spurrier said, Georgia has other rivalries to worry more about than this one.
“You’ve got to realize, it’s hard for Georgia to really get mad at South Carolina,” Spurrier said. “They’ve got so many teams they’re mad at or are mad at them, it’s hard to get another big rival for Georgia. They’ve got Georgia Tech, Florida, Auburn. They almost had a fight with Vanderbilt a couple of years ago, some of their coaches at least. So, anyway, it’s hard for them to have too many enemies.
“We still haven’t beaten them enough for them to sort of circle South Carolina. But we’ve been fortunate the last few years. That’s all history. The game this week, on Saturday at 4:30, is the one that counts. And we’re trying to focus as best we can to see if we can play well.”
Redshirt junior guard A.J. Cann isn’t buying it.
He’s been around Spurrier too long to believe this is just any other week. On Saturday, there will be SEC and national title implications at stake. That alone would give this game a little more buzz.
Cann knows what happens Saturday will mean a lot to his coach. That is Georgia, and this is Spurrier. Like oil and water, the two don’t mix.
“It’s Georgia-South Carolina,” Cann said. “He’s a lot more hyped for it than probably most games. We’re going to be hyped for it, too.”