COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s starters didn’t get a chance to pad their stats Saturday, but coach Steve Spurrier is just fine with the result.
The Gamecocks exited their blowout win over Coastal Carolina with a clean bill of health. Part of that was a refusal to play star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles and running back Mike Davis in a game that was sure to be a blowout. But Spurrier also made sure to yank key starters like quarterback Connor Shaw from the game in the first quarter once the score was out of hand.
Shaw only played the first three possessions Saturday.
“We probably do it a little differently than a lot of schools,” Spurrier said. “I notice a lot of schools let their guys stay in there until they get 50 or so, maybe.”
Not every team was so lucky.
Georgia lost senior quarterback Aaron Murray for the season Saturday when he tore his ACL with 2:17 left in the first half at Kentucky. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, scoring touchdowns on its first three possessions, just like South Carolina.
Unlike South Carolina, Georgia kept its starting quarterback in the game.
Murray was injured on an interception, ending a drive that could have given the Bulldogs a 35-10 lead in the second quarter. The misfortune wasn’t lost on the Head Ball Coach when he had his weekly teleconference Sunday.
“It was sad that Aaron Murray got hurt,” Spurrier said, continuing the quote above. “I don’t know what time of the game he got hurt, but it always doesn’t make sense if you get one of your best players hurt when you’ve got a comfortable lead.”
Biggest key: time of possession
Spurrier didn’t hesitate when asked about the biggest key leading to South Carolina’s current four-game winning streak over Clemson.
In each game, the Gamecocks have controlled time of possession. It’s allowed them to play at their tempo and, more importantly, keep Clemson’s powerful offense off the field.
“If you look at all four of the games, our offense has moved the ball pretty well and stayed on the field, which has kept the Clemson offense over there (on the sideline),” Spurrier said. “I think that’s happened in just about all of them, so hopefully that’ll happen again — although there’s no guarantee of anything, of course. When you play against an offense that is really good like theirs, you hope not to give them so many possessions.
“You hope. Everybody hopes that. Doing it is a different thing.”
It’s become cliche to label time of possession as an overrated stat. Not in this rivalry.
In the past decade, the team that won the time of possession between South Carolina and Clemson has won the game every time. During the Gamecocks’ four-game winning streak, they’ve had the ball for 148:29 compared to Clemson’s 91:31.
Small senior class prepare their goodbyes
Spurrier said he expects juniors Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles to “go out with the seniors” and be recognized before USC’s final home game Saturday. Fellow junior Victor Hampton may be in the pregame ceremony, too.
Even with a few underclassmen joining the Gamecocks’ senior day festivities, there won’t be many in the group. USC has just four scholarship seniors who will play their final home game against Clemson.
Spurrier said Sunday quarterback Connor Shaw, guard Ronald Patrick, defensive end Chaz Sutton and cornerback Jimmy Legree have been crucial to his program.
“They’ve achieved some accomplishments that obviously never happened before with 17-game home winning streak, got 31 wins the last three years, 40 total now,” Spurrier said. “Hopefully they can add to that, hopefully.
“We don’t have any seniors, so it’s sort of interesting that we’re going to parade about seven out there.”