COLUMBIA — These days, South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier is much more interested in how Williams-Brice Stadium’s stands look at kickoff instead of the fourth quarter.
Spurrier said this week he is pleased USC will have its third sellout in three home games when it hosts Kentucky at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. After the fifth announced sellout of the 2013 season, a packed home stadium has become a trend.
Another trend: the stadium’s bare, metal bleachers showing at the end of games, with fans leaving to go home early.
In the past, Spurrier has been openly critical of Gamecocks fans for their early departures. He’s changed his tune.
“We are fired up that it’s another sellout,” Spurrier said. “We appreciate our fans buying the tickets, and I want to say this: I can’t criticize our fans if they leave early. I appreciate you buying the tickets. I know sometimes I go to a ball game here on campus, and I leave before it’s over too, because I like to beat the crowd out.”
Spurrier didn’t excuse everyone from leaving games early.
“Now the students, I think they should stay,” Spurrier said. “They got nothing else to do all night, except party around a little bit. They are going to be up half the night or all night anyway. So, students, sing the alma mater with us, but the other people, I appreciate you buying the ticket.”
It wasn’t the first time Spurrier extended an understanding for fans leaving games early. Two weeks ago, following USC’s win against Vanderbilt, Spurrier said he couldn’t blame fans when they left at halftime.
Citing the game’s length, he said things like replay challenges cause games to take too long to finish.
“When you play at night, some of them maybe have a little too much to drink before the games, and now all the sudden it gets a little dull and the play stops, and they’re thinking, ‘Well, it’s gonna be a late one. Let’s beat the traffic and get on out of here,’” Spurrier said after the Vanderbilt game. “I sort of understand that.”
USC defensive line coach Deke Adams knows junior Jadeveon Clowney’s raw statistics are behind where they were a year ago. He said it doesn’t mean Clowney is having a bad season.
“I think when you start looking at total numbers, then you’re being selfish with what’s happening with the team,” Adams said. “He knows that, right now, his numbers probably are not where they could be … but everybody’s focusing on him. I looked at it this past weekend. I think he had only been one-on-one blocked two or three times the whole game. He was being chipped by the tight end, by the back. He was being double-teamed.”
Clowney earned a bundle of national accolades last season after having 13 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss as a sophomore. Through the first third of his junior season, he has only two sacks and three tackles for loss. He doesn’t rank amongst SEC leaders in either category, let alone nationally.
When he isn’t facing an army of blockers, Clowney has often faced nothing at all. Teams have consistently run plays away from the defensive end this season.
Adams said Clowney has handled his frustration well.
“If you sit down and look at the film, you see him hustling and chasing things down from behind,” Adams said. “I think he’s doing a good job. He’s been double-teamed, triple-teamed. I think he’s come along, and I think he’s playing hard.
“Now, he left two sacks on the field Saturday, and he knows that. We’re working to get that corrected, but I think he’ll be fine. He’s just continuing to play hard.”
Connor Shaw’s “miraculous recovery” took its final step Wednesday when Steve Spurrier said the senior quarterback will start Saturday night against Kentucky.
Shaw missed all but the first series of last weekend’s game at UCF after taking a hit and fumbling. A “sprain” to his right, throwing shoulder was supposed to keep him out two to three weeks.
Instead, Shaw returned to the field immediately, first practicing Monday night. Spurrier said Shaw was throwing the ball “very well” at practice Wednesday.
“Connor’s fine. He’s 100 percent,” Spurrier said. “He’s ready to go. I guess it’s sort of the flukiest thing. Obviously, when he came off the field, I thought he was out for the season the way he was in pain, but somehow or another if it popped out a little it went right back in. The doctor said it’s no problem.
“It looked bad, but it wasn’t that bad. It must’ve been some pain in there that went away.”
Spurrier said backup Dylan Thompson will play. Thompson is expected to enter the third or fourth possession Saturday,.
Spurrier explains decision to ‘jerk’ weekly TV show
Spurrier didn’t even let the question finish Wednesday. The Head Ball Coach knew he was going to be asked about his decision to yank his weekly TV show off the Gamecocks’ athletic website.
Here’s what he said after practice:
“Well, I guess we don’t jerk a TV show too often, but I was way too negative afterward. And I said, ‘You know, I don’t need to be so negative toward some of our players or some of our coaches that coach secondary, including myself. I try to always include myself of not coaching very well. So we decided to just not show the thing. I guess they showed it two or three times. I didn’t even know it. I thought they showed it once, which I watched. I watched it Sunday morning, and it wasn’t any big deal. It was about like most of my shows I thought, but I was too negative in it.”
After a challenging opening month of the season, Spurrier said he’ll take things lighter in practice this week.
“We have had some down-to-the-wire games, so we’re going to lighten up on the guys a little bit in practice as far as not beating them into the ground too much,” Spurrier said. “We are trying to just get fundamentally sound, which we obviously are not right now.”
That doesn’t mean Spurrier won’t expect his team to get better this week. He said the word “fundamental” 10 times during his news conference Tuesday.
“Our problem is just lining up and playing fundamentals,” Spurrier said. “That’s been our biggest problem at times this year. … We’ve got athletes. These kids can run and play. They don’t play real smart sometimes, but that’s called coaching. If we can get them to play fundamentally sound, I think we’ll be a much improved team as we go.”