COLUMBIA — South Carolina coaches have a new goal for the Gamecocks’ defense against Wofford’s option attack.
Players won’t be turned loose to chase the ball carrier in a controlled frenzy.
“When you play the option, it is about discipline,” defensive line coach Brad Lawing said.
Discipline won’t just be a priority for the defense.
Coach Steve Spurrier expects his offense to stay focused, too, even though the goal of making it to the Southeastern Conference title game is gone for the Gamecocks (8-2).
Spurrier doesn’t have to look far to know the Football Championship Subdivision Terriers (8-2) are a threat. He has played Wofford twice and each time the game was close into the fourth quarter.
“They’ve had us on the ropes both times we’ve played them and we’re expecting a very similar game. They just play fundamentally sound,” Spurrier said. “But we’re going to be ready to play. If they beat us, it wasn’t because we were [messing] around all week.”
Spurrier said the team has other goals to keep them motivated.
The group can become just the second South Carolina team to go 7-0 at home with a win. A victory also keeps the chance of a second straight 11-win season alive. And Spurrier never loses these games; he is 47-0 in his career against teams outside of the BCS.
A win also allows Spurrier to keep a promise he made fans when he was hired after the 2004 season. He said he would stay around long enough to become the winningest coach in Gamecocks history. A victory Saturday gives him 64 with the school, matching in less than eight full seasons what it took Rex Enright 15 years to accomplish.
Spurrier remains the winningest coach at Florida, joining Paul “Bear” Bryant as coaches who hold the record for most victories at two different Southeastern Conference schools. Bryant holds the record at Alabama and Kentucky.
“I thought, like some people thought, that here was a place that has not reached its potential yet – very similar to Florida in 1990,” Spurrier said.
To win, South Carolina will have to figure out Wofford’s quirky triple-option offense. The wingbone scheme, honed over coach Mike Ayers’ 25 years running the 1,550-student college’s football team, is designed to cause fits to a team that doesn’t play carefully. It’s so simple, Ayers doesn’t mind explaining it.
“There are basically four things that you have to defend. You defend the dive play, the quarterback keep, the pitch play and the play action pass.,” Ayers said.
But unless all 11 players on defense are in the right place on each play, the offense is going to be able to move the ball, Lawing said.
“You’re not going to stop it. You try to contain it,” Lawing said. “Maybe they’ll make a mistake.”
Wofford is ranked second in the FCS at 357 yards rushing a game. The Gamecocks have the 12th-best rushing defense in the Football Bowl Subdivision, allowing 102 yards on the ground.
The Terriers have already clinched a share of the Southern Conference title – a fact Spurrier made sure to point out to reporters – and will likely be in the 20-team FCS playoff field announced Sunday. But Ayers doesn’t plan to change his lineup to get ready for a possible playoff game.
Senior fullback Eric Breitenstein will get plenty of carries. He became the school’s leading rusher last week with 5,223 yards. Breitenstein has gone over 100 yards in every game this season except for Wofford’s 82-0 win over Division II Lincoln (Pa.), when Ayers gave him most of the night off. His coach doesn’t plan to give Breitenstein much time on the bench Saturday against South Carolina.
“We’re going to go down there and we’re going to give it our best shot,” Ayers said. “When you give it your best shot, you give it with your best players.”