Steve Spurrier didn’t click his heels together at Tuesday’s press conference, but just like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” he agrees that there’s no place like home.
The USC football coach has watched his team win 14 straight games at Williams-Brice Stadium. That ties for the second-longest home winning streak in program history, with only a 15-game home winning streak from 1978-80 being longer.
A win Saturday afternoon over Mississippi State would tie that record. Spurrier appreciates the streak has come while playing four SEC homes games each season.
“Obviously, we have the streak since joining the conference and that is something to be a little extra proud of,” he said. “So that’s pretty neat to have those in there, and you have Clemson in there every other year so for what these guys are doing is pretty neat.”
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The Gamecocks have gone 30-3 in their last 33 home games, with the only losses to Florida in 2009, Arkansas in 2010 and Auburn in 2011. USC’s home winning streak is tied with Ohio State for the second-longest in the nation, trailing only Michigan (19).
Defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles isn’t surprised the players perform so well at home.
“On Fridays, we go out on the field and do our little walk-through, and me and the guys just talk about how good it is just to play at home and how great our fans are and how crazy it’s going to be no matter if it’s a 12 o’clock game or whatever,” Quarles said. “We just can’t wait to get home and play. There is nothing like it.”
Airing it out
USC’s 56 passing attempts in the overtime win over Missouri – 29 by Connor Shaw and 27 by Dylan Thompson – were the second-most in a single game in school history behind the 61 in a 1994 game against East Carolina, a 56-42 loss.
The quarterbacks completed 35 of them for 423 yards, the most in all three categories during the Spurrier era at USC.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever won a game throwing over 50 passes, to tell you the truth,” Spurrier said. “Usually when you throw 45 or so, it doesn’t work out for you. But it did the other night.”
Tailback Mike Davis leads the SEC in rushing with 930 yards, but his two fumbles against Missouri have raised some concerns. He also had a key fumble against UCF.
“He can’t let them knock it out with one hand. Blocking wasn’t all that super, but still, he’s got to hold onto that ball,” Spurrier said. “I don’t know if he needs to change, get it in his right hand or what, but we’ve talked about that a little bit. He needs to make sure he’s got a more secure grip on the ball.”
Missouri held Davis to a season-low 56 yards on the ground, but the sophomore made up for it by catching 10 passes for 99 yards. He’s not expected to practice much this week due to an ankle injury, but he should be able to play against Mississippi State. Spurrier added that he expects tailback Brandon Wilds, who has missed four games with a dislocated elbow, to be able to suit up again this weekend.
Although his team is 6-2 and ranked No. 14 nationally, Spurrier would like to see the players put together more complete games down the stretch. Their inconsistent play has resulted in a lot of close games and a number of bad halves, something he wants to see end, starting with the game against the Bulldogs.
“Six of our eight games have come down to the wire basically, could have won, could have lost,” he said. “This very easily could be a game like that. You go into every game hoping you can win by a couple touchdowns or so. But it doesn’t always work out that way so you just keep playing as hard as you can, see what happens.”
Spurrier knows that people may believe the team has come into its own after knocking off the No. 5 team in the nation on the road, but he’s realistic about how the Gamecocks are playing.
“When you ask our coaches if their players played well last week, not many of them say they did,” he said. “We had a lot of errors here, there and the other, but we got away with it, and we have to play fundamentally better than we have been playing or it’s going to catch up with us. We have a lot of coaching to do.”
Snap to it
Spurrier also wants to see more consistency from freshman center Clayton Stadnik, who has made a bad snap to the quarterbacks several weeks in a row. Although the snaps haven’t resulted in a turnover yet, Spurrier wants to see the problem addressed.
“(Let’s) see if our center will not roll it back three weeks in a row. He has had one a game now the last couple weeks so hopefully he can hold onto it,” Spurrier said. “Little things like that we are hoping we can correct. But I may add, Dylan picked it up and threw a completion for about 10 yards. (The) game before, Connor did a good job of getting it and falling on it.”