Like everyone else getting ready for the holidays, Steve Spurrier is trying to find the right balance of responsibility and revelry.
“To me, it’s got to be a little bit of a reward the month of the bowl game,” South Carolina’s coach said. “They are not fired up about practicing five or six days a week three weeks in a row, so we take care of our guys and try to make it as enjoyable as we can while we are trying to get prepared to play a game. We try to make it fun and get ready to play at the same time.”
The No. 8 Gamecocks will play in their eighth bowl game under Spurrier, and 19th overall, when they face No. 19 Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla., on Jan. 1. As Spurrier suggested, they are easing into their preparation.
South Carolina returned to the practice field this week for the first time since beating Clemson, 31-17, to end the regular season on Nov. 30. The Gamecocks practiced briefly Wednesday as more than half the coaching staff was on the road recruiting, and they are scheduled to hold two more abbreviated practices this week before breaking for the weekend.
They will report for “bowl mini-camp” on Monday and will have six practices, ending on Dec. 22 before breaking for the holidays. The Gamecocks will then reconvene in Orlando on Dec. 26 and have six more practice opportunities at the bowl site before the game.
“I think the last couple of years we have done a good job of treating this like a business trip,” quarterback Connor Shaw said. “It’ll be no different this year. Since I have been here, we have done a pretty good job of preparing and especially the last couple of years. I felt like our team, we have had fun, but we also treat it like a championship game.”
The Gamecocks will look to match their longest bowl-winning streak in school history with three consecutive postseason victories. South Carolina lost its first eight bowl appearances and has won six of 10 since. It is coming off wins in the 2012 Capital One Bowl and 2013 Outback Bowl.
The boost from those two games has convinced Spurrier of the importance of bowl games for the offseason perception of a program. South Carolina was 1-4 in its first five bowl appearances under Spurrier.
“We have no difficulty getting up for bowl games,” Spurrier said. “I think all of us have learned now that you are as good as your last game, and the game they talk about is the bowl game.”
For instance, take The Hit, Jadeveon Clowney’s pummeling of Michigan’s Vincent Smith in last year’s Outback Bowl, a play that still shows up regularly on highlight reels.
“If Jadeveon Clowney had made that hit the first game of the season last year, nobody would have talked about it all year, but he made it in the bowl game and that was the last game so we watched it for what, 10 months,” Spurrier said. “Whatever we do in that bowl game will be gone over and over for about eight, nine months.”