Buddy Pough has some advice for his old friend, Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin.
When Sumlin’s Aggies visit Williams-Brice Stadium to play the Gamecocks Thursday night, Pough, the former South Carolina assistant coach and current S.C. State head coach, sounds this warning.
“You better play awfully good and you better not turn the football over in there because those guys feed off that mess. You’ve got to play a near-perfect game to beat a (Steve) Spurrier team under those circumstances,” Pough said.
Pough, who served under Brad Scott and Lou Holtz from 1997-2001, praises what Spurrier has built in Columbia, as USC’s current 18-game home winning streak attests.
“He generally does about as good of a job of having all of his phases together,” Pough added. “I don’t know if there is a weakness in his overall operation. You’ve just got to be really special to go in there and win.”
His teams have lost twice to the Gamecocks, 38-3 in 2007 and 38-14 in 2009. But Pough also has a pretty good feel for the Aggies, whose high-powered offense blew past the Bulldogs 70-14 in College Station during the 2012 season. Sumlin’s two teams have averaged over 44 points per game.
Pough got to know Sumlin after USC’s 0-11 season in 1999, when the South Carolina coaches took a trip to Purdue to study that program’s offense. Sumlin was the receivers coach for a Boilermakers team that featured quarterback Drew Brees.
Pough said Sumlin’s offense will run into something greater than a solid USC defense that allowed just 20 points per game last season. The Aggies will face 80,000 pumped-up fans with a new starting quarterback in Kenny Hill.
“I figure it will be tough. It’s hard to come into Williams-Brice Stadium because it’s so loud,” he said. “Spurrier has done a great job of building that home-field playing experience. I really don’t see anybody coming in there and beating them without playing awfully, awfully well.”
Pough, who has won 97 games in 12 seasons at S.C. State to go with five MEAC titles and four FCS playoff appearances, played a role on USC’s successful back-to-back Outback Bowl teams under Holtz that won a total of 17 games in 2000 and 2001. He looks with admiration at what Spurrier has accomplished in his nine seasons, especially the last three 11-win campaigns.
“You could see the possibilities were always there,” Pough said. “South Carolina has done a great job of getting into the (SEC) race.”