STEVE SPURRIER’S offense is clicking the way he wants it to at USC.
The Gamecocks are back to running a newer version of play-action passes and throwing the ball all over the field. They are rolling up big total offense yardage and scoring points at a program-record pace.
Yet no matter how many yards USC piles up or points it posts, it has not been enough on five occasions.
“The only thing anybody cares about is the W and L,” Spurrier said Tuesday, “and we’re on the bad side of a lot of games where we’ve made a lot of yards.”
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This USC offense is shaping up to be the best in program history and one of the top producers of yardage and points in Spurrier’s coaching career. The Gamecocks are averaging 36 points and 480 yards to rank 23rd nationally in both categories.
If USC can keep racking up those numbers – and there is every reason to believe the Gamecocks can against Florida, South Alabama and Clemson – then the offense will surpass the 2013 club for the most productive in program history.
But it is difficult for Spurrier or USC fans to savor the offensive success. It all matters little when your team rolls up 433 yards in a 24-point loss to Texas A&M, or 500 yards and 38 points in a loss to Kentucky, or 535 yards and 35 points in a loss to Auburn, or 625 yards and 42 points in a loss to Tennessee.
USC has essentially returned to Spurrier’s offense of old with a couple of new twists. If the offense has accomplished anything this season, it has proven that Spurrier’s old offense still works.
Spurrier said Tuesday that the current offense is not similar to the ones he ran at Duke, Florida and his early seasons at USC. USC runs almost exclusively out of the shotgun formation, which his Duke and Florida teams did not, and the Gamecocks incorporate elements of the read-option attack that he never used at previous programs.
It is a technicality, though.
By the time Connor Shaw departed as quarterback following last season, USC had gone almost exclusively to the read-option. Shaw rode the football in the belly of the running back, then either gave it up, kept it and ran or passed with it.
With the less-mobile Dylan Thompson at quarterback, the offense is different. USC operates almost exclusively out of the shotgun formation. But instead of play action out of the I-formation like Spurrier’s long-ago teams, the Gamecocks now use the fake hand off to the running back essentially as play action.
Play-action was an essential element of Spurrier’s offense of old, the fake to the running back designed to keep opposing linebackers honest and exploit one-on-one matchups in the secondary.
This new version of Spurrier’s offense is working like his old ones did.
USC’s current total offense average (480 yards) would rank fifth best among Spurrier’s all-time offenses behind the 1995, 2001 and 1996 Florida teams as well as the 1989 Duke squad, all of which averaged more than 500 yards per game.
USC’s scoring average (36 points) would rank seventh among Spurrier’s all-time offenses behind six of his Florida teams that ranged from the 1996 national champions that averaged 47 points per game to the 2000 Gators that averaged 37 points.
The difference is that all of those other high-powered offenses helped Spurrier’s teams win, and win big. The ’89 Duke team won the ACC championship. The 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996 and 2000 Florida teams all won SEC championships.
That has to be extremely frustrating.