ATLANTA | South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier left the Georgia Dome on Friday night on a mission to improve the Gamecocks’ special-teams play.
“We have to be better somehow or another on special teams if we’re going to win a big ballgame,” Spurrier said after his team fell 26-17 to Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
The Seminoles outgained the Gamecocks 115-41 on kickoff and punt returns.
“That tells you who had the better athletes on special teams,” Spurrier said.
Spurrier praised the work of special teams coordinator Shane Beamer.
“Coach Beamer does a super job with those guys,” Spurrier said. “We have to get him some better athletes out there, simple as that.”
Spurrier said before the game that he didn’t plan on giving Florida State return specialist Greg Reid a chance to hurt his team, but Reid returned two punts for 53 yards. South Carolina punter Spencer Lanning was supposed to punt the ball out of bounds, Spurrier said.
“We told Lanning to punt it out of bounds, and he hasn’t come close to punting it out of bounds tonight,” Spurrier said. “I got irritated a little bit.”
Spurrier considered benching starting quarterback Stephen Garcia after Garcia’s three first-half interceptions, he said.
“There’s always a thought of that, but he pretty much got us this far so we felt like let’s let him finish this thing,” Spurrier said. “Connor Shaw will get a shot in spring practice.”
Garcia was 7-for-14 with no interceptions in the second half and caught a 3-yard scoring pass from Ace Sanders on a trick play.
Sophomore Kenny Miles had his best game of the season, rushing seven times for 70 yards after starting running back Marcus Lattimore was knocked out of the game with a concussion.
“Kenny Miles came in there and made some nice runs and so forth,” Spurrier said.
Senior Brian Maddox had 53 yards on 12 carries.
Senior left guard Garrett Chisolm dressed out for his final collegiate game, but, as expected, could not play because of a right knee injury. Chisolm was replaced in the starting lineup by junior Terrence Campbell, an Atlanta native.
“Garrett is a great blocker and a great person,” Garcia said. “It’s tough missing him for the game, but Terrence Campbell, I thought, played a pretty good game as well. We’ll watch the tape and find out.”
Shaking up the sideline
Passing game coordinator Steve Spurrier Jr. was on the sideline for the game. Spurrier Jr. has spent every other game this season in the coaching booth. Quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus, who usually is on the sideline, wasn’t Friday night.
“We tried something a little different,” Spurrier said.
Garcia said the change didn’t make any difference to him.
“I talked to (Mangus) after every possession just as if he was on the sideline.” he said. “Whatever he is more comfortable doing is what he’s going to do and what I’m more comfortable with”
South Carolina entered the game feeling a lot of pressure to preserve some SEC Eastern Division pride. The bowl season started with two SEC East teams losing. Tennessee lost to North Carolina 30-27 and Georgia lost 10-6 to Conference USA champion Central Florida. The SEC is 0-3 this bowl season.
... Heisman Trophy winners George Rogers and Charlie Ward delivered game balls to their respective alma maters before the game after being driven to the 30-yard line in a Chick-fil-A emblazoned Kia SUV.
Florida State running back Chris Thompson (25 carries, 147 yards) and cornerback Greg Reid were named the game’s most outstanding offensive and defensive players.
The Seminoles completed 12 passes for 90 yards.