Fifty straight wins for Spurrier
Steve Spurrier will try to keep alive one of the more impressive coaching winning streaks in the country on Saturday when South Carolina faces FCS foe Furman at Williams-Brice Stadium in a noon contest (TV: SEC Network).
In his quarter century as a Division I head coach, Spurrier has never lost to a team outside one of the current 'Power 5' conferences, compiling a perfect 50-0 record against those opponents.
Since South Carolina (3-3 overall, 2-3 in SEC) is reeling in the wake of consecutive losses to Missouri and Kentucky as a result of stunning fourth quarter collapses, he will gladly take any win against any opponent in order to get USC's season back on track.
"(We're) looking forward to seeing if we can't play better the second half of the season," Spurrier said Tuesday during his weekly press conference at Williams-Brice Stadium. "I really believe we have some excellent senior leaders - Dylan (Thompson), A.J. Cann, J.T. Surratt and the other guys - that really want to finish this year the best we possibly can. We had some pretty good practices last week and had a good one last night. Hopefully, we will continue throughout this week."
Spurrier's unbeaten record against non-Power 5 conference schools has been tested on several occasions during his decade-long tenure at USC. Wofford has come close on three occasions, most notably in 2006 when it had the ball in the red zone looking to tie or win the game, and Furman dropped a 38-19 decision at Williams-Brice Stadium in 2010.
"They are fired up to come in here and beat the big, state university school," Spurrier said. "Furman is like they always are. Their players play extremely hard, don't make many mistakes. They are actually nationally ranked (in FCS) in a lot of defensive categories. They are a solid team. The last time we played Furman it was a very close game until Stephon Gilmore picked one off and went about 80 yards (midway through the fourth quarter).
"They have given us fits. Wofford gives us fits every time we play them. Furman has been a close one. I don't have the answer for why we have struggled so much (against FCS schools) except those teams are pretty good, I guess."
USC closed out the 2012 and 2013 campaigns with five- and six-game winning streaks, respectively. Spurrier recognizes matching either of those remarkable streaks presents a formidable challenge to this year's team.
"I think they want to finish with a good season, I really do," Spurrier said. "We do have a lot of senior players and fourth-year players, so hopefully our senior leadership will kick in and we'll start playing better. We've been pretty fortunate around here to win our last five and six games. Whether or not we can do it again is going to be a task."
In addition, a victory Saturday would extend USC's winning streak against non-SEC opponents to 16 straight games overall and 22 straight games during the regular season.
USC has won 19 straight home games against non-conference opponents. The last loss in Columbia to a team outside the SEC was to Clemson in 2007.
Running back Brandon Wilds is questionable for the game after sustaining a first half injury at Kentucky, while offensive lineman Cody Waldrop is unlikely to play because of a nagging knee injury.
Moreover, offensive lineman Mike Matulis, who has yet to play this season after suffering a knee injury in preseason camp, probably won't play, either.
"I am not sure if Brandon Wilds will be ready, but all three other tailbacks are 100 percent so whether or not Brandon plays, we will have to wait and see," Spurrier said. "Cody Waldrop's knee has not responded very well. Mike Matulis probably will not play, our trainer Clint (Haggard) tells me also."
"So, we are not quite as deep as we started the year, but still we have plenty of players hopefully ready to go play our best this week."
The Furman game could present Spurrier with an opportunity to secure valuable playing time for inexperienced backup quarterbacks Connor Mitch or Perry Orth.
"We've got to try to beat Furman and then get those guys in there," Spurrier said. "But we have talked about getting Connor Mitch, Perry Orth in for a play or two, maybe a little bit like we did with Dylan when Connor Shaw was playing.
"Get in there, second quarter, and let them hand off, throw a ball, do something. We may be the only team in America who hasn't played a backup quarterback through the first six games."
If they get on the field, Mitch or Orth will be donning pink in their garb along with the rest of their teammates in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness month.
-- The 2015 SEC Football Schedule will be released tonight at 7 pm ET on the SEC Network, the SEC announced Tuesday morning on Twitter.
-- Under the NCAA's targeting rule, freshman safety D.J. Smith must sit out the first half of Saturday's game because his ejection occurred early in the second half of the Kentucky game. "Even though he barely bumped him, he did bump him in the head and that's the rule," Spurrier said. "So, you can't bump him in the head. That was on third-and-15, another big penalty in the ball game."
-- Spurrier said RB Mike Davis is "fine" and should be ready to go. Davis leads USC is rushing with 551 yards on 103 carries (5.3 yards per attempt), putting him on track to become the first Gamecock running back since George Rogers (1978-80) to surpass 1,000 yards rushing in back-to-back seasons.
-- USC has not lost three games in a row since the 2009 season.
-- USC will vote on permanent 2014 team captains today, Spurrier said.
-- How has Spurrier changed over the years as USC coach? "We're not into tearing down anymore. We're more into encouraging," he said. "I had my one little outburst after a couple of kickoff returns and when stuff happened that one game (at Vanderbilt)."
-- With defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward set to coach from the press box on Saturday, Spurrier said the last time he was upstairs during a game was in the early 1980s when he was an assistant coach. "My first or second year as a coordinator, I was up there a little bit, and then I came down and found out it was better down below because you could talk to your quarterback in between series and talk to your receivers."
-- Furman will play 10 of its 12 games this season in the Palmetto State. In addition to six home games, the Paladins face Presbyterian (10-7 loss), SC State (17-7 loss), USC and The Citadel on the road. The 10 in-state regular season games are the most in school history.
-- Saturday's contest is the last of four consecutive games for Furman against opponents with the name 'Carolina.' In the last three weeks, Furman has played South Carolina State, Western Carolina and Coastal Carolina. Furman has lost all three games.
-- According to Furman's game notes, USC is getting "quite a bargain" by paying the Paladins a $230,000 guarantee for Saturday's game. Furman was paid $500,000 to play LSU in Baton Rouge last year.
-- Interestingly, the top two winningest coaches in Furman history are both USC graduates: Dick Sheridan (1978-85) and Jimmy Satterfield (1986-93). Moreover, former Furman coach Art Baker (1973-77) served as director of the Gamecock Club from 1989-95.