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Spurrier is new boss on kickoff coverage

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Throughout his 25 years as a college coach, Steve Spurrier has always been consistent about one thing: he hates winning ugly.
He hates winning in spite of giving up two long kickoff returns for touchdowns.
He hates winning in spite of his defense surrender a long TD drive by the opposing offense when victory has been secured.
He hates winning in spite of undisciplined, reckless play.
So, when his team wins ugly, Spurrier frequently does not mince words.
"The way we play is embarrassing," said Spurrier, who moved ahead of Vince Dooley for sole possession of second place with 202 wins as an SEC head coach. "I told the guys, it's embarrassing the way we play and I'm the head coach of this embarrassing group of guys.'
"We allowed two kickoff returns (for touchdowns). Defensive backs won't turn around and look for the ball when they lob it down the field in three-deep. They throw off the two-yard line. It's embarrassing. But we are who we are. We're not a very good team, but we're 3-1 somehow and we have all the voters fooled thinking we're pretty good because we beat Georgia."
Overcoming a sluggish start (punts on first two possessions), USC's offense rang up a season-high 449 yards in total offense, 419 in the final three quarters.
"It's a game I didn't like a bit, but I'm proud of the offensive kids for scoring a bunch of points," Spurrier said. "Brison Williams picked one off and we got a defensive score."
However, in Spurrier's view, every productive thing the USC offense did was countered by something poor from the defense and special teams.
Especially the latter, which is why he's adding to his responsibilities.
"I don't know exactly what can help this team," Spurrier said. "We thought we had coached our butts off all week and we would look like a decent team. Then they run the opening kickoff back. So, I'm taking over kickoff coverage.
"I told Coach Joe Rob (Robinson) that I'm not going to watch it anymore. If we have to pooch it on the ground, which was pretty good for us (we'll do it). Maybe that's something Landon (Ard) can do better than anybody in the country, that grounder. It took a funny hop every time."
Vanderbilt totaled 266 yards on seven kickoff returns, an average of 38 yards per return. USC has given up three kickoff returns for touchdowns in the last five games dating back to the Capital One Bowl win over Wisconsin.
Enough is enough, Spurrier said.
"It was sad," Spurrier said. "We kept running right by the kickoff return guy and he just split us just about every time. It was discouraging, but it is what it is. We almost have to score a touchdown every time or we're going to get our butts beat somehow or another. We've all seen good football teams. We're not one, so don't say we are.
"Maybe we can be, I don't know. It's no fun for me watching us play. This is one of the worst (wins) I've ever had, no question. We're virtually giving games away. But we haven't given one away yet. Something good keeps happening for us. Hopefully, we can tighten up and play good special teams and solid defense."
Dylan Thompson threw touchdown passes to three different receivers - Damiere Byrd, Shaq Roland and Nick Jones.
The 'Big 4' receivers of Byrd, Roland, Jones and Pharoh Cooper combined for 16 receptions for 191 yards and three touchdowns.
"The guys hit some passes," Spurrier said. "Dylan had a few good ones here and there and missed a few too. He missed some long balls."
Not surprisingly, Cooper was awarded a game ball after making 10 receptions for 114 yards, running twice for 74 yards, including a 70-yarder in the fourth quarter, and returning one punt.
"Pharoh Cooper had a heckuva game," Spurrier said. "He got a game ball. I thought his long run there at the end put it away. When Dylan snuck it in, I said that was a mistake. We should have taken about three downs to sneak that thing in. There was about four minutes left (4:35) and we only had a four-point lead.
"I was nervous, but fortunately they didn't recover the kick or they would have scored in about 45 minutes and they would have been onsides kicking to tie the game. That was a mistake on my part letting (Thompson) score with four minutes left in the game. I'll try to get smarter in the future and hopefully we can get better."
Vanderbilt amassed just 310 yards of total offense last week against UMass. Two weeks ago, it had just 167 yards in a 41-3 loss to Ole Miss. Saturday night, VU totaled 379 yards and played most of the game with a true freshman quarterback after Patton Robinette left the game with an apparent injury.
"Vanderbilt has not been an offensive juggernaut in the SEC," Spurrier said. "We held them to not many points (20 by the Commodores' offense) and they had less than 400 yards and they only had 55 plays. But, overall, we can't brag about what we did defensively."
Defensively, Spurrier saw one sign of optimism. USC held Vanderbilt to 4-of-10 on third downs.
"Our third down defense was a lot better tonight than it has been," Spurrier said. "We had some good plays on defense, a lot of good plays. And we did force three punts. I should be nicer, I guess. But it was frustrating tonight.
"But we did win, so I'm happy. Pharoh Cooper made some plays. A lot of guys played well. But as an overall team, we probably deserved to lose based on the way we played giving up two kickoff returns and the things we do. But it worked out somehow."
Auburn 20, Kansas State 14 (Thur. Sept. 18)
Georgia 66, Troy 0
Alabama 42, Florida 21
Texas A&M 58, SMU 6
Indiana 31, Missouri 27
Arkansas 52, Northern Illinois 14
Mississippi State 34, LSU 29
South Carolina 48, Vanderbilt 34
(All Times Eastern)
SEC EAST STANDINGS: USC 2-1, Florida 1-1, Missouri 0-0, Tennessee 0-0, Georgia 0-1, Kentucky 0-1, Vanderbilt 0-2.
MISCELLANEOUS:
-- USC threw the ball on its first nine plays, including several deep throws vertically down the field. The Gamecocks' first rushing attempt didn't come until the first play of the third series when Mike Davis ran eight yards. "We had the guys open deep, but we didn't hit any of them," Spurrier said. "Dylan barely overthrew one and one of them Shaq Roland just didn't catch it."
-- USC punted only three times in 11 meaningful possessions in the game, pleasing Spurrier. Beginning with Williams' Pick-6 in the final minute of the first half, USC scored six times in stretch of seven possessions - five touchdowns and one field goal. All three punts came in the first half.
-- Davis now has 1,722 career rushing yards on 313 carries with 15 touchdowns after finishing with 82 yards on 17 carries in Saturday's victory. He moved into the top-20 in USC history in career rushing. He is 88 yards shy of Rob DeBoer (1,810 yards from 1990-93) for 19th place in school history.
-- Thompson needed 270 passing yards to reach 3,000 in his career, but fell 33 yards short. He'll enter next Saturday's home game against Missouri with 2,967 career passing yards. Thompson is now 208-for-360 in his career and should become the 13th quarterback in school history to eclipse 3,000 career passing yards next Saturday.
-- The 82 combined points were the most ever between the Gamecocks and Commodores, and the 48 points were most points by USC against Vanderbilt since it scored 52 vs. the Commodores in 1995.
-- USC is now 13-5 in its last 18 true road games.
-- Captains for USC for the game were sophomore LB Skai Moore, senior QB Dylan Thompson, junior OT Brandon Shell and senior DT J.T. Surratt.
-- South Carolina now leads the all-time series against Vanderbilt by a 20-4 margin.
-- Junior linebacker Kaiwan Lewis registered his first sack of the season and the second of his career in the first quarter.
-- Sophomore PK Elliott Fry's 45-yard field goal in the second quarter tied his career long. Fry was 2-for-2 in the game as he made a 43-yard field goal in the third quarter. Fry is now 9-for-11 in his career in the 40-49 FGA range.
-- The Vanderbilt baseball team received its national championship rings at halftime.
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