College Football: N.C. State viists South Carolina tonight
By Pete Iacobelli
COLUMBIA, S.C. ó Steve Spurrier hopes South Carolina can continue one streak while ridding itself of a much more disheartening one tonight.
The Gamecocks open the season at Williams-Brice Stadium against North Carolina State. And the head ball coach has been adept at starting out strongly: His college teams have won the last 15 straight openers and even his Washington Redskins started 1-0 in Spurrier’s two years in the NFL.
It’s closing things that has vexed Spurrier since joining the Gamecocks.
In Spurrier’s debut season of 2005, South Carolina dropped its final two games to cast a losing pall over a year that included landmark victories over Tennessee and Florida. Then last season when Spurrier finally looked to have the Gamecocks pointed upward in the Southeastern Conference came a disastrous five-game losing streak ó the longest of Spurrier’s stellar career.
Second-year Wolfpack coach Tom O’Brien wants to take a step forward after going 5-7 in 2007. North Carolina State struggled to a 1-5 start, but won four straight games including victories against Miami and state rival North Carolina.
A year ago, injuries were a big factor for the Wolfpack, who had 10 starters miss games. Similar problems have already struck as O’Brien said this week that the team’s leading rusher from last season, Jamelle Eugene, won’t play against South Carolina because of an ankle injury.
“I don’t have any idea how long (Eugene) will be out,” O’Brien said. “I thought he would be ready for this game.”
O’Brien also says sophomore safety Javon Walker, who started some as a freshman, will need season-ending surgery. The team’s most experienced wide receiver, Donald Bowens, has stress fractures in his lower back and also won’t play this year.
Although he doesn’t want to let it slip, Spurrier’s eager to see if this is the season South Carolina moves ahead at the end of seasons the way it does at the beginning.
“We’re trying not to talk like we’re going to go tear ’em up,” Spurrier said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen. But we do have, I think, better athletes as far as size, speed, strength.”
“We have confidence our team will play well, but until we do, it’s just sort of hope and confidence that we will play well. So we’ve got to go do it, then go do it again and again and again.”