NCAA Football: Spurrier looks for improvement

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Associated Press
The college football notebook …
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Steve Spurrier was really pleased with his quarterback’s look. That was about it for offensive positives from South Carolina’s opener for the Gamecocks head ball coach.
Spurrier says South Carolina must improve offensively — and fast — if it hopes to succeed at Georgia to start the Southeastern Conference season on Saturday.
“We’ve got to play a lot better before we think we’re hot stuff,” Spurrier said Tuesday.
The Gamecocks remained No. 12 in the first top 25 of the regular season. He said South Carolina won’t get any higher unless they clean up their offensive problems.
Much of that is on the offensive side despite a 56-37 victory over East Carolina to open the season. The Gamecocks fumbled four times in the opening half — twice on offense and twice on special teams — as they fell behind 17-0. It took the freshly shaven Garcia to come off the bench in place of sophomore starter Connor Shaw to rally South Carolina.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher has suspended starting cornerback Greg Reid and reserve linebacker Telvin Smith for Saturday’s game between the No. 5 Seminoles and Charleston Southern because of violations of team rules.
Fisher did not elaborate on their suspension.
Reid is a junior who had 65 tackles and three interceptions last season. He started at cornerback in the season-opening win over Louisiana-Monroe and had three tackles.
He is also the team’s punt returner. It is expected that either Bert Reed or Rashad Greene will step into that role.
Smith, who had 18 tackles last season, had four tackles against ULM.
ATLANTA — Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson wants quarterback Tevin Washington and center Jay Finch to master the snap exchange.
Now would be good.
“We’ll continue to work on it, make it a big deal and hope those go away,” Johnson said Tuesday. “It’s all fundamentals, really. Of course, there’s always a story. The ball’s always slipping or something happens, but it’s unacceptable. You can’t allow it.”
When the Yellow Jackets (1-0) visit Middle Tennessee (0-1) this weekend, Johnson hopes Washington and Finch can help the offense eliminate a problem that led to 20 lost fumbles last year — tied for most in the nation.
But it all starts with the snap.
“You just keep practicing,” Johnson said. “We fumbled just one straight handoff. The other fumbles were quarterback-center exchanges, I think.”
Washington, Finch and the second-team tandem of quarterback Synjyn Days and center Nick McRae weren’t the only ones at fault in the season-opening 63-21 win over Western Carolina.
Though four of the six fumbles were recovered, one of turnovers was the fault of reserve defensive end Euclid Cummings deep in Georgia Tech territory.
ATHENS, Ga. — After only one loss, Mark Richt and his Georgia players are feeling the heat.
The Bulldogs have fallen out of the Top 25, raising the stakes heading into this week’s Southeastern Conference game against No. 12 South Carolina.
Georgia finished 6-7 last year and opened this season with a 35-21 loss to then-No. 5 Boise State on Saturday night.
Richt bristled Tuesday when he was asked about the importance of the game for his program and his future.
“I view it as a very important game,” he said.
A few minutes later came the follow-up: Is the home game against South Carolina a must-win game?
“Didn’t I just say it’s a really important game?” asked Richt.
But do you think it’s a must-win?
“I think it’s a really important game,” he said. “You want to ask me again? Because you can and I’ll give you the same answer.”
It’s hard to escape the question. Georgia players also were asked about Richt’s status on Tuesday.
“I think we’re always trying to play for Coach Richt, as much as he does for us,” said defensive end Abry Jones. “We try not to let that talk get to us or get us down.”
Some Georgia players say fans have sent them negative comments on Twitter.
Tight end Aron White says he has decided to stop tweeting about football, at least for a week, due to “a lot of negativity going on right now” with fans.
White said he believes some fans are impatient and upset because Georgia is coming off its first losing season since 1996.
“I don’t want to start any ruckus between any fans,” White said. “I love all our fans. I think all our team loves all our fans.”
White says he thinks if Georgia had a better year last year and then opened the season with a loss, things would be different.
“I don’t think as many people would have jumped to criticize and speak negatively,” he said. “But I think coming off a losing season, our first losing season in about 14 years, and then opening with a loss, that’s never good. People are obviously going to have something to say to that.”
White said the criticism from fans stings, even if he can understand their frustration.
“It’s tough to swallow when you … see everything you’re putting into it,” White said. “To have people tear it down at the end of the day because you had an off game and you lost to a good team, it hurts and it’s going to stir some emotions, but it’s to be expected. They care about the team just like we do.”
Richt has reminded his players that the nonconference loss to Boise State won’t affect the team’s goal to return to the Georgia Dome in Atlanta to play in the SEC championship game.
“I feel like all our hopes and dreams and goals for the season are still there,” said quarterback Aaron Murray. “If we want to get back to Atlanta at the end of the year, we know that first game did nothing to affect that. We know we’ve got to win out the rest of the year. You get to Atlanta and you win that, who knows what … can happen from there.”
Georgia won SEC championships under Richt in 2002 and 2005 and also played in the 2003 SEC championship game. Georgia won 10 or more games in six of Richt’s first eight seasons before finishing 8-5 in 2009 and capping the disappointing 2010 season with a 10-6 loss to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl.
Overall, Richt is 96-35 in 11 seasons.