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October 9, 2007

Gamecocks present multiple defenses

North Carolina will play a Steve Spurrier team that is as much about defense as it is offense on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Kenan Stadium.

This may be a foreign concept to many people who have followed Spurrier's teams through the years. He, of course, is known for his teams' ability to throw and catch the football and score lots of points.

He once said that his teams don't kick many field goals, and that has generally been the case. But while this Gamecock team can and does score a lot of points, it is ranked 26th in the nation in overall defense compared to being 78th in total offense.

"This will be an enormous challenge," UNC coach Butch Davis said. "I think there is evidence that the challenges continue to get bigger each particular week. This is clearly going to be the best football team that we've played. Their defense is as talented and as fast as anybody I've seen.

"And they are extraordinarily aggressive. They bring a tremendous amount of pressure, a tremendous amount of different looks. Virginia Tech had a scheme that had some variations, but you pretty much knew where they were going to be most of the time. Same thing with Miami. With South Carolina, they may give you eight, 10, 12 different looks during the course of the ball game. It will put an enormous mental challenge on our quarterback and our offensive linemen."

Defending the Gamecocks will be difficult as one might expect, but necessarily for the reasons normally assumed. If defenses focus entirely on stopping Spurrier's passing game, this team will punish the opposition with its running attack.

"Offensively, Steve Spurrier's reputation for throwing the football, he is clearly one of the best offensive coaches that has coached in college football," Davis said. "This year they are probably as balanced as any team that I've seen Steve have."

The Tar Heels will try to prepare for what the Gamecocks do, but Davis says they will spend the overwhelming part of their time focusing on what Carolina does and trying to grow and improve as a team.

"In the process, as you get better as a football team," Davis said, "you can't just look at what we did successfully on Saturday against Miami and say all evils and ills are fixed. There were still things clearly in that ball game that allowed Miami not only to get back into the game but things we did not do very well. Those are certainly going to be focal points.

"I challenged the players to look critically at themselves. 'What can I do better that I am not doing well right now?' We're starting to make the progress with the study and preparation, but from a physical standpoint, 'Are there things I can do as a football player that would allow me to perform and to play better?' We're talking about fundamentals and techniques, to really challenge themselves to take that message and take it to the practice field."

Davis said that it is critical the team use Saturday's victory against Miami as a springboard to get better and not become satisfied, particularly given the strength of South Carolina.

"You have to hope that the successes you have help you continue to build confidence," Davis said. "It's difficult sometimes to build some of that confidence when you're not rewarded with actual victories. We focus so much on us. We try to not spend a great deal of time talking about the opponent other than where they line up and their X's and O's.

"We're worried about our fundamentals," Davis said. "We're worried about our execution. We're worried about our practice habits. As we've continued to do that, I think our performances have shown that we have gotten a little bit better. We're going to need a dramatic improvement this week."



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