We just said the other day, we’ve got three in a row. Three in a row. This is the third one. Hopefully, four in a row of sell-out crowds, full stadiums, loud as it can be in college football. Three in a row for us right now, and hopefully the next one will be very similar also. We’re looking forward to going down to The Swamp, playing the Gators and seeing what happens. Obviously, they’re having an excellent year, ranked number two or three in the country, somewhere like that, in a couple of polls. They’ve really, really played well. They’re playing what you call winning football - don’t turn it over, run it well, outstanding defense and special teams play. They had some big special teams plays that helped them beat Vandy last week as well as the quarterback running and good, solid defense and so forth. So we need to play well, need to play better than we did the last time out, although I don’t think it’s embarrassing to lose a two-point game at LSU. We had our chances with some plays here and there, although they outplayed us. They outrushed us, time of possession, they made a bunch of third downs. But our guys did a super job of keeping them out of the end zone. Hopefully that will continue, keeping guys out of the end zone, making them kick field goals. That always gives you a chance. But it didn’t work out last week and if we’re going to win the division, we’ll still have to beat Florida, pretty much, to have a shot to do it. All of our goals are still out there and we’re going to try to play better. We’re going to try to get the ball to Marcus Lattimore more than we did last week. We need to certainly block a lot better than we did the past game. But other than that, we all should be pretty pleased to be where we are going into the eighth game of the season, and see if we can’t make something special happen.
After looking at film, what did you see regarding Shaw’s bad decisions?
Well, Connor had a tough night. He had difficult night. And the o-line had a difficult, tough night. Some of those o-linemen did not perform as we had hoped. But Bruce Ellington and Ace Sanders played super. And Marcus, I told somebody after the game, Marcus Lattimore made two of the best three-yard runs I think I’ve ever seen a guy make. His touchdown run, if you guys want to see a great three-yard run, five guys had him cornered up and he got through all of them somehow and fell in the end zone. On the fourth and two, they hit him behind the line, like they did about every time he got it, and he somehow or another, he squirmed and made that one for us. But we’ve got to block better. We all know that. And maybe change something up to give our linemen a little bit better chance. But Connor could have thrown the ball more than he did. He took off running way too soon on several plays. I think everybody that watched the game knew that. So hopefully, we can get him looking down field longer before he takes off. Obviously, he’s been very successful running out of the pocket, but the other night, he ran it too quickly several times.
It’s still got to be a little special going back to Florida?
Well, I mean, Florida is always going to be my school. I love Florida and my wife and my daughters and even Steve Jr. got a graduate degree from there. Did you know? Josh, you didn’t know that, did you? (No, says Josh.) Steve Jr. got a sports administration graduate degree there. He was a GA for four years, three years, and then actually I think worked a year there before he went with Bobby Stoops at Oklahoma. So we’re Gators, but we’re Gamecocks now. We’re Gamecocks now. And when my coaching days are over, I’ll be more of a Gator then. But I’m a Gamecock now, and this is our team. I certainly hope the Gators finish second in the East this year. That would be a good finish for them and hopefully we finish first, certainly. But they’re having a very good year. I like Will Muschamp and obviously Jeremy Foley and the guys down there, we’re still good friends. It’s, I think, healthy competition.
Strange to see Florida last in league in passing this year?
I didn’t even notice that, but as we all know, there’s all kind of ways to win. There’s all kind of ways to win the game and the best one is to play outstanding defense, special teams and run the ball. There’s been a lot of champions that ran the ball. If I remember, I think, it was 1992 when Alabama won the national championship, I think they completed one pass in the national championship game against Miami. So you don’t have to throw the ball to win championships.
Point of pride to beat these East teams last couple years, how tough to keep that run going now against a really good Florida team?
Yeah, we’ve definitely been better against our Eastern Division foes than the Western side guys. But again, if we’re going to win our division, which we hope to do, this is a crucial game. We all know that. I don’t know how else to say it, except we’ll go down there and be ready to give it our best shot and hopefully play with a little bit more and energy from a lot of our guys than the last time we played (the LSU game, he means).
Update on injured guys
Marcus was running around OK last night. The other three guys, all defensive tackles. We’re a little banged up there. Whether or not they can get back, Jerideau and J.T. Surratt have got ankles and Kelcy Quarles has got a sprained shoulder. But we’ll see how it goes during the week. If not, we’ll have some youngsters in there. Phillip Dukes and Gerald Dixon are next in line.
Is Shaw healthy, alluded to head hit the other night?
He said he was OK and he just didn’t really have an answer on why he took off quickly, but certainly we talked about it and hopefully he’s going to stay in there longer and give the pass plays a little bit better opportunity.
Clowney threatening Mettenberger before game?
I haven’t heard that he said that. But sometimes, guys say stuff. Sometimes guys say a lot of stuff out there. I don’t know if he said it or not. I hope he didn’t. I don’t know that he did. But I hope he didn’t. I can’t control what the other guys say, and always we can’t control what our guys say. Sometimes in football, guys shove and hit them in the mouth a little bit. Competition sometimes brings out stuff. But I thought it was a pretty clean game overall the other night.
Can last weekend’s experience help in this game?
I hope so. It was a loud one, but still, our mental process was probably worse than anything the last game, just thinking their way through and playing with energy and passion and all that kind of stuff. Again, it was a two-point game. Who knows if Damiere Byrd catches that ball or we throw one here or there that we hadn’t hit, we knows if it had been a different outcome. But obviously, they controlled the line of scrimmage. Their linemen were big and strong and we didn’t tackle our best, but we kept them out of the end zone, except for a couple times there.
You said that when you retire you’re going to be more of a Gator …
Well, that’s because I went to school there.
But for your current fan following, where will USC fit in when you retire?
OK, well, when I get through coaching, I’m going to be Duke, Florida and South Carolina. I’ll have feelings for all three schools and I still have feelings for Duke, a lot of feelings. I wouldn’t be coaching today if it wasn’t for Duke University. They hired me twice when I didn’t have a job and I certainly wasn’t in demand, I guess, for a job. So I owe basically my entire coaching career to Duke University and the people up there. So I always pull for those guys. But I hope when my coaching days are over to keep a condo here that I have at Carolina Walk over here. So I hope to do that in four or five years, something like that. Keep some connections up here. Certainly hope to.
How to fix the running game this week?
Yeah, that’s a good question, Charlie. We need to do something different, maybe not ask those guards to block those defensive tackles as much as we did last week a few times. But yeah, we need to mix it up a little bit better, somehow or another.
You have smaller WRs, ever had fleet of WRs like that?
Yeah, we do have some guys that are not real fade-type throwers. But Ace is very quick and he ran a good one the other night that Connor threw out of the ball park. Ace and Bruce are very good receivers. D.L. Moore runs good routes. Damiere had the drop the other day, very similar to D.L.’s drop against Kentucky. Very similar. Both guys running, both guys dove and it hit them in the chest and they dropped the ball. You’ve just got to have confidence to go make those plays and it didn’t work out. But yeah, the receivers are not tall guys like Alshon was and maybe that’s why we haven’t thrown as many fades. But we’ve got to get the balls out a little bit better, obviously, than what we’ve been doing the last several games. You’re not going to hit 30-, 40-yard passes unless you go down the field. Fortunately, we threw that one to Justice Cunningham. Super catch. Really good. The LSU defensive back sort of misjudged it and Justice jumped up and caught it right in front of him. But we watch these NFL games every week. Guys are covered like a blanket and they come down with the ball, so you’ve got to get it out. That’s what we’re trying to get Connor, who’s been so successful running so often, but we’ve got to get some balls out better, a lot better.
Have you seen your statue down there yet?
Yeah, it’s been there a couple of years.
What do you do?
Nah, I drove by it once, I think. Once or twice. I’ve been down there about one day a year. Yeah, yeah.
Does it look like you?
I think all three of them are similar to when we played there. It was an action shot, it wasn’t a coaching shot, it was an action, action shot. I thought the guy did a super job who did the statues. Yep.
It seems like in the LSU game, you had some success running from under center instead of the shotgun. Will you try more of that?
We were more successful which way? (Under center.) We did? Oh. Not much. Nah, we try to mix it up. Obviously, we don’t want to put our game plan out there. We must block better. That would be helpful.
It seems like the yearly pattern in special teams is something gives you hope but it doesn’t sustain. Is that frustrating?
Kickoff coverage was irritating. Guys ran down there, we were in position to make plays. Again, we lost contain, just like we did against Arkansas last year when it was 30-28, I think, and we let the guy go around the left end and let him return it all the way to the 50. The other night, same thing happened; went around the left end, guy didn’t contain, and let him go. That was frustrating. Guys run down the field well and didn’t make a play. Just go tackle the guy. Stand around, watched him let run through a little bit. I think coach Robinson has one or two new guys on there but overall, we just didn’t make the plays. We were hustling, but just didn’t make the plays. Ace had a beautiful return and some good blocking. D.L. Moore had a good block in there. Bruce Ellington is out there on that punt return. That was a big play in the game. We got a penalty for blocking out of bounds, and the guy we were blocking out of bounds, came back and made the tackle. First time I’ve heard that. Sort of rolled him out, double-teamed him, and I guess you we kept blocking and that’s against the rules. Can’t block him out of bounds. He came back and made the tackle though, so he didn’t get blocked too terribly much, I guess.
Does Adam Yates have the ability to kick the ball through the end zone?
The first one the guy was about seven-yards deep running out. We should have had him on the 15-yard line. One guy juked him, knocked off Akeem, then took it to about the 28 or 30. Yeah, Yatesey has kicked three (it’s actually four) out of bounds. He may lead the nation in out of bounds kickoffs. He’s got to. He can’t keep it in the ball park all the time. We’ve only tried five field goals and he’s kicked two low balls out of five. Sort of makes you nervous if you have to kick a field goal to win the game. He kicks them beautifully in practice. Yatesey is an excellent kicker, but he has a tendency to hook it out of bounds, that’s for sure.
When the Gators are winning, do they have one of the toughest environments to play in? And do you have a good idea of what that environment will be like?
It’s going to be very similar to the other night. The other night you couldn’t hear anything. Although, Connor was able to run up to the center and was able to audible. I think the guys got it all but once. That time, the clock was running down and he just yelled it one time to somebody. In fact, I think that was on Lattimore’s touchdown. We had some linemen go this way, some go that way, and I don’t think anybody blocked anybody, but Marcus ran that two- or three-yard touchdown run down there, which was truly amazing. You shouldn’t try to audible a lot in those kind of environments. Hopefully we’ve got a play we can stick with more often. When we did audible, nothing good happened because we were trying to audible to a safe run and the safe run was no good.
Seven games in, on a whole, how has Connor done in staying in the pocket?
The other night was a lot different than he’s played all year. The other night was a lot different. Hopefully he’ll get back to keeping his eyes down field and so forth, give the play an opportunity, yeah.
Do you go into this game with the mindset of having to pull out all the stops because this is pretty much an elimination game for the SEC East?
It’s an important game in the SEC, we all know that. We’re not going to fold up if it doesn’t work out. We’re looking forward to seeing if we can beat these guys. We know the importance of it, but it’s a long season. We have other goals besides winning the Eastern Division if we’re out of it, we’ll go to the next goal. Right now, we’re trying to win the Eastern Division. If we go on a three-game winning streak, we’re going to win it. So, we’ll see if we can do it. We have the other two guys at home and we’ve been pretty good at home. This is a key game for us.
What can the receivers do to make Connor’s job easier?
The receivers are doing OK. They’re running decent routes. Sometimes you have to throw it when they’re halfway covered and make a tough catch. That’s what we’re not doing - the other night and a lot of times. They’re trying to get open, they’re doing decent, but they can get a little better open, certainly.
In the Missouri game, the short pass was successful, especially to the tight ends. Is that something that LSU took away from you?
I guess you could say that. I don’t know. I don’t know how to answer that question. Justice caught a few passes. No one caught many. No one has caught many all year. The Florida guys aren’t catching a lot of passes either. The other night, we should have thrown a few more than we did. Simple as that.
Are you surprised at Florida’s success this year?
They’ve won all their close games. A&M led at halftime, I think about 17-10 or something like that, and got beat 20-17, I believe was the final. Florida has had a knack of winning close games, which you got to do to be 7-0 going into their eighth game. They’ve won some good close ones and won in the fourth quarter. Tennessee game they were behind at halftime and the middle of the third quarter. They’ve played extremely well at the end. That’s how you go 7-0.
Considering Connor’s issues the other night, did you ever consider going to Dylan Thompson?
Aw, I think I mentioned it once to G.A. I thought Connor might have got hit in the head, but he said he was OK. He’s our quarterback. We’re giving him every opportunity to stay in there. The other night, it was obvious, I think to everyone, that he took off too much. He ran too much the other night, he knows it, and hopefully we can correct that.
There is a thought that Urban Meyer left the cupboard bare. When you look at them on tape, do you see the kind of athletes that Florida is known for having?
I think they’re playing a lot of the guys they played last year. Maybe they had a few seniors on last year’s team. They’ve been there a couple of years with those guys now. They’re a physical team, play solid, fundamentally sound all the way around. Their offensive coordinator is different, so they’re not getting in the shotgun and trying to throw it all over the place. The quarterback can run, obviously. He ran for 177 last week and set a school record. They’re definitely a running team, pretty much like we are, but we didn’t do it very well last game. They’re playing real smart, and that’s how you win a lot of games, playing real smart.