Gamecocks' Spurrier cements his SEC legacy
Steve Spurrier's claim to fame as a coach came largely in the SEC Championship Game, where his Florida teams were dominant - winning six titles during his time in Gainesville. But it's undefeated Auburn that is on the path to a national championship game berth with only Spurrier's South Carolina team in the way Saturday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. In his sixth season in Columbia, Spurrier has the Gamecocks (9-3) in the SEC title game for the first time. "That was our goal here at South Carolina was to be there and to win the game there," he said. "And it's obviously still our goal. And we didn't think we had a team until maybe this year."And our guys in preseason I sometimes allow the team and captains to set their goals maybe a little higher than what's realistic. And our guys set a goal of winning the East, winning the SEC and beating Clemson and doing a lot of things. So we'll see if we can finish off our goals this Saturday afternoon." Spurrier, who led the Gamecocks to a 36-14 win against the Gators on Nov. 13 to win the Eastern Division, said it was a "fair assessment" that South Carolina wasn't on the caliber of SEC champions when he took the job in 2005. "But that was really one of the reasons I was excited about the opportunity to coach here, is that they had not achieved very much at all, but the opportunity to do it is here," he said. "... Tremendous fan support. The university support. It's all here. And high school football in this state's very good. So I just ... I just told my wife, 'Let's go to South Carolina and see if we can do some things that have never been done before.' " This will be the second meeting this season between South Carolina and Auburn. The Gamecocks led the first meeting at halftime and after three quarters before losing 35-27 on Sept. 25. No one realized Cam Newton (1,336 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns; 2,254 passing yards and 24 touchdowns) was about to become the leading Heisman Trophy candidate at the time. But Spurrier realized Newton had special skills after watching the junior rush for 176 yards and pass for 158. The 1966 Heisman winner, Spurrier, said Newton is worthy of the award, even though there is controversy swirling that includes claims he was put up for bid during recruiting. "Obviously he's had the ability not to let any of that bother him," Spurrier said. "And he acts like he doesn't read the newspapers or hear any of it. So he's a sharp young man that has the ability to focus on helping his team win the game. So that's what he's done ever since it came out."