COLUMBIA — Once a Dukie, always a Dukie. Twenty-four years removed from Durham, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier still revels in the thought of sticking another loss on North Carolina.
Spurrier, 4-0 all-time against North Carolina, greeted a question about his old rivalry with then-Tar Heels coach Mack Brown with a big grin Sunday.
Im a Dukie, also, said Spurrier, whose sixth-ranked Gamecocks will host the Tar Heels on Thursday at Williams-Brice Stadium (6 p.m., ESPN). Im a Gator, a Dukie and now a Gamecock.
Us Dukies, that was our big game. I doubt it was for North Carolina because Duke did not beat them that much. When I was there, we were fortunate enough to beat them more than they beat us.
For once the bombastic Spurrier was understating. Hes never lost to the Tar Heels as a head coach: three times with Duke from 1987 through 89 and once as Gamecocks coach in 2007. Spurriers teams outscored the Tar Heels in those meetings 122-54.
Much of that dominance was packed into a 41-0 blowout of the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill in 1989. That was Spurriers last season at Duke before moving to Florida, his alma mater. That one was personal. Spurrier did little to disguise his dislike for Brown, whom he had sarcastically call Mr. Football for Browns focus on recruiting and public relations.
Long after that game was decided, Spurrier was running double-reverses and flea-flickers. Post-game he posed with his players for a picture under the Kenan Stadium scoreboard. Asked if that was bad sportsmanship, Spurrier replied, Why? Ive got a better record on that field than (Brown) does.
Brown left for Texas. Spurrier is now in Columbia, by way of Florida and the Washington Redskins. The thought of mixing it up with the Tar Heels on national television still gets his juices flowing.
Its a little special to coach against a team like that. Just like coaching here against Georgia, Spurrier said at his weekly news conference. Anytime you coach against a team that was special wherever you coached at, thats a special game.
Spurrier seemed relieved to talk about anything besides defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. The gifted pass-rusher from Rock Hill presumed No. 1 pick in next springs NFL draft has seen such a crush of media attention that Spurrier has all but placed an embargo on the subject.
Clowney wasnt scheduled for interviews along with other defensive players after Sundays practice. Spurrier seemed exasperated when asked about Clowney, except to volunteer that he was fastest among linemen in wind sprints Saturday (implying the star hasnt grown complacent.)
Spurrier did volunteer one more Clowney observation: that its crucial his defensive coaches come up with alternate schemes should opposing offenses pack three blockers on Clowneys side of the formation. That could mean flipping him to the opposite side occasionally or rushing him more up the middle.
Spurrier was more engaged talking about North Carolinas up-tempo offense, which he likened to Clemsons. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Gamecocks have won their past four against the arch-rival Tigers. Spurrier said that while quick snap counts are trendy in college football, theres some merit to studying (the defense) up there, looking for a while.
Asked about Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora, Spurrier said, Hell be a little more settled in his second year. Im in Year 9, so Im as settled as Ill ever be.
Then Spurrier volunteered that Thursdays national-television appearance will be diluted a bit by a slew of NFL exhibitions.
All those NFL games they play on Thursday are crowding in on our game, the ol ball coach joked.